If you follow fitness professionals on Instagram or TikTok, you will likely notice how they all swear by a smoothie of some kind. Since they are in killer shape, you decide you’ll follow their lead and try to incorporate blended goodies into your diet. Fast forward a month later, and you’ve gained weight instead of losing it. What gives? While a smoothie routine can be a plentiful, nutritious part of your eating regimen, you need to make sure you’re not making these mistakes, adding more pounds to your waistline. Here, we talked with experts to discover the sneaky, hidden ways smoothies can make you gain weight and what to do instead. And for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
If you think your smoothie is the ideal snack to fulfill you between lunch and dinner, think again, says doctor, author, and keto expert, Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC. All too often, he sees people mistakenly pairing their blended greens or fruits with a meal rather than letting it serve as a meal replacement. While that’s a smart strategy if you’re trying to pack on weight for a football or wrestling meet, it’s not suitable for most people. Instead, try to visualize your smoothie as a complete meal, balanced with protein and healthy fats.
“Try adding avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, nut milk, and a good quality protein powder to make it more filling,” Dr. Axe says.
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Think about your current go-to smoothie recipe: are you using actual slices of fresh or frozen fruit, or are you pouring in juices? And if you are using real fruit, do you liquefy entirely or keep it chunky? Smoothies in place of chowing down on an apple could be the culprit of your weight gain, says Mika Morris, a NESTA sports nutrition specialist for Body FX.
“When you take fruit and juice it, instead of blend it, you lose the majority of the fiber,” says Morris. “Fiber is what slows down the absorption of sugar. So now you’re over-consuming sugar that will be immediately poured into your bloodstream without the barrier of fiber, and that can cause a spike in insulin and fat storage. You’re better off just eating a whole fruit.”
Here are the 15 Best Frozen Fruits & Vegetables to Keep on Hand.
Not-so-fun fact if you’ve been trying to cut down on calories: shakes that are labeled ‘keto’ likely have a ton of calories. And while they make sense for people who are following the keto diet or are practicing intermittent fasting, they aren’t designed for those eating an average or high amount of carbohydrates, Dr. Axe warns.
“Keto smoothies or shakes may contain avocado, coconut oil, milk or nut milk, and nut butters. While these are all super healthy ingredients, the calorie intake is high when you aren’t following the very low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet,” he says.
Instead, you should try blending up one of these 27 Best Immune-Boosting Smoothie Recipes.
We already know the average American consumes far too much sugar, which is why a smoothie may tempt you in the first place. It doesn’t seem as terrible as, say, a milkshake, but it still helps meet that sweet tooth craving. However, the truth is sugar is sugar, and having too much of it will cause you to pack on the pounds.
As celebrity chef and certified nutritionist Serena Poon explains, added sugar content in smoothies comes from fruit and various additions like chocolate, frozen yogurt, and dairy.
“Sugar can be high in unsatisfying calories, so even if you eat many sweet calories, you might still find yourself hungry,” she says.
On a more extreme level, Poon says constant overconsumption of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which has been linked to obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Personal trainer and fitness expert Jerry Snider says drinking a smoothie before exercising is almost guaranteed to make you gain weight. How come? This strategy is used for people who are looking to build a lot of muscle, not so much for someone who wants to shed some weight.
“When you work out, the body first looks to the digestive system for energy. If there is anything in the digestive system to pull energy from, it will get used up first. Then the body will transition to burning stored fat, but the process can take some time,” he says. “Most people looking to lose weight won’t work out long enough to have their body transition from burning the smoothie to burning fat.”
It’s smarter to work up a sweat on an empty stomach and then have a protein-packed smoothie afterward as your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, dependent on the time of day.
Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Smoothie Every Day.
Repeat after Poon: the nutrition content of a smoothie is only as good as the ingredients that you put into it.
“If your smoothie is full of green vegetables and superfoods, then you’re off to a great start,” she says. “If your smoothie is full of fruit, sweeteners, and dairy products, you don’t necessarily have to avoid it, but it might be good to think of it more as a sweet treat than a nutrient-dense meal.”
To understand if your smoothie is a healthy choice, Poon recommends asking yourself this question: will it give you a burst of energy and a dose of nutrients, or will it merely provide a sugar rush and stomach ache? If it’s the latter, have a balanced meal instead and save yourself the worry.
Here are 14 Best Smoothie Ingredients for a Flat Belly.
Unfortunately, Poon says people often drink smoothies as though they would a glass of water or green juice. But they aren’t the same, especially since water is zero calories, green juice is around 50, and most smoothies are more than 400. Yep, you read that correctly!
“Once people begin to understand how many calories they are consuming in their smoothies, they tend to balance out their eating patterns automatically,” she says. “Smoothies are a delicious and often nutritious addition to your diet; it just might be a good idea to space out the frequency or balance out your other meals for the day when you drink them.”
Now that you know what not to do, here are 8 Hacks To Make Your Smoothie Healthier.