Smooth Suggestions

With summer quickly approaching, people are beginning to focus once again on exercising and healthy eating in preparation for the high-energy activities associated with warmer weather. Even EMS professionals, regardless of the shift they cover, can benefit from a cool drink on a hot day. That’s what makes summertime the perfect season to prepare cool, healthy blended drinks.

Fruit smoothies have enjoyed a surge in popularity, with a Jamba Juice on virtually every corner and pre-made juice mixes at your local grocery store. They make a great breakfast substitute or meal replacement and are perfect on a hot day.

However, depending on what goes into your smoothie, you may be encouraging your body to actually store more fat, rather than build lean muscle mass. If you are working out and trying to keep in shape, you might be introducing a meal replacement or snack that you think is healthy, but is actually encouraging fat storage. But how do you know what ingredients to use?

The Glycemic Index is a great way to choose what ingredients you put into the smoothie you are making (or buying). The Glycemic Index is the number value placed on the body’s insulin (or fat storage) reaction to a certain food when it is ingested. Straight protein (an egg white) is 0, and glucose is 100. The higher the number, the more intense the glycemic reaction, and the more apt your body is to store that calorie as fat. The lower the number, the less apt your body is to store it as fat.

Lower G-index foods can be most efficiently used as sustained energy for exercise or work. So keeping the G-index of your smoothie low will produce two results: it will lower your fat storage and give you longer-lasting energy.

When you blend a bunch of ingredients together, the G-index of the ingredients becomes blended together as well. So pairing a low G-index food with a high one will result in a medium index. A medium G-index food is less likely to store fat than the high G-index food, but more likely than the low G-index food. So carefully consider the fruits you purchase for your smoothies before you even go to the grocery store.

Many people like to put three or more types of fruit into their smoothies. The secret is to find a combination of three or four fruits that are low or medium on the G-index. While there are many differing G-index charts, I usually categorize the following fruits with low G-index: cherries, peaches, pears, oranges and plums.

Medium G-index fruits are: kiwi, mango, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and bananas. I would suggest avoiding higher G-index fruits like pineapple and watermelon. You can use fresh or frozen fruits, but not canned. Trader Joe’s or your grocery store should have a variety in the freezer section.

One method of bringing down the overall G-index of a smoothie is to mix in whey protein powder. It carries no fat into your body for storage. And since the unsweetened powder has an index of 0, it can significantly alter your body’s fat storage tendency during the post-consumption phase.

Vegetarians have the option of using soy protein instead. In my research, I found several sources that state that soy protein also has an index close to 0. It carries about 83 percent protein and 9 percent carbs — the rest is fat.

Protein powder not only brings down the G-index, it also is easily assimilated into your muscles after lifting weights or other high-impact exercises. A protein smoothie is a great way to cool off after a workout.

There are many options to choose from when deciding what liquid-based ingredient to add to your low G-index smoothie. Skim milk, soy milk, orange juice and apple juice are all within a 10-point range. So try out the ingredients you like and experiment with different combination of fruits and flavors.

Here are two recipes that I use regularly:

Berries and Cream:

2 cups ice
¼ cup protein powder
1 cup skim milk
½ cup OJ
4 cherries (pitted)
½ peach (pitted)
4 raspberries
4 strawberries

Peach and Pear Pleaser:

2 cups ice
¼ cup protein powder
1 ½ cup apple juice
½ pear
½ peach (pitted)
¼ mango
½ banana

Just blend the ingredients together in any regular kitchen blender and enjoy. Now is the perfect time to make healthy diet and exercise choices in preparation for the warm summer months. A few things to remember:

  • Make a list of the fruits that have a low to medium G-index before you go to the store, and don’t deviate from the list.
  • Always use protein powder (the unsweetened kind) when making a smoothie.
  • Go to the gym and train with weights three to five times per week. You have to earn your smoothie.

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