Zero Belly Smoothies: Lose up to 16 Pounds in 14 Days and Sip Your Way to A Lean & Healthy You - David Zinczenko (2016)

Chapter 2. Busting the Smoothie Myth

Why do you need a book of smoothie recipes, when there are smoothies for sale everywhere? It’s a legit question. After all, just a few years ago you’d need to go to a specialty juice joint if you wanted a freshly blended smoothie. Now you can get them everywhere from Dunkin’ Donuts to McDonald’s. With so many healthy, fresh smoothies on the market, who needs to bother with blending her own?

Anyone who doesn’t want to gain a lot of weight, that’s who.

It’s unfortunate, but most of the smoothies you’ll find on restaurant menus nowadays are devious attempts to claim the halo of healthy, even as the drinks themselves pack a relentless attack of sugar. Consider:

At McDonald’s, a small Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie will give you 220 calories and 44 grams of sugar. A gram of sugar contains about 4 calories, which means 80 percent of those 220 calories come from sugar, while you’re getting a mere 2 grams of protein. At Dunkin’, the situation is even worse. Its Tropical Mango Smoothie is made of the following ingredients: water, yogurt, skim milk, milk, sugar, and less than 2 percent of everything else. The result is 260 calories, but 200 of those come from sugar.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s fast-food territory; of course their smoothies are unhealthy. Unfortunately, you won’t do much better at the smoothie joint. In fact, you could do a whole lot worse.

For example, a Strawberry Surf Rider sounds pretty good for you; it’s got berries, and it’s got that healthy surfer vibe. This Jamba Juice classic combines strawberries and peaches with lemonade and lime sherbet, and it’s gluten-free, with no artificial preservatives and no high-fructose corn syrup. So how good for you is it?

Well, how good for you is surfing with sharks if you don’t know how to swim? The large Surf Rider packs 590 calories and a stunning 128 grams of sugar. You’d need to eat 20 Chocolate Creme Oreos to get that much sugar!

At Smoothie King, there’s a whole “Fitness Blends” menu. But most of those Fitness Blends pack insane calorie counts: Consider the Hulk, the strawberry version of which contains 964 calories (more than half of what an adult woman should consume in a day) and four times as much sugar as protein. Its 88 grams of sweet stuff is what you’d get in about 3 cups of Breyers Black Raspberry Chocolate ice cream. (Even Smoothie King’s Slim Blends can contain as much as 76 grams of sugar.)

Red Mango doesn’t fare much better: Its Honey Badger Fat Burner sure sounds like it will help flatten your belly. But how does this drink burn fat when it contains 590 calories and 102 grams of sugar? (That’s 3½ bags of M&Ms!)

HOW TO DECODE A SMOOTHIE

The truth is, most commercial smoothies are bad for you. And that’s true of what you’ll find not only in most restaurants but also on the grocery store shelves. For example, Bolthouse Farms offers an Amazing Mango Smoothie that packs 323 calories and 60 grams of sugar. That’s not a smoothie, that’s a dessert. A mere 3.1 fluid ounces of Dannon DanActive Blueberry packs 80 calories, which makes this drink twice as calorie-dense as a can of Mountain Dew.

To assess a smoothie, make sure it meets the following criteria:

No added sugar.

All the sugar in your smoothie should come from the fruit used in the recipe. Beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet, and smoothies are no exception. Added sugar is the No. 1 cause of diabetes in America, and it has been linked to everything from heart disease to dementia. Sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, agave nectar, honey—no matter how natural it might sound, you don’t need it.

No juice.

The advantage a smoothie has over juice is that it contains all the fiber of the original fruit. But to cut corners, many smoothie makers use apple, orange, grapefruit, or pineapple juice as a base. While those are better than sugar water, they’re not the foundation of a healthy smoothie.

At least 3 grams of fiber.

More is better, and if your smoothie is on the low side, consider asking for a boost of flax, chia, or psyllium to up the fiber count. Fiber slows the progression of sugar through the body; it’s fast sugar that leads to abdominal fat.

At least 8 grams of protein.

A smoothie without protein isn’t a smoothie, it’s a juice—even if it has no added sugar and plenty of fiber. Protein is essential to feeding your muscles and increasing your metabolism, two goals of every smoothie you drink. And while protein smoothies are slightly higher in calories, those are calories that are actually worth drinking. Greek yogurt, nut butters, or a protein blend should get that puppy up on its feet.

A source of fat.

If your smoothie includes full-fat or 2 percent dairy, or a nut butter of some kind, or even flax or chia seeds, then you’ve got a healthy fat. Smoothies that don’t include these, or which use fat-free ingredients, won’t give you the fat-burning advantages you’re looking for.

6 Ways to Lose Weight Before Noo

Are you a morning person? Well, if you’re carrying a few extra pounds around your middle, then probably not.

Turns out, morning people aren’t just happier than night owls, they’re lighter, leaner, and healthier, too. And it’s not just getting up early that keeps them trim—though, more on that to come. There are a number of things you can do in the first half of the day that will nix the munchies, boost your metabolism, and turbocharge your weight loss—all before noon.


CATCH THE WORM

Early birds may catch the worms, but they don’t overeat them. Or so suggests a recent study from Northwestern Medicine that found late sleepers—those who woke at about 10:45 a.m.—took in 248 more calories a day, ate half as many fruits and vegetables, and consumed twice the fast food of those who set the alarm clock earlier. A second study by researchers from the University of Roehampton found that morning people—those who leap out of bed at 6:58 a.m.—were generally healthier, thinner, and happier than the night owls, who start their day at 8:54 a.m. Coax yourself into waking up early by gradually setting your smartphone’s alarm clock 15 minutes earlier every week, and wake up to a slimmer you.


GET SOME NOOKY

A little sexy time before rush hour can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone naturally released during times of bonding, including sex, that research shows can minimize stress hormones and suppress the appetite. According to a study in the journal Aging, daily injections of oxytocin—dubbed “the love hormone”—reduced the amount of food animals consumed, as well as abdominal fat and body weight, during and for nine days following the 17-day treatment. Other research suggests oxytocin and cortisol—the major stress hormone—are inversely related. As one goes up, the other goes down. That’s good news for your waistline, as elevated cortisol can increase your appetite and cause weight gain. If you’re a mom or dad, there’s even more reason to linger in bed: A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed parents’ stress levels are 30 percent higher with the early-morning breakfast-before-the-school-bus rush and peak at about 8:15 a.m.—about the time they head out the door.


DO THE SUN DANCE

Roll out of bed and, before you do anything else, open all the blinds. According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, people who had most of their daily exposure to bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure late in the day—regardless of how much they ate. Researches say 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI, and even dim light with just half the intensity of sunlight on a cloudy day will do. According to study authors, morning rays help synchronize the body’s internal clock that regulates circadian rhythms and metabolism. Just put your clothes on first.


DO BRUNCH INSTEAD

How can Sunday’s lazy-morning routine keep you slim? No, it’s not the cartoons. Not the pj’s. It’s the shift in your eating habits to later in the day. Nighttime fasting—or simply eating breakfast later than normal to reduce your “eating window”—may boost your body’s ability to burn fat as energy, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers put groups of mice on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 100 days. Half the mice were allowed to nibble throughout the night and day on a healthy, controlled diet, while the others had access to food for only eight hours but could eat whatever they wanted. The result of the 16-hour food ban? The fasting mice stayed lean, while the mice that noshed round the clock became obese—even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories. Some fasting protocols are more aggressive than others, but 12 hours without food is enough for most people to enter into a fasted state, according to some experts. So make every day Sunday Funday and postpone breakfast by a few hours. Your skinny jeans will thank you.


SNACK AFTER LUNCH

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that midmorning snackers tend to eat more throughout the day than afternoon snackers. Researchers found that dieters with the midmorning munchies lost an average of 7 percent of their total body weight, while those who did not snack before lunch lost more than 11 percent of their body weight. That’s a difference of nearly 6.5 pounds for a 160-pound woman with a weight-loss goal. Moreover, afternoon snacking was associated with a slightly higher intake of filling fiber and fruits and vegetables.


WALK IT OUT

Getting your heart rate up in the morning can zap calories, but one benefit of early a.m. exercise comes at night. That’s because working out early in the day can help you get quality sleep—an essential and often overlooked component of successful dieting. In fact, new research suggests subpar sleep could undermine weight loss by as much as 55 percent! In one study, participants who added 45 minutes of moderate walking five times a week to their weekly routines reported 70 percent better sleep; and women whose gentle exercise routines consisted of three 15- to 30-minute stretching sessions per week saw a 30 percent improvement. Unlike afternoon and evening exercise that can rile us up before bed, researchers say morning exercise helps sync our natural circadian rhythms, which can also support the metabolism. For an extra boost, try sneaking in your workout before breakfast. According to some studies, exercising in a fasted state can burn almost 20 percent more fat compared with exercising with fuel in the tank.