Loving the BITE: Quick Avocado Smoothie Meal
There are many reasons why athletes look to convenient ready-to-eat meal replacement drinks and bars. As noted, they are convenient. Ready to eat with no preparation. And, many of us, tend to be busy. When I first began working with serious athletes, I didn’t really anticipate the stress level that often occurs with busy schedules exacerbated with demanding training.
Don’t get me wrong, exercise is a wonderful stress reliever for the body. But, waking up early, squeezing in hours extra training hours, and any racing on the weekends takes its toll. Many people, just trying to be fit, may spend 3-6 hours per week working out. But many serious cyclists and endurance athletes, on the other hand, spend much more.
And, while we all must find ways to work through the schedules, simplify our lives, and de-stress, it can be difficult to find time for fresh healthy foods. But, it’s worth it. And, if you take a bit of time to prepare a big batch, smoothies can become as convenient as store-bought meal replacement drinks (not to mention much better for you and better tasting)!
Recipe of the Week: Meal Replacement Avocado Smoothie
- 6 oz. Greek yogurt, 1 scoop (20 gm) protein powder, or 2 oz. extra firm organic tofu
- 1/2 Tbsp organic coconut oil
- 1/3 avocado
- 1/2 cup greens (mixed, spinach, etc.)
- 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 2 Tbsp mint leaves (optional)
- 1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds or whole chia seeds
- 2 tsp organic/raw honey or real maple
- water or ice as needed for desired consistency
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Try also making 4-6 servings at a time. Freeze individual servings in containers such as mason jars (leaving an inch at the top for expansion), and allow to thaw in the ridge 24 hours before needed.
First, what makes a good meal replacement? I look for these nutrients and attributes:
Whole Food Nutrient-Packed Carbohydrates: The vibrant fruits in to this smoothie make a great whole-food source of carbs. They pack antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber.
Vegetables: Anytime you can include vegetables in your meal, you should. Loaded with disease-fighting components, enzymes, and more.
Protein: Greek yogurt, protein powder, or non-GMO organic tofu offer a good, highly bioavailable source of protein.
Healthy Fats: Avocados, coconut oil, and flaxseeds seeds are all great sources of fats providing omega-9s, medium chain triglycerides, and vegetarian omega-3s. If you’re drinking it right away, you can use chia seeds instead of flaxseeds if you’d like. If freezing or saving, these may gel up too much and make it more of a pudding than a smoothie.
Fiber: This smoothie provides 12 grams of fiber. This is a great amount of fiber for any meal.
Adequate, but not too many calories: As written, this smoothies packs approximately 400 calories, 38 grams carbs, 12 grams of fiber, and up to 23 grams of protein. If you’re looking for about 100 more calories per serving, increase both the avocado and yogurt/protein powder/tofu by 50%. Many times, I see meal replacements sub-250 calories, which is often too low for a meal and leaves you too hungry later in the day. They are also often high in sugary carbs, and low in healthy fats and fiber. And, of course, they are not fresh or raw.
But ours, is LOADED with fresh nutrients. Here’s why you should stock up, use, freeze, and blend avocados while they’re in season.
- Carotenoids: When I think of carotenoids, I usually think of carrots and other orange or red vegetables. However, avocados are a great source (as is our other green friend, spinach link to http://lovingthebike.com/cycling-nurition/loving-the-bite-green-berry-smoothie). In fact, they contain a spectacular array of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin, many of which directly support eye health. It’s this diverse and vast array of carotenoids that researchers believe is responsible for much of an avocado’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Carotenoid Absorption: Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to otherwise avocado-free vegetables, such as in a salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%.
- Healthy Fats: Like other sources of healthy fats, avocados have been villianized as “fattening” in recent history (most fat storage issues have to do with an over-consumption of carbs, not fats!). While it’s true that they are 85% fat, the fats provide many health benefits. They are heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, and they promote healthy blood sugars.
- Anti-inflammatory Factors: First, the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats (including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), are key supporters of our inflammatory system that helps keep inflammation under control. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis.
- Fiber: Fiber is one key to overall wellness and discourages most all chronic diseases. One-half cup of avocado provides 3-4 grams of fiber (and only 1 grams of sugar).
- Lower weight and BMI: In broad food intake studies, participants that routinely eat avocados have been determined to be lower in weight and lower in body mass index than non-consumers. Of course, this can be due to a variety of factors (maybe avocado-eater are overall healthier eaters or more active). No matter the reason, let’s eat some guac!
- Cancer prevention: Avocados (specifically avocado extract) have been studied and determined to help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, breast and prostate gland. These results are likely due to the unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Since cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants), it makes perfect sense that avocados reduce risk. But, here is where the avocado story gets especially interesting. In animal and lab studies of healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. But in cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and shift the cancer cells over into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell numbers. Wow.
- Glutathione: Remember our friend glutathione – the super antioxidant that healthy cells produce when they’re given the right nutrients (see link http://lovingthebike.com/nutrition-tips/nutrition-tip-february-5-2011). Avocados happen to be a good source of this wonder-nutrient.
- Vitamin E: Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health. Specifically, it is an antioxidant that supports brain, cardiovascular, and respiratory health.
I know you’re busy. And, I know some recipes seem like their out of reach. Make a smoothie batch and see if it doesn’t just save time for you later in the week. Cyclists who utilize the raw and fresh nutrients from ingredients in smoothies feel energized, full but not overly so, and satisfied. In just one drink, you can get a full meal, packed with nutrients to keep you strong and pedaling.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.