It’s unwise to mess around with breakfast. After all, we’re talking about the most critical meal of the day — the meal that will fuel the majority of us through our most productive work time (9am-11am), and quite possibly an early morning gym session, too.
Nobody has time for a pre-lunch crash. So, is a shake or smoothie a good choice? This is a question I’ve been eager to dig into because I love making shakes for breakfast. They’re easy to prepare in a rush and they’re fun: you get to play around with a variety of ingredients and wake up everyone in the house with your early morning 350-watt ice crushing!
The answer I came up with is… yes, a shake can be one of the best meals for breakfast. With the right mix of nutrients, it can help you stay energized, burn fat efficiently, keep calories and sugar low, AND feel satisfied enough to fight off coworkers bearing donuts.
Here’s how to whip up the perfect breakfast meal replacement shake:
Get the Energy Balance Right
Many common breakfast foods consist primarily of fast-burning carbs (i.e., white bread, refined breakfast cereals, pastries and certain fruits). This causes a quick rise and fall in blood sugar, and if there’s nothing else for the body to convert into energy, we crash.
The body burns carbs most quickly, then protein, then fat as the slowest. Thus, a good mix of protein, fast and slow carbs, and fat, can deliver a steady release of energy for hours.
Using the IdealShake as an example, you have 11g protein, 11g carbs (4% of DV) and 3.5g fat (5% DV). It’s strong on protein, dietary fiber and other essential nutrients while light on sugar and carbs, making it already a solid meal that won’t set you up for a crash. Also, since it contains around 120 calories, you can afford to add more ingredients if you’d like. If you want to boost the energy factor for breakfast or a pre-workout, try mixing in some of the following extras:
Eating too many carbs triggers a rise in insulin, as mentioned above; this causes the body to deposit fat rather than burn it, which is why frequent blood sugar spikes caused by this type of diet can lead to obesity. While that’s a concern with foods like this misguided breakfast staple, you don’t have to worry with a low-carb shake that contains a decent amount of protein. So if you want to add some healthy carbohydrates to your shake, you’ve got the green light. These are a few carb sources that mix in well:
- Oats or finely-chopped nuts
- Milk, rice milk, soy or yogurt
- A banana
- Berries (fast carbs = blueberries and cherries; slow carbs = raspberries, strawberries, blackberries).
One of the most important ways to keep the body burning fat efficiently is to include protein, especially lean protein, in your diet. While 11g of protein is a great amount for a meal, you can add extra protein to your shake for muscle repair if you’re doing a strength-training workout.
Milk, yogurt and peanut butter are all great sources of protein to add to a shake.
Healthy fat is vital for normal metabolism, but because the body burns it slowly, we only need a small amount. Get it by adding a scoop of nuts or peanut butter, or perhaps half an avocado (Hey, it’s all the rage in hot chocolate, why not add it to a chocolate shake?).
Sometimes I also toss a raw egg (just the yolk) into my breakfast shake for Omega-3 and protein (this isn’t for everyone — more on the risks and benefits here.) Keep in mind that each of these foods makes up a significant portion of our daily recommended fat intake — but doesn’t it make sense to consume that essential nutrient in the part of the day we’re most likely to burn it?
Finally, a good diet shake will include enough fiber and other hunger-blocking ingredients to keep you feeling full for hours. But if you want an extra boost to prevent you from hunting down impulse snacks at the office, then berries, oats and avocados are all good sources of fiber.
For more Breakfast Meal Replacement Shake recipe ideas (Greek yogurt, anyone?), check out: Seven Ways to Make Your Meal Replacement Shakes Even Healthier.