How a Post-Workout Smoothie Can Support Your Fitness Goals
Whether you lifted weights, swam laps, or went for a run, what you eat (or don’t eat) after exercise can have a significant effect on your body’s ability to strengthen and recover.
Post-workout nutrition should help you rehydrate, refuel, and build muscle. Smoothies are an excellent vessel to accomplish these goals.
The key is to include the right combination of ingredients. Many smoothies that are offered at gyms or stores are sugar-loaded calorie bombs that won’t do your body any favors. As such, it’s best to make your own smoothies at home so you know exactly what’s going into it.
If you’re unsure of what to include in your post-workout smoothie, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about post-workout smoothies, including why they’re an excellent choice, what essential components to include, and how to whip up a post-workout smoothie that helps you recover and refuel.
Why Is Eating After a Workout Important?
To understand how nutrition can benefit you after exercise, you first need to understand how physical activity affects your body.
When you exercise, a few key processes occur. First, your muscles use a significant amount of glycogen—a form of glucose (the body’s preferred fuel source) that’s stored in your muscles and liver.[*] These stores provide usable energy when needed—such as during exercise and in-between meals—and are essential for maintaining daily energy levels.
Second, exercise (especially challenging workouts) creates microscopic tears in your muscles. Don’t be alarmed—this is a good thing. The “burn” you feel during and after results from these tears.
Third, your body loses a substantial amount of water, electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals through sweat.
After finishing your workout, it’s essential to give your body the nutrients it needs to rebuild its glycogen stores, repair and regrow damaged muscle proteins, and replace the fluids lost from sweating. Eating the right foods shortly after finishing a workout can help your body accomplish these goals.
Why Post-Workout Protein Is Essential
While all of the three macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbs—play an important role in post-workout recovery, protein is the most essential to consume following a workout.
This is because dietary protein is made up of amino acids, which are largely responsible for building and repairing muscle. When you consume protein after exercise, it supplies your muscles with the building blocks necessary to repair those micro-tears we talked about and grow stronger, bigger muscles.
Additionally, research shows that consuming protein, in addition to carbohydrates, increases the rate of glycogen storage following exercise.[*]
Without adequate post-workout protein, muscles cannot fully repair and grow, which can lead to inflammation and an increased risk of injury.
What Are the Benefits of a Post-Workout Smoothie?
Smoothies are an excellent delivery method for your nutritional needs after a workout. Let’s take a look at the top benefits of post-workout smoothies:
Quick and easy to make: After a grueling workout, cooking is probably the last thing you feel like doing. Smoothies are super quick and easy to make, especially if you use frozen, pre-portioned smoothie kits from Blendtopia.
Provide hydration: Because smoothies require a liquid base, such as water or plant milk, they help rehydrate your body following a workout.
Rebuild glycogen stores: It’s easy to cram lots of nutritious fruits and veggies into a smoothie. These foods act as a healthy source of carbohydrates, which helps replenish the body’s glycogen stores following exercise.
Good source of protein: As mentioned above, protein is essential for repairing and building muscle. It also helps restock your glycogen stores. You can easily add protein to a smoothie by including nuts, nut butter, seeds, plant milk, and protein powder.
Micronutrients to Support Exercise Recovery
Smoothies are an excellent way to consume plentiful vegetables and low-sugar fruits, which are brimming with important vitamins and minerals lost during your sweat sesh.
While all nutrients are important, some are extra vital when it comes to helping your body recover after exercise:
Magnesium: This essential mineral can help muscles relax after contracting during a challenging workout. Even a slight magnesium deficiency can amplify the negative effects of strenuous exercise, including soreness, cramps, and fatigue. Even more, because magnesium is lost through sweat, people who are very active require more magnesium in their diet than the average person.[*] Magnesium can be found in many healthy foods, including almonds, cashews, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, avocado, bananas, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
B Vitamins: Research suggests that B vitamins help metabolize the protein needed to build new muscle and repair micro-tears that cause soreness.[*] Foods rich in B vitamins include leafy greens, green peas, and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin A: While this vitamin is best known for supporting eye health, one of its lesser-known benefits is improved muscle recovery. Research shows that vitamin A reduces inflammation and protects muscles from damaging free radicals.[*] It’s also required for proper protein synthesis, a necessary function of muscle repair and growth.
Zinc: Zinc is a trace mineral that aids in healing wounds and injuries, including exercise-induced micro-tears. Whole foods sources of zinc to add to your pre-workout smoothies include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, cashews, and peanut butter.
Sodium: Sodium is essential for maintaining water and electrolyte balance. It also supports the delivery of nutrients to your muscles and the removal of waste products, such as lactic acid from your muscles. Good sources of sodium to include in your post-workout smoothies include celery, beet, carrot, radish, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.
A Sample Post-Workout Smoothie Recipe
To summarize what we’ve been talking about, an effective post-workout smoothie should be protein-rich, hydrating, and include lots of non-starchy veggies and fruits (mostly low-sugar fruits). Below is a sample recipe for a tasty and nourishing post-workout smoothie. Simply blend all of the ingredients in a blender and consume within one hour of finishing your workout.
1 cup frozen berries
1 cup fresh spinach
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 scoop protein powder (whey or plant-based)
1.5 cups unsweetened plant milk, such as almond milk, hemp milk, or oat milk
If prepping all of the individual ingredients for your post-workout smoothie sounds exhausting after a workout, a great option is to use frozen, pre-portioned smoothie kits from Blendtopia.
Each kit contains organic frozen fruits and veggies, as well as other healthy superfoods, such as organic hemp seeds, organic chlorella powder, organic maca powder, and organic milled flax seeds.
Simply empty the contents of the smoothie pouch into your blender, add a scoop of your favorite protein powder, pour in 12-14 ounces of liquid (such as water or plant milk), and blend.
Getting post-workout nutrition has never been easier!
A Final Word on Post-Workout Smoothies
One of the many great things about smoothies is that they’re highly customizable. You can choose what to include based on your preferences and needs. Some people may prefer to include a bit more fruit, while others might feel best keeping it low-carb.
Regardless of the fruits and veggies you choose to include, the most important thing is to include a solid dose of protein—about 20 grams—in your smoothie to support the repair and growth of your muscles.