This year, our Get Fit Challenge 2015 has included a large nutritional component with a Nutrition Guide tailor made for Stroller Strong Moms as well as question and answer sessions all provided by our Nutritionist, Leslie Ann Berg MSPH CPT! We have learned so much from Leslie Ann about how to fuel our bodies with healthy, ‘whole foods’! Not only is she a nutritionist, but she is a fellow mom and instructor at SSM DC, so she understands the lifestyle and dietary needs of Stroller Strong Moms. Below is one of the questions Leslie Ann most recently answered for us that we have found to be a hot topic with all of the shake supplement options on the market today. Happy reading!!! 

Question: Why are shake supplements not as good as the real thing?

Answer: I am so happy someone asked this question! There are so many shake supplements out there, and so many boast of all natural ingredients derived from real food. Unfortunately shake supplements are just that…supplements. You are not doing your body justice by drinking powdered forms of nutrients taken from real food. Nutrition is a very young science and we’re not quite sure why, but the human body does not metabolize and utilize supplements (shake mixes, vitamins, minerals, protein powders, etc.) the same way it metabolizes and utilizes real food. A myriad of meta-analysis studies have been performed on multivitamin/ multi-mineral supplement use. They have found that vitamin and mineral supplements had no positive effects on the average healthy individual. In addition, antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E, had adverse effects.

In the nutrition guide, I included a section on phytochemicals and food synergy. These components are most likely the reasons why the body does not metabolize supplement foods and nutrients in the same way as real foods.

“Whole foods, specifically plant foods, are abundantly rich in nutrients called phytochemicals: biologically active compounds that protect our bodies from disease by reducing inflammation and DNA damage and boosting immunity. When phytochemicals are consumed in combinations with phytochemicals form other foods, their activity is strengthened and the protection they offer is multiplied… These potent combinations are referred to as food synergy.

Phytochemical activity and food synergy are sensitive to changes in food composition, air, temperature, light, and time, all factors that are introduced during food processing, packaging, and prolonged storage. Consequently, phytochemical activity and food synergy in processed goods are often dramatically reduced or destroyed during nutrient extraction and industrial processing. Therefore, eating a bowl of rolled oats with fresh fruit is exponentially more effective in promoting health benefits than eating a bowl of whole grain boxed cereal with dried berries.”

The same goes for a supplement shake versus a smoothie with fresh, whole food ingredients. It is impossible to bottle up or package phytochemicals and food synergy. Once foods are taken out of their whole food forms, these incredibly beneficial components are lost. Not only do you lose the benefits and protection foods offer against disease when you consume shake supplements, you also lose out on the body’s ability to properly metabolize the shake nutrients and utilize them to the body’s best ability for whatever your health goals are, whether that’s to heal a disease, protect against disease, lose wright, gain muscle, or simply to live a long, healthy life. For any of these goals, a whole food smoothie is hands down the better choice. Your body will more efficiently and effectively put the nutrients to work!


A whole food smoothie is not only the better choice, but the cheaper choice. Shake supplements are more expensive. The cost of Shakeology for instance comes out to about $2 for every 70 calories. Although this product advertises containing 70 nutrients per shake, it’s best to buy a variety of whole food ingredients and mix it up in your whole food smoothie than consume these isolated nutrients that are extracted then processed together in a shake powder. It’s much cheaper to buy smoothie ingredients, such as leafy greens, fruits (frozen or fresh), and a milk of your choice, and make them at home.

In addition, relying on shake supplements is not helping you form habits that encourage a life-long, lifestyle change. Once you stop buying the shakes, your healthy lifestyle is often lost because its foundation was built on these meal replacement supplements. When incorporating whole food smoothies into your diet, you are forming a habit that is life-long by learning how to buy whole foods and make food at home, instead of relying on expensive, packaged convenience foods. Instead of supplementing your diet, learn to create a healthy whole food diet that doesn’t need supplementing. There is no need for supplements in the United States, as we are blessed with an incredible abundance and variety of the real thing.

Lastly, if you want to drink shake supplements because they boast weight loss and you’ve heard of so many success stories of people losing weight when they start drinking shake supplements, this is not a fact. There is nothing in the shake supplement that causes weight loss. For those who have lost weight while drinking shake supplements, the weight loss is due to the fact that when they started drinking the shakes they also started living a healthier lifestyle, one that incorporates exercise and healthier food choices. Or they simply replaced an unhealthy meal daily with a shake supplement. The lifestyle shift is why the weight came off, not because of the shake. If your goal is to lose weight, it is much more beneficial and long lasting to buy and consume whole foods.

If you want to incorporate shakes into your daily diet regimen, I recommend buying whole foods and making smoothies at home. It is not only far more beneficial for your body, but it is also cheaper and it helps create a foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating by buying and making your own food. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out these excellent smoothie infographics. And for convenience, throw the ingredients in your blender the night before and add any milk, dairy, or ice ingredient in the morning. You’ll have your nutrient and phytochemical rich shake in no time!…/

-Leslie Ann Berg MSPH CPT