The Power of the Post-Workout Smoothie

In my last post, I did a short article on why using a simple homemade post-workout recovery beverage is a great way to start the recovery process after a workout.  The recipe I provided was simple and I suggested that it is a superior option to chocolate milk.  A post-workout recovery beverage is the optimal way to start the recovery process but the option I provided doesn’t constitute a meal and it certainly doesn’t provide the body with ample amounts of macro and micro nutrients.

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You will see I prefer not to put things like kale or spinach in my post workout smoothie and the reason is I eat a ton of vegetables at the rest of my meals and I prefer my recipe to be super delicious as I consider it a treat or little reward for the just complete workout.  Plus you will see I suggest putting a substantial amount of spirulina or other (simple and dense) greens powder in to supply the ever-so-important chlorophyl component.  But by no means am I discouraging you from adding green vegetables to yours if you like – just remember that carbohydrates (natural sugar* from fruit) is a critical component for proper recovery (1 cup of steamed and chopped Kale = ~40cal / 2g of sugar VS 1 cup of Mango = ~110cal / 24g of sugar VS 1 cup of frozen Blueberries = ~80cal / 13g of sugar).

* Remember that sugar from fruit, which is a natural mix of glucose & fructose, is bound to H2O, fibre and other nutrients, is alkalizing to the body.  It has a vastly different effect on the body than refined sugar and this includes the “healthier sugars” (LOL) like coconut sugar, raw cane sugar, etc. But I do like raw honey for its micronutrient profile and enzyme content.

Blueberry / Grapefruit / Banana

Snack Size: Blueberry / Banana / Grapefruit. UDOs / MCT / Almond Butter. WPI / Chaga / Cordyceps.

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OK, so why am I suggesting you use the post-workout smoothie strategy?  Here are a few reasons that should get you interested:

  • It is an incredibly efficient way for you to meet your body’s nutrition demands after a workout (or anytime of day) since it is easily digested and assimilated in its liquid state
  • It’s delicious.  And this is important on many levels:
    • 1) It makes the whole idea more appealing to people
    • 2) It is very satisfying.
    • 3) A well formulated smoothie is a pleasure to drink and borders on being a “treat” for doing your best at the workout (you earned those carbs!)
  • Alkalizes your body since it is likely in an acid state post exercise
  • Properly refueling in the post-workout window = no cravings later in day/evening
  • If you plan to workout again in the next 24 hours you must do everything you can to help your body prepare for the next workout
  • Your mood will be better since your body isn’t struggling to get back to homeostasis
  • I will say this one again – the post workout smoothie is the single best way to refuel your body and efficiently and effectively meet your body’s nutritional needs post workout (or any time of day!)

Now that your on board with implementing the post workout smoothie strategy here are some ideas for how to customize it to you:

  • Meet the demands of the just completed workout
  • Tailor it to your body size & genotype
  • Choose ingredients that appeal to you
  • Work to find the right consistency that you find satisfying
  • Pick a protein that meets your personal requirements
  • If a vegan protein is chosen, consider adding extra BCAAs

Next, I want to offer you some information that will begin to build your knowledge on this topic and more specifically some key points pertaining to macro-nutrients and choices of ingredients:

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  • Fruit is the ideal source to meet the majority of your carbohydrate requirements
  • Ripe banana = high GI = good post workout
  • Tropical fruit: Mango, Papaya, Pineapple = very nutrient dense (also high GI)
  • Berries: Blueberry & Strawberry are favoured over Blackberry/Raspberry (their seeds ruin the smoothie texture)
  • Dried Figs or Dates (soaked overnight)
  • Raw / unpasteurized honey is another great option to add extra carbohydrates after those big workouts.

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  • A high omega-3 oil is a necessary component of the post workout smoothie.
    • Anti-inflammatory
  • You certainly want to make the key fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) presented to your digestive system in an absorbable state.
  •  Flavour
    • Let’s be honest here – fat tastes good and improves overall flavour and drinking experience
  • Quality calories to keep you full
  • Favour oils with a higher omega-3 than omega-6 content
  • A blend of planet and fish sources is best, good option is a combo of:
    • UDOs 3-6-9
    • High EPA fish oil

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  • Important to pick a source that:
    • Is high quality
    • Meets your ethical choices
    • Meets your genotype demands
    • Tastes good
    • Offers a texture that you enjoy in smoothies
  • Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
    • Has very high BV & PDCAAS*
    • Offers multiple other immune enhancing properties
      • Raises Glutathione levels
    • Choose brands that use BGH free and grass fed sources
    • IMPORTANT: Buy undenatured varieties
  • Fermented, sprouted grains and nuts
    • Has a comparable BV to WPI
    • Reliable brands can easily be non-GMO (organic)
    • Iron Vegan is an industry leading product
      • Canadian made
      • Non-GMO
      • Raw & Sprouted
      • Well chosen protein sources (brown rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, pumpkin seed)
  • Vegetable proteins often have incomplete Amino Acid Profiles if not in a mixed form
    • Consider adding BCAAs to improve Amino Acid Profile
  • Raw Egg
    • If you can handle the texture change that a raw egg induces then there is certainly benefits to this raw form of high quality protein

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  • Find one you like and that is largely dominated by the greens content such as:
    • Spirulina
    • Chlorella
    • Grass juice powders
  • Avoid products that have a large list of ingredients
    • More ingredients is almost always detrimental to the actual greens content
  • Chlorophyl – you can’t get enough of this stuff
    • Powerhouse anti-oxidant
  • Enerex offers a fantastic option that tastes great – Enerex Greens Mixed Berries
    • This is one of my favourites

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  • I would encourage people to get blood tests done to see if they have any deficiencies
    • Then implement some supplements to bring your levels back to optimal
  • Consider supplements that pertain to your athletic endeavours
    • HMB for endurance athletes – click here for study (Institute of Exercise Physiology & Wellness, University of Central Florida, 2014)
  • Adrenal fatigue is common
    • Consider Cordyceps for this as they have multiple benefits outside of their adrenal strengthening properties
    • Purica offers top quality medicinal mushrooms
  • Supplements is another topic that requires it’s own post(s) so I won’t go into it any deeper during this post

*BV & PDCAAS = Biological Value & Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score.  Basically, these are measures of how well your body utilizes the amino acids (components of protein) after a food is consumed and processed by the body – a positive nitrogen balance (PNB) is favourable.  Nitrogen? What’s the deal with that? Well, protein is about 16% nitrogen (Holly, CSNA Module 2, p.56), and when a PNB is present in the body the entire system works more efficiently, including our cognitive health, muscle strength and power and tissue synthesis. PNB is a good thing for athletes for performance and long term health.

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Many endurance athletes are concerned with putting on extra muscle and feel that this extra weight will slow them down.  And many feel that it is protein that will pack on extra muscle.  While this is true to an extent, but it is the stimulus (type of training) that you put your muscles through that triggers how the muscle will react.  Lifting weight to failure at 12-15 reps will put on muscle mass.  Swimming, biking and running does not stimulate your muscle in the same way.

It is true that excess body weight is detrimental to endurance sport performance but it is important for one to consider that maintaining adequate muscle mass is necessary for having a good strength to weight ratio.  Several studies show that adequate protein intake for endurance athletes is between 1.2-1.4g/kg (Hoffman and Falvo, 2004).  And it is important to remember that muscle does more for your body than just help you move and keep your bones in line – there is ever-mounting piles of evidence that adequate muscle mass helps keep your immune system strong, metabolism and body temperature up and maintain optimal cognitive health.  Protein intake requires a post all of it’s own and in the future I will write more on endurance athletes and intake of dietary protein.

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Over the past six months I have used the post-workout smoothie religiously and it has given me nothing less than fantastic results.  Six months is a legitimate trial period and the benefits I have seen and felt include:

  1. Improved recovery (less muscles soreness)
  2. Improved body composition
  3. Less food cravings later in day on heavy training days
  4. Pure enjoyment of preparing and consuming the concoction
  5. Better energy and mental clarity in the 1-6 hours after challenging workouts

As I begin to offer nutrition consulting services in the near future I will work with my clients to encourage them to use this strategy.   I will help them formulate their own ideal recipes and always work  to make ensure they understand the “How & Why” of the strategies I prescribe, and this is critical for the formation of habits.  Lastly, I feel that creating good, healthy habits is the only way to truly improve current and long term health.

Remember, as an active person or athlete you should always be striving to meet your body’s (ever-fluctuating) demands at any given time of day.

Enjoy your smoothie tomorrow!

-Adam

[av_heading heading=’References’ tag=’h6′ style=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=” custom_font=”][/av_heading]

  1. Institute of Exercise Physiology & Wellness, University of Central Florida (2014) High-intensity interval training and ß-hydroxy-ß-methylbutyric free acid improves aerobic power and metabolic thresholds. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10.1186/1550-2783-11-16.
  2. Holly, Cory CSNA (2013). Module 2, p.56.
  3. Hoffman, J.R., Falvo, M.J. (2004) Protein – Which is Best? Journal of Sports Medicine and Science, 118-130
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