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How to Build An Athlete’s Smoothie

Updated: May 8




Smoothies are a great way to not only hydrate but to also provide you the nutrients you need to fuel and recover from training.  Smoothies are refreshing right before or after exercise and the combinations of ingredients are endless to change the flavor and nutrition quality. 

 

If you plan to drink a smoothie right before exercise, choose a higher carbohydrate-based smoothie to provide quick energy.  A little protein before is OK, but you don’t want to add too much fat since this may result in gut issues if you have an intense workout.  Remember right before exercising your body uses carbohydrate more readily for energy than protein and fat.

 

If you are looking for a smoothie to replace a meal after a hard training session, combine carbohydrates, protein, plus a little healthy fat, to help restore muscle glycogen, reduce inflammation, and repair muscle tissue.

 

Ingredients for Building Your Smoothie

 

Add Carbohydrates to provide energy for your workout. The amount of carbohydrate is based on your training intensity, duration, and timing of when you are exercising.  For example, if you are drinking a smoothie 30 minutes or less before an early morning workout, you may only need about 20-30 grams of carbohydrate to fuel your muscles; whereas, if you are drinking a smoothie post-workout to help restore muscle glycogen, you should consume 1.0 -1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram (kg) of body weight if you consume carbohydrates alone.

 

What does this look like?

  • If you weigh 160#, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to calculate weight in kg. 160# = 72.7 kg.

  • If you drink a smoothie as your recovery meal after a hard workout, you'll need to consume 72 grams of carbohydrate (1.0 g/kg).  

  • Carbohydrate based smoothie example:

    • 1 cup frozen fruit + 1 medium banana + 1 cup milk + ¼ cup raw oats.

 

 Carbohydrate options to add to a smoothie include:

  • Fresh or Frozen fruit- watermelon, berries, mango, pineapple, peaches, sliced banana, cherries

  • Most fruit contains 15-20 grams of carbohydrate per cup or medium piece of fruit.

  • Using frozen fruit can increase the thickness of your smoothie.

    • You may need to adjust the amount of liquid you use to adjust the thickness.

  • 100% fruit juice (prefer whole fruit to fruit juice to add fiber)

  • 8 ounces 100% juice contains 20-30 grams of carbohydrate.

  • Yogurt and milk (also contain protein)

    • Use yogurt with less added sugar (less than 8 grams per serving)

  • Choose cow’s milk or oat milk if you need to increase the carbohydrates.

    • 1 cup cow’s milk contains 12 grams of carbohydrate.

    • 1 cup oat milk contains up to 15 grams of carbohydrate.

    • 1 cup flavored milk contains 20-30 grams of carbohydrate depending on the brand you use.

  • Rolled oats- ¼ cup raw oats contains 15 grams of carbohydrate.

  • Honey or maple syrup – 1 tsp contains 5 grams of carbohydrate.

 

Add Protein post workout to help with muscle tissue repair and rebuilding.  A small amount of protein (less than 10 grams) is OK if you are drinking a smoothie 1 hour or less before exercise, but you may need up to 20-40 grams of protein (0.3-0.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight) post workout if you plan to drink a smoothie as a recovery meal.

 

What does this look like?

  • If you weigh 160# (72.7 kg) you may need 20-30 grams of protein after training + approximately 72 grams of carbohydrate. 

  • If your smoothie contains both protein and carbohydrates, you can consume a little less carbohydrates (0.8 g/kg) to adequately help with muscle recovery. 

  • Suggest making a smoothie containing 60 grams of carbohydrate + 30 grams of protein.

    • 1 cup cow’s milk + 6-ounces Greek yogurt + 2 Tbsp nut butter + ½ cup frozen mango + 1 small banana

 

Protein options to add to smoothie include:

  • Greek or Icelandic Yogurt contain 12-20 grams of protein per 5–6-ounce container.  To increase the amount of protein, combine yogurt + milk.

  • Milk- depending on the type of milk you choose the protein content can range from 0-13 grams per cup. 

    • 1 cup of cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein.

    • 1 cup of soy milk contains 6-7 grams of protein.

    • 1 cup of almond milk contains 0 grams of protein.

    • 1 cup of Ultra-filtered high protein milk– contain up to 13 grams of protein.

    • 1 cup plant-based milk containing pea and nut protein contain 8-10 grams of protein.

  • Cottage Cheese contains 14 grams of protein per ½ cup.

  • Silken Tofu is a great plant-based protein option containing 6-8 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving.

  • Nut butter or peanut butter powder contain a small amount of protein and fat.

    • 2 Tbsp of nut butter contains 6-8 grams of protein.

    • 2 Tbsp of peanut butter powder contains 6 grams of protein.

      • PB powder contains protein, but less fat compared to natural nut butters.

  • Protein powder is an easy way to add protein if you struggle getting enough from food sources.  Most powders contain anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein per serving depending on the brand you use.

    • ONLY use protein supplements that are certified by NSF-Sport or Informed Choice- 3rd party tested to make sure the supplement is safe for consumption and the ingredients listed on the label are accurate.

 

Other Ingredients to Consider

 

Spices to add can enhance the flavor of your smoothie and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Spices to add to your smoothie include: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cumin, Allspice, Vanilla.

 

Healthy Fats can help improve the texture and taste of your smoothie, as well as provide anti-inflammatory benefits to help with muscle recovery post-workout. If you are trying to gain weight, adding fat can be a healthy, easy way to increase additional calories.

 

Healthy fat options to add to your smoothies include:

  • Nut butter or peanut butter- suggest using 1-2 Tbsp.          

    • 2 Tbsp contains 180-200 calories, 16-18 grams of fat.

  • Avocado-suggest using ½ medium avocado.

    • ½ medium avocado contains approximately 150 calories, 15 grams of fat.

  • Chia, hemp, or ground flax-seeds- suggest adding 1-2 Tbsp.

    • 1 Tbsp contains 50 calories, 4 grams of fat.

 

Leafy Greens can add dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your smoothie. Common greens to include kale or spinach.

 

Choose a liquid. If drinking a pre-workout smoothie, choose either 100% juice, coconut water, or almond milk to reduce fat and protein right before exercise. If drinking a post-workout smoothie, choose a milk-based liquid to add more carbohydrates and protein. 

 

Smoothie Recipes

o   Superfood Green Smoothie from Meals with Maggie

o   Triple Berry Smoothie from Rebecca Clyde RD at Nourish Nutrition Co

o   Pineapple Mango Smoothie from Shahzadi Devje RD

o   Strawberry Banana Chocolate Smoothie from Your Choice Nutrition

o   Cherry Pre-Workout Smoothie from Plant Based with Amy

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