|Vitamix - high performance blender|
Select a base:
For many people, water is a good choice - especially if fat loss is your goal. Play around with the amount of liquid you use as this will effect the thickness of your shake. If you need to support a high volume of training or you are trying to gain muscle, you can add other liquids such milk, almond milk or coconut milk to crank up the calories without taking up space in your stomach. Just be sure it is something that you tolerate well.
If you selected milk as your base, you are getting some great protein already. However, many people would benefit from adding some additional protein. Cottage cheese can be used here. Greek yogurt is fairly high in protein as well (note - it is also higher in carbs so it may not be appropriate for fat loss). You can also consider the addition of a protein power. Whey protein is good option. The addition of some slower-digesting casein (the other protein found in milk) can be used (note: if you use casein, you have to drink it after blending it as it will thicken up and make the shake rather nasty). Egg protein could also be used but if you are eating eggs already, I would pick something else for variety. For those who do not do well with milk or egg-based proteins or who choose to avoid animal products, there are some plant-based proteins (e.g. rice, pea, hemp) that can be used. Whatever protein you use, be sure it agrees with your body and does not cause digestion issues. Also, it is ideal to use a variety of types and brands to mimimize the risk of food intolerances.
Fruit offers added nutrients and flavor to your shake. There are endless options and choosing local, seasonal fruits is a great one! Frozen fruit has virtually the same nutrients as fresh, adds convenience and give that nice cool temperature to your shake with a texture similar to adding ice. Bananas are also a great addition for texture and flavour if you can handle the carbs. Note: if fat loss is your goal, do not overdo the fruit and choose low glycemic fruits such as berries. Also, choose whole fruits - not fruit juices or syrups.
This is where most people stop when it comes to power shakes. This is what I used to do until I read more from people such as Dr. John Berardi and learned you could add other important foods to your shake and take it to the next level...
Yes, I know that this sounds gross, but vegetables are super important for health and we all need to eat more of them! Set a goal of having vegetables with every meal - including power shake meals. There are many options for vegetables to add to your shakes so I encourage you to experiment. Some vegetables such as broccoli do not blend as well (unless you have a great blender) and have a stronger, most noticeable taste. My personal favourites are spinach and kale. They are nutrient super stars that have a mild taste easily hidden in the rest of the ingredients. I have also used zucchini which has a mild, slightly sweet taste.
Healthy fat is good for your health, your waistline and your performance, so consider adding it to your power shake. Good choices are olive oil, nuts, natural peanut butter or other nut butters, raw nuts (e.g. walnuts), ground flax seed and fish oil (yes, I know that sounds disgusting, but I use Carlson's Liquid Fish Oil and it tastes great in shakes). While some of these fats (e.g. olive oil) sound gross, they actually are not that bad. The taste is usually masked by the other ingredients and they actually give the shake a creamier texture.
One thing that can help with your power shakes is getting a good blender. This will help you avoid little pieces of fruit and veggies in your shakes. A few years back, my wife and I splurged and got a Vitamix. It was quite pricey, but it blends better than any other blender and there is a lot you can do with them.
Note: ideally only use power shakes for 1-2 meals per day. Chewing and eating whole food is still important.
Okay, now that you have the template, start experimenting and find your favourite combinations! If you have a favourite recipe that fits with these guidelines, feel free to post in on my Facebook Page. Whether you blend one for breakfast, post-training or to drink later in the day when you are rushing around and don't have time to eat, power shakes are a great 5-minute investment into your health, body composition & performance.