In America, we love trends. From music to fashion, we can’t get enough of the latest thing, and this pattern of buying extends to the food we eat. Remember when bagels were really popular? Saturday morning at the bagel shop was like the trading room floor on the New York Stock Exchange. Then, all those low-carb diets came out and suddenly, owning a Noah’s Bagel chain was like having leprosy. Smoothie companies, like Jamba Juice, get away with marketing their products as very healthy, and because smoothies are made mostly of fruit, we believe them.
Don’t get me wrong; fresh fruit is very good for you. Most people do not get nearly enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. But the trend of replacing a meal with a smoothie, or drinking a smoothie as a snack before a sports practice or workout, is not a healthy habit. Let’s take a look at one of Jamba Juice’s most popular flavors, Caribbean Passion. We’ll look at the “Original” size (24 fl oz), instead of the “Power” size of 32 fl oz, or the new “16” (or as I like to call it, “the anti-diabetes size”—more on that later). In the 24 oz drink there are 400 calories, 93g of carbohydrate (82g from sugar), 1.5g of total fat, and 3g of protein. Let’s say for this example that you are replacing a meal with one of these smoothies. According to the Jamba Juice website, you just consumed over 30% of your recommended total daily carbohydrate intake (based on 2,000 calories a day). With the same smoothie you only took care of 3% of recommended fat, and 2% of protein for the day. Your next meal is going to have to be pretty high in fat and protein to even things out.
Over 23 million Americans have diabetes, with 90% of those being type 2 (caused from diet). The Center for Disease Control reports that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and that if trends continue, 1 out 3 people will develop diabetes some time in their life, losing 10-15 years of life on average. When your body ingests a food high in sugar you have a spike in blood sugar. In response, your body releases insulin to tell your muscles and liver to absorb the sugar to get it out of your blood. The more you have to do this, the less responsive your muscles and liver are to the insulin. If this process becomes a chronic response, it is the precursor to diabetes. A great way to control these sugar and insulin spikes (and subsequent crashes) is to limit the amount of sugar in your diet, and eat foods and meals with a higher percentage of fat and protein to lessen the blood sugar spike.
As an athlete, one of the main goals for nutrition should be maintain a consistently high level of energy. Constant blood sugar spikes and crashes are not conducive to this. It is important to maintain a consistent level of sugar (glucose) in your muscles, blood and liver (see SpartaPoint 3/18/09), so a certain amount of sugar is necessary. But a balanced nutritional plan will not only keep your energy level more consistent, it will also promote a healthier lifestyle. Try this for a snack instead; celery with almond butter. Celery is high in fiber, which the American Dietetic association says normalizes blood glucose and insulin. Almond butter is high in protein and has better fats than peanut butter. And if you have to have that smoothie, go for the “16” (non-diabetes size) and balance out your snack with a handful of nuts, or add protein powder to the smoothie.