Good nutrition is the key to maximizing your workout efforts, there's no doubt about that. However, that doesn't mean you always have the time to sit down for a regular meal. Which is why many of us turn to smoothies for a quick and easy boost of nutrients. So, what should you be adding to your smoothie to ensure it's more than just a tasty treat? Read on for tips on how to craft a better smoothie for your workout.
Sure, you could just dump a bunch of healthy-ish stuff in the blender and off you go. But, after one or two smoothies that don't wow your taste buds, how likely are you to keep making them? Start with a good process so you know what you need and can take the time to choose flavors you'll love.
Water, ice, tea, almond milk, coconut milk—you can start with just about anything. If you want a bit of crunch, stick with the ice cubes. For a creamier texture, opt for the milks. Add more liquid to make it thinner and less for a thicker consistency. Also, be sure to choose the unsweetened versions of any milks to keep out unnecessary sugars.
As with your regular meals, make sure you're getting enough protein. You can go the basic route with your usual protein power, or get creative with the other ingredients in your recipes:
Peanut butter - 7 grams/2 tablespoons
Oats - 11 grams/cup
Chia seeds - 4 grams/tablespoon
Flaxseed, ground - 2 grams/tablespoon
Hemp seeds - 5 grams/tablespoon
Quinoa - 8 grams/cup
Milk, fat-free - 8 grams/cup
Coconut milk - 5 grams/cup
Greek yogurt, low fat - 20 grams/7 ounces (1)
Vegetables are an easy addition to any meal and smoothies are no different. Pack in those nutrients with a couple of handfuls of spinach, some sweet potatoes or beets for a bit sweetness, or even a greens supplements for a boost of everything. Most of these won't alter your overall flavor too much, so you can still enjoy chocolate or peanut butter smoothie without it tasting like a salad.
Let your fruit do the work of sweeteners for you—you don't want to undo all your hard work. Plus, they add more vitamins, mineral, and phytonutrients. Fresh or frozen—either one is a great option depending on the texture you prefer.
Don't forget about your seeds, nuts, and seasonings. Options like chia seeds, flaxseed, ginger, nut butters, and more are small but mighty ingredients. Nut butters add healthy fats, flavor, and a creamy texture. Various seeds, nuts, and granolas can add a crunch and a boost of nutrients.
Start with getting a good balance of macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fats. Then, focus in on a few tweaks to set your pre- and post-workout smoothies apart from the basics.
Slow-digesting carbs are an optimal pick for your pre-workout smoothies. You don't want your body to break down your muscles for energy, so add something that can provide energy throughout your whole workout. Oats are a perfect choice—they'll keep hunger at bay and provide long-lasting energy.
Also, include a fast-digesting carb to kickstart your workout. Get that energy flowing so you start out strong. Fruits fit in perfectly here and they usually taste great with oats:
A nutrient-packed smoothie after your workout is the perfect way to refuel and jumpstart your body's recovery process. Protein and carbs are especially helpful in restoring glycogen stores, decreasing muscle protein breakdown, and increasing muscle growth. This is where those multi-beneficial ingredients like oats and Greek yogurt really come in handy.
A protein-filled smoothie will deliver the amino acids your body needs to rebuild muscle protein. Aim for 0.14-.23 gram per pound of bodyweight post-workout. (2)
And carbohydrates are necessary to restore the glycogen stores. On average, try to consume 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight after working out. (2)
1 cup arugula/spinach blend
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1 cup frozen mango chunks
2 leaves kale, torn into several pieces
3 tablespoons white beans, drained
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
1 cup water
1 1⁄2 cups frozen cherries
1 cup spinach leaves, packed
1 cup unsweetened vanilla or chocolate almond milk
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1 banana, frozen
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2/3 cup plain 2-percent-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup loosely packed baby spinach
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon almond butter
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Want to know more about how food can enhance your fitness? Learn about the science and psychology of nutrition and how you can coach others to achieve their health and fitness goals. Explore the ISSA's nutrition course online.