Good nutrition is a fundamental part of a total wellness lifestyle. What you put into your body will determine how well it performs, both during exercise and going about your daily activities. Eating a well balanced diet should be sufficient for the nutritional demands of healthy adults who exercise for general wellness and don’t have any unique physiological needs. However, time pressures and busy lifestyles can make it difficult to eat well, especially if you have to grab meals on-the-go!
This is where smoothies come in. The good thing about smoothies is that they are an excellent delivery mechanism for your nutritional needs pre and post workout: combining ingredients that contain protein for muscle recovery, liquids to replace the fluids lost as sweat, and vitamins, minerals and carbs to provide energy and to help you recover faster.
That said, here is a word of caution…whilst smoothies can be extremely healthy if they contain the correct ingredients, it is very easy to turn them into sugar-loaded calorie monsters. To make sure you get the most from your smoothies, below is a list of what and why you should include certain ingredients.
Pre workout nutrition
The best kinds of pre-workout foods are filled with protein, good carbs and healthy fats. These ingredients help you stock up on energy, and keep you full for a long time.
Benefits of pre workout protein consumption
- Help you maintain or even increase your muscle size, which is key if you want to improve health, body composition, or performance.
- Reduces markers of muscle damage (myoglobin, creatine kinase, and myofibrillar protein degradation). The less damage to your muscles, the faster you recover, and the better you adapt to your exercise over the long term.
- Floods your bloodstream with amino acids that boost your muscle-building capabilities.
Benefits of pre workout Carbs consumption
- Provides fuel for your training and helps with recovery.
- Improves high intensity performance.
- Preserves muscle and liver glycogen, which signals to your brain that you are well nourished and helps increase muscle retention and growth.
- Stimulates the release of insulin, which helps you manage your blood sugar levels.
- The key is to have a mixed bag of complex and simple carbohydrates so that energy is released in a slow and steady manner during your workout.
Benefits of pre workout Fat consumption
- Helps to slow digestion, whichmaintains blood glucose and insulin levels and keeps you on an even keel.
- Provides some vitamins and minerals that are important in all diets.
Post workout nutrition
Post workout nutrition should help you:
- Build muscle
- Improve future performance
Foods rich in protein help support muscle recovery and growth. If you have a hard workout, foods containing potassium and sodium help replace electrolytes lost when you sweat a lot. Carbs restore energy levels and, although it doesn’t have any significant calorific value, cinnamon has been linked to stabilising blood sugar and improving brain function.
You can blend almost anything to make a smoothie. However, it helps to have the low down on a few staples to add to your favourite fruit and vegetables so that your smoothies contain the nutrients to energise your workout and aid your recovery.
Apples contain a powerful antioxidant called quercetin, which helps to deliver more oxygen to the lungs. More oxygen consumption increases your endurance during a workout making it easier to work longer and at higher intensities.
Avocados can help your body better absorb fat soluble nutrients found in fruit and vegetables like vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are stocked with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that cause cell damage.
Bananas are loaded with carbohydrates for energy and tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin. Serotonin is the body’s homegrown narcotic and is responsible for the post workout high. They are also rich in potassium.
Coconuts contain fatty acids that help boost your metabolism and provide extra energy for your workout with fewer calories than other fats.
Oats are a great complex carb that take ages to digest. Therefore, they provide sustainable energy during your workout and help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Semi skimmed or non-fat milk, soy milk, or yogurt added to smoothies will contribute protein, vitamin D, B-12, and calcium.
Nut butters or nut pastes are simply nuts ground up until they become a sticky butter. Hence they can be made from a variety of nuts i.e., hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, walnuts etc. They are packed full of healthy fats and fibre, which provide energy and keep you feeling full for longer.
Here are two recipes for smoothies; a pre workout smoothie and a post workout smoothie
Blueberry-Avocado Layered Smoothie - Pre workout
The avocados in this smoothie provide a great boost to the brain while providing healthy fats that maintain heart health and help lower cholesterol.
Antioxidants are provided by the blueberries, and the nuts, milk and yoghurt means that it is high in protein (11g of protein per serving),
Ingredients (Serves four)
1 ripe avocado,
1 cup (250 mL) low-fat plain yogurt
Juice from 1/2 lime
3 Tbsp (45 mL) honey
1 1/3 cup (325 mL) blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup (60 mL) almond butter (or smooth peanut butter)
1 cup (250 mL) low-fat plain yogurt
1/3 cup (75 mL) low fat milk
Blend the bottom layer ingredients
Divide equally among four glasses. Set aside while making top layer.
Blend the top layer ingredients
Pour into glasses, on top of the avocado blend.
Per serving: 308 calories, 11 g protein, 19 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrates, 5 g fibre, 8 mg cholesterol, 174 mg sodium.
Kiwi and Kale Smoothie - Post work out
The kale provides vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and iron whilst the kiwi sweetens the taste. The milk adds vital protein to the smoothie. This smoothie can be consumed before or after a workout, however, its large protein load makes it ideal for recovery.
1 ½ cups skimmed milk,
2 cups kale leaves/stems,
1 kiwi, peeled
1 TBSP peanut butter,
1 TSP of agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup.
Nutrition: 174 calories, 11 g protein, 5 g fat, 24 g carbohydrates, 3 g fibre.