How Pre-Workout Smoothies Can Supercharge Your Workouts
Good nutrition is a fundamental part of fitness. What you put into your body will determine how well it performs, both during exercise and while going about your day-to-day activities.
A lot of emphasis is put on post-workout smoothies, however, what you eat before exercising is equally important. Now, we know what you might be thinking: “I don’t have time to make another meal during the day.” That’s where smoothies come in. A pre-workout smoothie can be whipped up in just a few minutes and, when prepared properly, can provide your body with the nutrients necessary to supercharge your workouts.
In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about your pre-workout smoothie, including why they’re a great choice, what important ingredients to include, and how to make a pre-workout smoothie that supports your fitness goals.
Why Drink a Pre-Workout Smoothie?
One question that many people have regarding exercise is whether it’s more beneficial to eat something before a workout or to exercise on an empty stomach. While doing low-intensity exercise (i.e. walking, light yoga, etc.) on an empty stomach is A-OK and may even offer some benefits like enhanced fat loss, it’s in your best interest to eat something before performing moderate to intense exercise.
Consuming a well-balanced pre-workout smoothie before a challenging workout offers many benefits. These include:
- Increases energy: Food provides energy. Without consuming adequate food, you won’t have enough energy, preventing you from giving your workouts your all. Inadequate food intake can not only lead to suboptimal results, but you’ll also likely feel fatigued more quickly and grow to dread exercise. Fuel = Energy.
- Prevents muscle breakdown. If you want to build muscle, consuming adequate protein and some carbs before working out is a must, as these two macronutrients play a key role in muscle retention and growth.
- Reduces stress load: Exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise, is a stressor. Some stress on your body is beneficial, however, your body has a limited capacity for stress. Fasting is another form of stress, so when you exercise on an empty stomach, you’re essentially piling stress on top of stress. Adding too much stress to the equation can exhaust your body and increase your cortisol levels, which can make it harder to lose weight.[*]
The Importance of Pre-Workout Protein
While all of the three macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbs—play a role in supporting your workouts, protein is particularly important in helping you achieve your fitness goals, whether you want to gain muscle or shed pounds.[*]
To support muscle growth and weight loss, you can consume protein before or after your workouts, as the results will be similar. Adding protein powder to your pre-workout smoothies is likely the easiest method, as you can include all of your fitness nutrition in one delicious drink.
The two most popular types of protein powder are whey protein, which is derived from dairy, and plant-based protein, which is made from plants like hemp seeds, brown rice, and peas. While both kinds of protein powder are effective when it comes to building muscle, whey protein is much higher in leucine, a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that promotes muscle growth.[*][*]
Micronutrients to Support Your Workout
Many athletes and gym-goers have a good handle on the three macronutrients, but fall short when it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals for optimal performance and health. While all nutrients are important, here are the top micronutrients you should focus on adding to your pre-workout smoothies:
- Vitamin D: Research shows that in athletes, vitamin D helps reduce joint pain, promote muscle growth, increase strength, and enhance performance.[*] The best source of vitamin D is direct sunlight, but you can also add vitamin D to your pre-workout smoothie by including fortified foods like orange juice and plant milks.
- Magnesium: This mineral assists in hundreds of bodily functions, including muscle function, bone formation, and energy metabolism. Studies suggest that athletes require more magnesium in their diet, as magnesium is lost through sweat.[*] Good sources of magnesium to include in your pre-workout smoothies include almonds, cashews, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, avocado, bananas, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
- Potassium: Because it’s essential in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance throughout your body, potassium plays a key role in hydration, recovery, and muscle cramp prevention. Potassium-rich smoothie ingredients include bananas, avocados, spinach, coconut water, beets, and pomegranate.
- Zinc: Not getting enough zinc can lead to fatigue and affect muscle recovery in athletes.[*] To add whole foods sources of zinc to your pre-workout smoothies include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, cashews, and peanut butter.
- Calcium: For active individuals, calcium is essential for maintaining healthy muscle function and bone health. Research also shows that getting adequate calcium may play a role in better weight management and increased fat burning.[*] To up your calcium intake before a workout, add almonds, tahini, chia seeds, flaxseed, dark leafy greens, broccoli, figs, oranges, mixed berries, and fortified nut milks to your pre-workout smoothies.
A Sample Pre-Workout Smoothie Recipe
So, what does a pre-workout smoothie actually look like? Below is a sample recipe that you can try or use for inspiration. Simply place all of the ingredients into a blender, give it a whirl, and consume 30 minutes to one hour before your workout.
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1 tbsp flaxseed or chia seeds
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 scoop whey protein powder (or plant-based protein powder)
- 1.5 cups unsweetened plant milk of choice such as unsweetened almond milk (start with 1 cup and add more liquid until you reach your desired consistency)
If you don’t have the time or ability to buy and prep all of the individual ingredients for your pre-workout smoothies, 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 milled flaxseed, organic MCT oil, organic maca powder, and organic wheatgrass powder. All you have to do is empty the contents of the smoothie pouch into your blender, add 12-14 ounces of liquid, and press blend!
Try our Energy Smoothie or Strength Smoothie for perfectly balanced, pre-workout fuel. If you're looking for more protein, just add a scoop of your favorite protein powder or a spoonful of almond butter or nut butter. Add almond milk and you'll be all set for serious workout routine with energy for your entire workout.
Customize Your Pre-Workout Smoothie to Your Needs
One great thing about smoothies is that they’re extremely customizable. This feature is particularly useful when it comes to fitness because you can vary the ingredients based on your unique goals and favorite combinations.
For example, if your main goal is to build muscle, your delicious pre-workout smoothie should contain more ingredients that are calorie- and protein-rich, such as protein powder, nuts, nut butters, coconut oil, healthy fats, and seeds. If, on the other hand, your primary goal is to lose weight, it's a great idea to focus on including low-calorie ingredients, namely lots of veggies and lower sugar fruits.
Regardless of your goals, the most important thing is to fill your pre-workout smoothies with nutrient-dense whole foods, which will supply you with the macro and micronutrients needed to supercharge your workouts and achieve the results you desire.