Without a doubt the most important factor in achieving any fitness goal, as well as long term health, is consistent high quality nutrition. Some of the most common questions I get are how to get enough meals in during the day and how to get enough food in total. One of the most popular articles I've posted on our blog, veganmuscleandfitness.com, is a recipe for a vegan ‘weight-gainer,’ or as I call them, "bean shakes.” Here is a complete blueprint that will help you design your very own fast and easy whole food shake!
The concept behind my original shake recipe was simple: I was looking for a way to make a healthy, plant-based version of a weight gainer shake like those available in the mainstream fitness industry. I was struggling to get enough calories in each day to make the gains I desired, so I went to the drawing board.
As it turned out, designing the recipe was easy! I looked at the four food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes) and tried to figure out which of those food types I could use to hit the calorie and macro nutrient targets I was looking for. One of the first things I realized is that by including some sort of legume (beans, peas, or tofu, for example), I had an easy time getting the calories and protein way up, and with a little trial and error it tasted great!
I've since used my 'bean shakes’ to help me gain 20 lbs. of lean muscle mass, and countless friends and clients now swear by them as well! We all have busy days where it just isn't possible to sit down and eat a meal every three hours. Even I struggled as a personal trainer because I would often see 6-8 clients in a row with no time in between to sit down and have a meal. A shake was the perfect solution, allowing me to drink it quickly between appointments or on the go. And don't let the title vegan gainer fool you; I've even had many clients with weight loss goals drink a modified version that really helped them stay consistent with their diets even on the busiest of days.
Below is a blueprint of how you too can design your own perfect shake:
What you'll need:
A powerful blender (we use a Vitamix, but there are many brands out there)
Several large smoothie containers (I use a protein shaker bottle, which works well)
Bulk quantities of the ingredients you decide to use for your shakes
Things to keep in mind:
Depending on your current calorie intake, your goals, and your food preferences/tolerances, you'll want to adjust the food types and amounts accordingly. For example, a lean young male looking to add maximum weight will need to go heavy on the calories with lots of starches and fats, and someone who bloats easily after a meal of beans should opt for little to no beans and instead use tofu or perhaps even a protein powder.
Things to include (mix and match!):
White beans: Cannellini, Great Northern, navy beans (I've tried others and they work, but white beans have the mildest flavor)
Tofu: Choose a soft or silken variety for a creamy smoothie!
Peas: Have a sweet flavor, so they can be a good addition
(Optional) Protein Supplements: For those of you who choose to use protein supplements, these serve as an easy source of extra protein and also as a flavor enhancer. Just be sure to include some whole food protein also so you don't miss out on all the awesome nutrition! My favorite options here are PlantFusion, Sunwarrior, Vega, or any other similar minimally processed plant-based brand.
Keep these portions small if you have a weight-loss goal.
Fruits: My favorites are strawberries and bananas, but anything goes - just avoid citrus and it'll go fine!
Grains: Oatmeal or oat bran (raw), quinoa (cooked), brown rice (cooked), and grits (cooked) can all add lots of extra calories and nutrition.
Starchy vegetables: Carrots or sweet potatoes (cooked) can also add tons of nutrition and some extra calories.
Avoid if you have fat-loss goals!
Seeds: Any will work, but my favorite is raw hulled pumpkin seeds because they have a fantastic amino acid profile and tons of minerals. Flax or chia seeds are a good choice as well.
Nut butters: Peanut or almond butters work well and are delicious.
Avocado: Sounds weird, but it can be surprisingly tasty and also has a great amino acid profile.
Coconut: I don't recommend using coconut oil because it is a processed, concentrated fat, but raw coconut flesh would be a tasty addition
Vegetables: As a way to sneak in extra nutrition, I add heaps of frozen spinach, which doesn't affect the flavor and is extremely nutritious, but you could add any vegetable you like. The more the better, especially for weight loss goals!
Flavor Enhancers: Fruit (especially bananas), flavored protein powder, milk and/or yogurt alternatives (which also add protein, but are processed), nut butters, sweeteners like fruit juice or maple syrup, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg (great with almond butter and carrot!), cocoa powder, and coconut. Keep in mind that many of these are not fat-loss friendly.