Can High-Performers Have Liquid Diets?
Nutritionists weigh in on the pros and cons
Even in the winter, your blender might be getting a lot of use. The multifunctional kitchen gadget can make soup for dinner or breakfast or whip up a wild blueberry turmeric smoothie or an açaí bowl.
Here, two nutritionists weigh in on the benefits and potential pitfalls of liquid meals such as these—and how active bodies can get the most from them.
Pureeing food breaks down its fibers, increasing the digestibility and helping your body absorb the nutrients, says Molly Kimball, R.D., CSSD, a nutritionist at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans. So, drinking a meal or snack post-workout can be especially beneficial for recovery.
“Making smoothies or pureeing soups also makes it easier to drink a lot of vegetables that you otherwise might not get in,” she adds. What's more, liquid meals buoy your hydration levels, says Marie Spano, R.D., the sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks.
“For the majority of people, doing an all or mostly liquid diet isn’t super realistic and it’s not something I’d recommend because of the low satisfaction level,” says Kimball. She notes that chewing and experiencing a wide range of tastes and textures from solid food is one strong factor in feeling satiated. You may burn out long-term even if you're replacing just two out of three meals per day with non-solid choices, she points out. Plus, you’re probably not going to blend up some foods (like salmon), so your options can become limited.
“A common mistake I see recreational athletes make is adding in healthy foods (like flax seeds, nut butters, and coconut oil) that they think are good for them without recognizing the amount of calories they contain,” Spano adds.
The Right Way to Do a Liquid Meal
Despite potential cons, drinkable food can certainly have a place in your diet up to once a day with a little smart planning.
1. Start by piling in veggies. You can add 100 percent carrot, beet, or green juices into the mix (or press it yourself with a juicer), says Kimball. However, in order to get fiber, which isn’t found in juice, you’ll need to add chunks of whole veggies. In smoothies, try frozen cauliflower, zucchini, or butternut squash.
2. Follow that with protein. When it comes to something like a savory chilled soup, Kimball notes that it can be tough to get in the amount of protein you need. Opt for bone broth or silken tofu, she says. You can also get the macro via cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and protein powder.
3. Incorporate healthy fats. This will help keep you full and satisfied. Nut butter, nuts, seeds, avocado, or oil (coconut, olive) are all healthy sources. Since they’re calorie-dense, make sure to watch portions.
4. Finish it off. If you’re making a sweet smoothie or açai bowl, you’ll want to add in whole fruits. Kimball likes berries because they’re lower in sugar and higher in fiber than other. Nuts or raw oats can also provide extra fiber if you’re limiting fruit intake.