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Smarter Smoothies

By Dina Griffin

smoothiesSome athletes only think of smoothies as a summertime drink or as a way to consume quick calories after workouts. However, smoothies are now becoming incorporated into the daily nutrition pattern year-round and being enjoyed at any time of the day. Instead of relying on the downtown smoothie shop or coffee shop to make your liquid concoction, save the money and make your own … and make them more nutritious.

It is not uncommon to find 16-ounce smoothies in fast food restaurants and smoothie shops that contain in the range of 60-90 grams of carbohydrate. The bulk of this carbohydrate is from added sugar in fruit juices, sherbets and frozen sweetened yogurts. Although the marketing makes these smoothies seem like healthful options with “all natural ingredients,” these smoothies are merely causing a significant increase in your blood sugar which turns off fat burning and leaves you feeling hungry within an hour or two due to the lack of “sticking power” nutrients (i.e., protein, fat and fiber).

In order to make your own smoothies with a bigger nutritional bang to keep your blood sugar level more stable and provide satiety, make sure you add at least one ingredient from each of the following categories:

  • Protein: There are a variety of options here no matter whether you are vegan or an omnivore. Choices can include milks, egg whites, protein powders (such as whey, hemp, pea, rice, soy), nut and seed butters and Greek and traditional yogurts.
  • Fat: Options include full-fat organic dairy, ground or whole flax or chia seeds, coconut flakes, coconut and almond milks, nut and seed butters and oils such as coconut, walnut, flax and olive.
  • Fiber: The list of fiber-containing foods is lengthy, but this would be any fruit or vegetable such as: beets, leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, berries, apples, grapes and peaches.

Smoothies are also great for triathletes who have busy lives and are time-crunched. You can make a powerhouse of a smoothie in less than 10 minutes and use it as a meal replacement, afternoon or evening snack, pre- or post-workout nutrition or to share with your kids or friends. There are countless creations you can devise for delicious, affordable and nourishing drinks that stabilize blood sugar and keep you feeling full, while making your taste buds light up. Cheers to your smoothie-making!

Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD, is a sport dietitian and Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist for Fuel4mance, a nutrition and performance consulting company based in Colorado. She is the co-author of “The Athlete’s Food Guide to Metabolic Efficiency” and the “Fuel4mance Smoothie Recipe Book” available at To contact Dina, email her at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.