The Best Workout Smoothie Ingredients
WRITTEN BY OUR OFFICIAL SCIENCE STEEPER: ALLISON TANNIS, MSC RHN.
Smoothies are good for you, according to science. Here’s how to make delicious smoothies that research shows may improve your workout, and enhance your athletic performance.
What Should I Put in My Workout Smoothie?
Depending on when you’ll be drinking your smoothie, the optimal ingredient to enhance your workout will vary. Here’s what you need to know, according to science.
3 Best Workout Smoothie Ingredients
- Carbs (vegetables, fruit, gluten-free oats)
- Protein (powders, nut butters, plant-based milks, yogurts)
- EGCG (tea leaves)
Should I Have a Smoothie Before a Workout?
The best advice is to eat well throughout the day. Athletes do best when they eat at regular intervals and focus on a balanced diet that contains lots of nutrient-rich, whole foods. Exercising on an empty fuel tank can be tough. Similar to a car, without enough gas, you can’t perform well. Fuel up before exercise with easily digested nutrients, such as whole foods (fruits, veggies). A smoothie can be an easy way to hydrate and fuel up. Both protein and fat can be hard to digest, so some people find it best to avoid them close to a workout. Of note, there is mixed evidence as to whether there is an advantage to fueling your body with protein prior to a workout.
Pro Tip – if it’s close to your workout time, swap out the coconut milk for coconut water.
Are Smoothies Good for Workouts?
Working out puts your body in a high alert state, one where digestion can be reduced, making smoothies hard to stomach. Instead, focus on replenishing fluids - it’s best to put some water in your bottle! A body that’s lacking water can’t perform as well. As you sweat, there’s a loss of key electrolytes - depending on how long you’re working out, you may want to consider replenishing those. If you’re exercising for more than an hour, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, consider adding some carbohydrates to that electrolyte-rich water to enhance your performance.
5 Reasons Smoothies Can Improve Your Workout
Fueling your body with the best ingredients can:
- Help you recover (better performance later)
- Encourage your tissues to repair
- Promote adaptations in your muscles
- Build stronger, more capable muscle
- Improve your mood (avoid becoming hangry)
What Smoothie is Best for After a Workout?
There are advantages to providing your body with the building blocks it needs to adapt, rebuild, and repair after exercise. Consuming nothing offers no advantage, and may even be a disadvantage. Protein is a key ingredient in a post-workout smoothie. Mounting evidence suggests protein consumption increases how much muscle you can synthesize. A smoothie that contains protein is the best for after a workout.
Pro Tip: With 10g of protein, adding a scoop of protein powder helps enhance the protein content to closer to the 20-30g recommended for middle-aged adult athletes.
Don’t forget the carbs! Focusing on both carbohydrates and protein immediately after a workout is particularly key for female athletes, according to Naturopathic Doctor, Andrea Proulx. She also suggests focusing on a key group of amino acids, called BCAA, particularly leucine. In long workouts or competitions, a common problem is central fatigue (decreased drive to muscles from the nervous system) to which leucine can help prevent.
Eating plants is important for recovery and repair. However, there’s conflicting research as to whether you should wait a bit after a workout to consume a lot of antioxidant-rich plants. Scientists are curious about the free radicals that form in your cells during a workout – they may trigger the body to enhance its recovery, ultimately improving its ability to adapt to exercise. As such, the berries, leafy greens, and seeds in your favourite workout smoothie might impair this signaling. As such, your immediate recovery workout drink (1-hour post) should focus on protein and carbohydrates. Save the antioxidant-rich smoothie for a little later, or enjoy it as a pre-workout smoothie.
When Should I Eat After a Workout?
The science suggests there’s an ideal window to eat: about a half-hour to an hour after exercise. Eating protein and carbohydrates during this time can help your muscles repair, recover, and maximize any adaptations to help you perform next time. For men, some studies suggest that the window may be bigger, perhaps up to 2 hours. For adults over 40, researchers suggest consuming protein sooner (about 20-30 minutes), as the body’s ability to synthesize muscle slows with age.
Is Caffeine Good or Bad for Your Workout?
There may be some advantage to a little caffeine in your pre-workout smoothie, according to research. Caffeine may improve jumping, throwing, sprinting, strength, and muscle endurance in a workout. Of note, if you’re doing multiple bouts of exercise (less than 4 hours to recover), a more aggressive refueling is recommended by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, focusing on carbohydrates, electrolytes, caffeine, and protein.
Superfood Tea Cubes contain small amounts of naturally occurring caffeine. Caffeine may enhance your ability to exercise.
What’s the Healthiest Thing to Put in a Smoothie?
Perhaps we’re biased, but after reading the research, we’d have to say the best thing to put in your smoothie is a Superfood Tea Cube. Packed with EGCG, these tea leaves are amazing additions to your healthy eating plan for optimal workouts. Here’s why:
Are Superfood Tea Cubes Good for Exercise?
Overall, the best advice for optimal workouts and best athletic performance is to eat lots of healthy foods throughout your day. Research suggests you may want to include tea leaves. Polyphenols found in fresh tea leaves, act as antioxidants and possess the ability to fight inflammation and enhance blood flow. That’s useful for those who exercise!
EGCG for a Better Workout?
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant antioxidant in fresh tea leaves. Making EGCG part of your daily routine may help you exercise longer, says research. Using mice, researchers discovered that after including EGCG in their diet for a month, the mice could exercise longer. There was also less lactic acid forming in their blood. Plus, other studies have found EGCG counters inflammation.
There’s another advantage - a larger body of evidence points to eating a lot of polyphenols (1000mg per day) for 3 days or more prior (and following) exercise may enhance recovery. A few studies suggest that perhaps even eating foods that contain polyphenols about one to two hours before exercise may enhance capacity and performance.
7 Lifestyle Habits for Better Workouts
There’s more to your workout than what’s in your smoothie. Your best performance is possible when you take care of your body, which includes a healthy lifestyle. Consider these important habits, too.
- Sleep enough
- Eat regularly
- Focus on whole foods
- Consume protein often
Add antioxidants into your day
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