3 Keys to Race Day Eats

3 Keys to Race Day Eats

This is for my runners of all ages. No matter what race you’re running – Rumpshaker 5K or Olympic Trials 1 mile, there are 3 keys for race day eats. Besides showing up hydrated, which almost goes without saying.

1) Eat familiar foods. Know what works for you.

2) Eat the right amounts (not too much, not too little).

3) Go easy on protein, fat, and fiber, especially in the hours near the race.

Our goal on competition day is for our food choices to fuel us through the race, without causing GI (tummy) distress. It’s pretty straightforward, and all it takes is a little planning and practice to figure out what works for you.

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Repping Troy, with my lucky black bow and pearl earrings (of course.)

Race-day rituals come in all forms – the same warm-up, lucky socks, bows, earrings, etc. Many people like to have coffee on race morning, especially if they do it on the daily anyway. Studies have shown that caffeine does improve athletic performance, but beware – know your tolerance! I have anywhere from a half to one cup every morning, but I’ll skip it if my race is early. This past weekend I raced in the afternoon, so I started my day with a bottle of water and my morning cup of coffee (as always, with a dash of almond milk).

My two favorite race-day breakfasts are oatmeal and CLIF bars. I was out of oatmeal, and wanted to eat something as I was leaving the dorm anyway, so I grabbed a bar. I know they sit well with my stomach, never give me any issues, and will hold me over for about 3 hours. It’s key for me to choose the right flavor, too – some of them, like chocolate mint and chocolate brownie, are too sweet for me, and my stomach doesn’t tolerate the really peanut-y ones as well, so my favorite flavors are the Nuts and Seeds (which I haven’t found in a while), Sierra Trail Mix, Blueberry Muffin, and Chocolate Chip. But lately…

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This is just the best. THE best. It’s lower in sugar than the regular bars, and it’s coconut-almond flavored with almond butter in the center. Seriously so good. You need a race day breakfast that makes you excited to get going, and this works great for me. They were also slightly discounted the last time I was at the store! This bar has 27g carb, 11g fat, 7g protein, and 3g fiber. Consider your own body size and needs, but less is more sometimes.

Whatever bfast you choose, these guidelines should help you assure it fuels you well.

  • You’ve eaten it before running hard several times, and it’s gone well.
  • You’ve eaten it recently.
  • It contains carbs, fat, and protein – but mostly carbs. Complex carbs are great, but be careful with too much fiber. Don’t worry about your normal health goals on race day – you can up your fiber and eat omelets with veggies again tomorrow! Protein will be one of our keys for replenishing post-race, so we don’t need to worry too much about it now.
  • Portion size – you want to be comfortably full. Satisfied. Especially if your run is in the morning. If you eat slowly, you should be able to identify what amount this means for you. I’d practice race-day breakfast on a regular morning run day, just to be safe.

If you’re running a morning race, I highly recommend waking up 3 hours before the time you’d start warming up, and getting a small meal like a bowl of oats, a couple pieces of toast with almond butter or fruit spread, or a CLIF bar, in early. Drink at least a couple of bottles of water before you get out there, too – most of us wake up slightly dehydrated each morning after hours of not drinking, so you’ll want to restore your normal function. Even slight dehydration can hinder performance, and keep you from feeling your best!

I’m always afraid to drink too much on the bus, but I’d gotten another bottle in by the time we sat down at the track. And I usually try to bring some minty gum for the ride, because it keeps me feeling alert and fresh.

I snacked on some pretzel chips until lunch came. Salty foods can help ease a nervous stomach! Simple, starchy snacks like pretzels, crackers, or (low-sugar) cereal are great to have on hand for race day, because you never know when you might need something. These won’t affect you negatively unless you eat a ton of them, and are good at keeping hunger (and nerves!) at bay.
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Samford University, you are so beautiful!

For lunch, our sweet coaches ordered us sandwiches from Newk’s 🙂

I took off the cheese, tomato, and lettuce, and ate half of the sandwich. They were pretty big, and seriously it was the best bread ever! It definitely depends on your size and food tolerance, but regardless, a small meal about 3 hours before starting warmup is a good bet. I also made sure to drink two more bottles of water before we started warm-up at 3:30.

warmup

About 15 minutes before the race, when I was at my bag, I had a sip Powerade. In a study my classmates and I did this semester, even just rinsing the mouth with a carbohydrate-containing drink prior to a maximal bout of exercise improved performance. It really works! You can drink it or spit it out, but either way your mind is tricked into thinking there are carbs on the way, so it will allow you to work just a little bit harder.

pre-race prayer

race day troy

And before you know it, you’re done again! Our lovely trainers brought us water cups as soon as we could breathe. I always let myself chill and rest after the race for at least 20 minutes, and talk to coach, see the family. I’ll watch friends finish their races, hang out, have a little gatorade, etc. It’s important to get a light cool-down in, and then I’ll start thinking about fuel again, but usually not before. Many nutrition experts recommend refueling within 30 minutes to an hour. I’ll usually have some sports drink within 20-30 minutes, and then close to an hour afterward I’ll eat a little something. Usually something that makes me happy 🙂

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Like this cookie. Thanks Coach Michelle 🙂

Go slow after the race, but you’ve definitely earned some protein, fat, and carbs. Post-exercise is the best time to refuel muscle glycogen (carb) stores, aka, the best time to enjoy simple carbs like cookies and not have the sugar converted to fat. Take my word for it and stagger your refueling – a cookie here, a sandwich in an hour, another snack later – if I don’t, I often find my stomach cramping up on the bus ride home!

You’ll definitely want some protein on race night, to keep your muscles fed and happy. They just worked really hard, and you might not have had a ton of protein already, so now’s the time. I didn’t even take a picture, but we got Full Moon BBQ, and I had a chicken sandwich with BBQ sauce 🙂 So. good. Not all people avoid veggies post-race, but I feel best if I do (if I raced really hard). Their fibrous nature can just be too much if your stomach is a little on edge. I have, however, been known to tackle a smoothie. Or, more recently…

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Cashew milk ice cream. Don’t worry, I had help with this pint. Yum!

Of course, you’ll want to keep re-hydrating like crazy all night, and the next day too (especially if it was hot!) I like to kick start the next day with a really healthy and yummy breakfast, and have a lot of fruit and veggies throughout the day. This sets me on a good track for recovery – our bodies need those nutrients! Especially if we’re doing a long run the next day, which we did.

Fuel your body well, and you’ll make the most of your performance! To sum up performance nutrition for the average person, I’d say this – Go hard on the daily when you’re training. Refuel well with prime produce, lean meats, and healthy fats. Choose good, fresh, fiber and nutrient-filled foods. Then on race day, keep things simple, and enjoy yourself a little afterward (with protein, of course). Your muscles will thank you!

Run fast,

Rae

{Remember, I’m not a dietitian yet! All of this is based on what I’ve learned so far in school, and my personal experience. If you want to develop a real race-day plan, you’ll need a real RDN – preferably one with special sports experience and certifications. Don’t take any of this as medical advice – just food for thought!}

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Choosing Your “Central Perk”

Choosing Your “Central Perk”

I’ve noticed during my recent “Friends”-watching that no two members of the group have the same coffee order when they sit down in their corner at the Central Perk. Joey’s usually involves a muffin, and who can forget Episode 1 where Ross tears Rachel’s sweet-n-low packets for her? When their drink orders get mixed up, everyone is quick to switch. You obviously want your own order, not someone else’s. But how do you know you’ve chosen the best cup for you? And why are there so many options in coffee shops today?

Many people suffer from “coffee shop anxiety.” As they approach the board, their eyes are overwhelmed by the long lists of words and flavors and brews… it’s a little crazy how many different drinks we call “coffee.” If you’re clueless about coffeeshop choices, this post should clear up a lot of the confusion. If you already have your standard order down pat, keep reading – you might see a modification here that you could use to make it even better and better for you.

The cardinal rule I try to follow is to eat/drink to feel better afterward than I did before – not worse. To benefit myself, and not harm myself. A sugar coma or a sick tummy does not make me feel better, nor does it benefit my long-term health. Who wants to feel gross, just because some calorie-bomb drink tasted good in the moment? Trust me, I’ve made good choices and bad – and I’d say that for me the good choice generally leads to a better mood, a more successful day, better self-esteem, and better choices afterward. Remember, it’s not any one choice, but the accumulation of your choices over time that defines your diet. Having good go-to’s takes the guess work out of eating out, too. When you’ve ordered something lots of times, it becomes a stress-free decision, and you won’t have to expend as much energy making that choice as you did the first time.

iced coffee

I’ve been attending a small group for a couple of weeks that meets at the local coffee place, Village Coffee. So, everybody’s gonna ask you what you ordered (naturally) to break the ice. This got me thinking about whether my order defines me as a person – am I a 12oz sugar-free vanilla soy latte girl, forever? Nope, I’m still just Rae. And guess what – I can be a cafe misto, or hot tea, or black coffee kind of girl whenever I’d like.

I’ve got 3 big tips that will take any order to its healthiest level – and here they are. These are the foundation of my coffeehouse philosophy.

  1. Choose your base wisely. If you’re having a drink that contains a good bit of milk (most “coffee” drinks that aren’t plain brewed coffee), I recommend choosing either non-fat (skim) milk, or non-dairy milk. This will bring the total calories and fat way down for your drink (and it still tastes heavenly). If you’re using cream or whole or 2% milk in your brewed coffee, remember that a little goes a long way.
  2. Cut (back) the sugar. Nix whipped cream to do yourself nothing but good; skip drizzles and extra syrup shots. Consider sugar-free syrup if you’re okay with occasional consumption of artificial sweeteners.
  3. Simpler can be better. My stand-by at coffee shops is a modification of the classic vanilla latte, but on the daily I drink brewed coffee. I feel no need to branch out into crazy stuff with triple-flavored names… those often involve multiple syrup shots, which isn’t going to be healthier. I recommend sticking with one flavor shot!

You can use these tips to give any drink a healthy upgrade. If you’d like a little more insight into ordering, here’s an overview of some of the top order categories, and how to approach them.

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BLACK COFFEE – There are always a few “purists” who drink it black, or with a little cream or sugar, and wouldn’t have it any other way. This is definitely one of the most budget-friendly, waistline-friendly options, and it’s universally served. There’s likely no coffee shop where you won’t find it. With black coffee, just watch the amount of cream/sugar you add, and you’ll be fine. For your reference, 1 tablespoon of half and half contains 20 calories (1.7g fat, 0.6g carb, and 0.4g protein). I’d usually use 2 tablespoons, so that’d be 40 calories. Sugar contains 15 calories per teaspoon (or packet), all from 4.2g carb. Doctoring up your coffee with 2 tbsp of half and half and 1 tsp sugar = A fairly tame cup, at 55 calories, 3.4g fat, 4.8g carb, and 0.8g protein. If the coffee’s good, I’ll usually go with a splash of cream and skip the sugar.

Some places will offer milk, and you can use a little more of this for less fat and calories than half and half. It’s less concentrated, but you can use more. You can use 1/2 cup skim milk for the same caloric value as 2 tbsp half and half, and none of the saturated fat – and you’ll also get 4 g of protein. 2% milk is a happy medium – creamier than skim milk, a little more fat but less than half and half, and 31 calories per 1/4 cup.

Artificial sweeteners are another swap you can try – keep in mind you’re only saving 15 calories per packet, and they may give your coffee a slightly different taste.

{If you are diabetic, the artificial sweetener is the best choice for you if you need it, because it won’t spike your blood sugar like sugar does. There are varying opinions on artificial sweeteners – some believe they can cause more cravings for real sugar. They have been shown to aid in weight loss, however, when they replace sugar. It’s ultimately your call – do your own research by using google scholar, or finding analyses of artificial sweeteners by RDN’s or RD’s on youtube/blogs/etc.}

Smiley face mug - happy yellow coffee

There are really so many options for fixing a cup of coffee. Lately, at home, I’ve been using 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond or cashew milk in mine and loving it. 1/2 cup provides almost a quarter of your recommended daily calcium intake, is free of sugar and saturated fat, and makes your coffee nice and creamy for just 15 calories. It tastes better to me than dairy milk, so I use it whenever I get the chance. The only drawback is less protein, but we can get that from many other sources during the day. Many coffee shops are beginning to offer almond milk as an option for lattes, etc. – so if this is the case at your favorite place, you could ask them to give you a splash (they’ll keep it behind the counter in their fridge). You can also ask for a cafe misto or cafe au lait – half brewed coffee, half steamed milk of your choice. These are fabulous and I do get them sometimes – they tend to cost a little more than a cup of coffee, but a little less than a latte.

LATTES – My usual, if I want to treat myself. The latte is likely the most classic and widely ordered hot drink in the U.S. It’s steamed milk and espresso, with (optional) a syrupy flavor of your choice. A plain latte (no syrup) can be good if you’re in the right mood. Give it a shot if you can handle things less sweet, but still want to sip on some creamy, frothy goodness. Sugar-free syrups are also an option, and, though made with artificial sweeteners, will save you approximately 20 calories and 5g sugar per pump. Key here is your milk – a classic latte is made with whole or 2% milk, but you can ask for nonfat, soy, or almond (if available).

Let’s compare: I’m using Starbucks nutrition facts for calculations, and no whipped cream on any of these for simplicity’s sake.

12oz (Tall) Whole milk latte with vanilla syrup: 220 calories, 9g fat, 27g sugar.

12oz (Tall) Nonfat latte with vanilla syrup: 150 calories, 0g fat, 35g sugar.

12oz (Tall) “Skinny Vanilla Latte” (Nonfat milk, sugar-free vanilla syrup): 100 calories, 0g fat, 12g sugar. Note, the sugar here comes from the milk – it’s a natural sugar, known as none other than lactose.

12oz (Tall) Skinny Vanilla Latte with Soy Milk – 140 calories,  4g fat, 12g sugar. Great for those who prefer non-dairy, but not more calorie-efficient than the skinny.

12oz (Tall) Skinny Vanilla Latte with Unsweetened Almond Milk: 80 calories, 5g fat, 0g sugar. Niceeee. Less protein, though. Almond milk isn’t as widely available as soy, either. It’ll get there one day.

latte

CAPPUCCINOS – Traditionally much like a latte, with more foam. Same principles should apply here that would to a latte. Cappuccinos are traditionally plain, unsweetened, but you can ask for any flavoring you like to be added.

MOCHAS – A mocha is much like a latte, but with mocha sauce in place of the flavored syrup. This is generally going to give you a higher calorie drink, depending on how much sauce the barista uses. A 12oz nonfat mocha = 190 calories, 2g far, and 27g sugar. Some places, like Starbucks, will offer skinny mochas, with sugar-free mocha sauce – 110 calories, 1g fat, 12g sugar. Not bad- very similar to a skinny latte.

MACCHIATOS – Coffee with a splash of milk, syrup, and often a caramel drizzle. Can be similar in nutritional value to a latte – a 12oz Starbucks skinny macchiato is 100 calories, 1g fat, 14g sugar. Here’s one below – yum. Often served iced – the main reason it’s not my go-to (I like my drinks hot!).

macchiato

FRAPPES – I thought they were dangerous territory. Guess what – You can order a tall “Coffee Light Frappuccino” at good old Starbs’ for just 90 calories. “Cafe’ Vanilla Light” for 130. Really?! Who knew. They get a bad rep because they look so decadent, with their swirly whipped cream and fancy lids – but here on the light, we’re nixing the whipped cream. Wanna hear the stats for the original Cafe Vanilla Frappucino? The big one you’ll see people toting around – a 24oz Venti? 530 calories, 16g fat, and 88g sugar. Good grief!

It’s worth noting that at smaller coffee shops, frappes are usually made from a pre-made mix, and may not be this customizable (while lattes, cappuccinos, etc. will be). You can always, always ask, but you might not be able to get a skinny frappe just anywhere. In this case, I’d go with an iced drink – Iced coffee with a splash of milk and a shot of vanilla syrup, or an iced skinny latte, mocha, etc.

Note- size. I looked at the small (12oz) size in this post because that’s what I’m usually after. If I want a treat, I’m treating myself, and the small is special enough for me (but it’s totally up to you, and personal preference, and your caloric needs). You can calculate the calories for any beverage you’d like easily by searching it online and maybe talking with the barista if necessary. If size is more important to you, you can choose a lighter drink than maybe you would if you were getting a smaller one. If you’ve just worked out really hard, or have higher caloric needs, your body could probably handle more discretionary calories being spent here. Remember – it’s all about meeting your body’s own personal needs on that given day. All foods can fit.

Not a coffee drinker? You can opt for these yummy options:

  • Hot tea (your best bet – 0 calories, and you can add milk or honey if you’d like)
  • Iced tea (go with an unsweetened variety and add your own if needed)
  • Chai latte – switch out your milk for skim or another lighter milk
  • At Starbucks – a hot vanilla creme with nonfat milk (a slimmed down, vanilla version of hot cocoa!)
  • Hot apple cider
  • Hot cocoa brewed with water instead of milk
Pukka love tea hot chamomile rose
Yummmmm.

Coffeehouse grub? A lot of it offers you little nutritional value in a highly attractive and sugar-y package. Muffins, scones, cookies… think of them as an occasional treat, not a regular purchase, and split them with a friend. You’ll enjoy it more, because you have somebody to “mmmmm” with, and you’ll obviously eat less!

Decent breakfast choices offered at some coffee shops include oatmeal (watch your sugar and toppings), whole grain breads, fruit bowls, breakfast sandwiches on whole grain english muffins with topping such as eggs, egg whites, spinach, etc. The more progressive places, like Mama Mocha’s in Auburn, Al, are offering killer healthy lunch options like Kale salads! Yum.

highlands

Choose based on your coffee place’s best options, your personal needs on that given day, and how much you’re willing to spend. Doing that, you can’t go wrong! And remember – don’t be afraid to switch up your classic order. You can be whatever kind of coffee drinker you want to be, today.

Stay bright,

Rae

 

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Breakfast at… McDonalds?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes an “all foods can fit” approach to healthful eating, and so do I.

The AND emphasizes that the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, is what matters – not any one food or meal. “If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity,” they say, “all foods can fit into a healthful diet.” It’s true. The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet, because labeling items as “good” or “bad” may encourage unhealthy eating behaviors. Here’s another snippet of wisdom from the AND – “Nutrition confusion can be reduced by emphasizing moderation, appropriate portion size, balance and adequacy of the total diet over time, the importance of obtaining nutrients from foods, and physical activity.”

These guys know what they’re talking about. Balance is key to a healthy life. So, we conclude, every choice does not have to be perfect in order for us to eat a total diet we can be proud of. I say, we can make a McDonalds trip every so often fit into our healthy lifestyles, without remorse. Here’s some tips to help you feel proud, not ashamed, when you pull out of the parking lot.

–Breakfast–

(aka, the thing that’s really great here & is served all day)bfast

I went for brunch with some friends on Saturday, and got the Egg White Delight McMuffin, a Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait, and a hot coffee. These are my favorites, and I’ll discuss a couple of other nice options as well!

Egg White Delight McMuffin – DELICIOUS. One of my very favorite fast food breakfasts, though I don’t do it as often as I used to. This sandwich rings in at 250 kcal, 8g fat, and boasts 17g protein, 10% DV iron… and 740mg sodium (30% DV). Really, the sodium is the drawback here, because too much sodium is not great for the heart (and can make you feel/ look bloated). Remove either the Canadian bacon or the cheese, and you can take the sodium down to 510mg (21% DV). Other cons are the white flour in the english muffin (too bad they don’t buy whole wheat!) and use of preservatives. You can make an epic version of this at home that’s got an even better nutritional profile, but for McDonalds, and being on the road, this is a nice light choice. Swap the cheese for american if you’d rather, because they are basically the same thing in different colors!

muffin-l

Egg McMuffin. Let’s compare this classic to its trendier egg white cousin. It’s another nice choice. 290 kcal, 12g fat, 17g protein, 15% DV iron, 710 sodium. Very similar to the Egg white, but a whole egg (therefore slightly higher in fat) and a different color cheese. That’s literally the difference. You can lower sodium to 510 mg by removing either the cheese or Canadian bacon; lower fat by 4g and sandwich by 50 kcal by removing the cheese, or swap for white cheddar for no change in nutrient value.

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. I’d either choose to leave out the brown sugar (you can ask for this, they will make it with or without) or the dried fruit. With 33g sugar, the standard with all the toppings is a little overwhelming for breakfast. By making one of these modifications, you can take it down to 18g. Our modified oatmeal supplies you with 260 Calories, and all the benefits of the stuff you make at home – it supplies 10% of your daily iron needs, 22% of your fiber needs, and is fairly low in sodium (115mg).

Biscuits. Nothing wrong with one every once in a while. One McD’s biscuit has 270 kcal, 12g fat, 5g protein, and 770mg sodium. The toppings – that’s where things get crazy. I recommend one-topping style, with some great choices being egg (it’s a scrambled, folded egg), bacon, or a packet of strawberry jelly or honey. That’s how I would eat a biscuit at home, so I don’t pile on a lot of layers at restaurants, either – simple can be nice!

Hot cakes. You can actually get an order of plain hot cakes for 330 kcal, 9g protein, 8g fat, and 12g sugar. You can lightly coat them with butter, maybe give them a drizzle of syrup, and it’s still really not crazy. They just get a bad rap! Keep in mind it’s refined flour, but this isn’t a perfect world. You could even get a 1% milk on the side to up your meal’s protein content by 8g for 100 kcal.

Fruit and yogurt parfait. 150 kcal, 4g protein, 3g fat, 80mg sodium, and 23g sugar. No live/active cultures, but still yummy and provides calcium (10% daily needs, 110mg). Sugar is a little high, but it’s no milkshake. Together with Egg white delight (I did that combo for brunch) you come to 400 kcal, and it’s a really nice meal. I wouldn’t pair the parfait with something else sweet – oatmeal or sweetened coffee – but it is a nice touch to a more savory meal.

Hash browns are probably the more typical side choice for breakfast. Each patty has 150 kcal, just like the parfait. You aren’t getting any fruit, but then, you aren’t getting added sugar, either. If you’re a sucker for these, go with just one, or even split it with a friend!

Coffee. Here we go.

coffee

  • I actually think McDonald’s brews a great house blend. A hot small cup with 2 or 3 creams is my favorite. I just love it! I couldn’t finish my whole cup at our brunch, so I took it home and drank the rest chilled the next morning. Yum!
  • Iced Coffee – You can get a small vanilla for 100, hazelnut for 110, or caramel for 120 kcal. 15, 17, and 20g of sugar, respectively. I can drink to that – it’s even less of a splurge than Chick-fil-a’s, and we think it might be better. (If you opt for artificial sweetener, the sugar free vanilla is 70 kcal and 1g sugar for a small, but I usually go with the standard vanilla).

And these are all my tips. Note – you can make YUMMIER and healthier versions of most of these things at home, but sometimes it’s just fun to go out with the girls!

Happy smacking,

Rae

Reference

Freeland-Graves, J., & Nitzke, S. (2002). Position of the American Dietetic Association: total diet approach to communicating food and nutrition information. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(1), 100-108.

{Magic} Protein Coffee

{Magic} Protein Coffee

Get ready to experience greatness.

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One day this winter, I had a brilliant hunch. Protein powder = milk solids + vanilla + sweetener. Vanilla lattes = espresso + milk + vanilla + sweetener. I love vanilla lattes… and my homemade version has cut my Starbucks spending down by about 90%.

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At ~50-60 kcal a cup, you could also call this the ultimate skinny vanilla latte.

Also a great way to sneak protein into your morning (which can help keep you satisfied throughout the day)! I’m absolutely hooked.

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Here’s the recipe:

Coffee (~1 cup): Brew, let cool until drinking temperature (3-5 minutes). If too hot, powder will clump.

Quest vanilla milkshake protein powder (~1/2 scoop, to taste): Dump into warm coffee.

Replace lid, insert blender bottle shaker ball, and shake! It’s even got the foam.

You can add a little half and half or milk to taste, if you’d like to give it a more latte-like color. It’s still gonna be creamy and awesome either way!

I’d love to know what this would be like with another flavor protein powder, like caramel or chocolate. Try any flavor you’d like, and please post the results if it’s great!

Disclaimers: I’ve only tried this with Quest Protein, so I can’t guarantee how other powders will hold up to the hot coffee. I can say you have to be certain you don’t get too excited and dump the powder in too early, because it will clump up. I can also say you might be hooked once you try this, but… it’s a fairly healthy treat!

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Cheers,

Rae