56038_storyAs a runner, you should never take your post-run nourishment lightly. It’s the key to proper recovery and better performance. But when you return home tired with a lion-sized appetite, it might be more tempting to call for pizza instead of putting together a meal from scratch. Enter the smoothie. With the right ingredients, a smoothie can deliver carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – all necessary for optimal exercise recovery. Best of all, they’re ready in mins with little fuss or clean-up. They can be fresh and zesty, smooth and creamy or rich and decadent in a rainbow of colours. A well thought out smoothie can be much more than just milk, banana and some protein powder. Whirl up any of these combinations and you’ll have all of the inspiration you need to go workout.

Popeye’s Smoothie
Spinach may seem like an unlikely smoothie ingredient, but when paired with sweet ingredients such as orange juice and frozen fruit, you can’t even taste the nutrient dense greens. Try to use Greek-style yogurt in smoothies since it provides a heftier dose of protein to help mend weary post-run muscles. Walnuts are a source of heart-chummy omega-3 fats while the duo of fruit provides necessary antioxidants.

1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup baby spinach, stems trimmed
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup frozen mango cubes

Pour the orange juice followed by spinach, yogurt, ginger, walnuts, strawberries and mango in a blender container. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 sec. Switch to the high setting and blend for 20 to 30 sec, or until the fruit is fully mixed.

Serves: 2
Nutrition Per Serving:
Calories 290
Carbohydrates 37 g
Protein 10 g
Fibre 4 g
Fat 13 g
Sodium 16 mg
Chocolate Milkshake Smoothie
Soft tofu gives smoothies a rich, creamy quality without all the fat. Cocoa powder is a fantastic source of antioxidants that may help with muscle repair.

1 1/2 cup milk of choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup silken (soft) tofu
2 teaspoon unsweetened raw cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 frozen banana, sliced into chunks
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter or almond butter

Pour the milk and vanilla extract in a blender container. Add in tofu, cocoa powder and nutmeg followed by banana chunks. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 sec. Switch to the high setting and blend for 20 to 30 sec, or until banana is fully mixed. Drop peanut or almond butter into the liquid and process on high for 10 sec.

Serves: 2
Nutrition Per Serving:
Calories 197
Carbohydrates 27 g
Protein 12 g
Fibre 3 g
Fat 6 g
Sodium 82 mg
Blue Bomb Almond Smoothie
Blueberries are a fantastic source of disease-fighting antioxidants while ricotta cheese provides loads of muscle friendly whey protein. Almonds add crunch and good amounts of healthy fats.

1 1/2 cups almond milk or other milk of choice
1/2 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted almonds
1 cup frozen blueberries

Place the ingredients into a blender container in the order listed. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 sec. Switch to the high setting and blend for 20 sec more, or until all the blueberries have broken down.

Serves: 2
Nutrition Per Serving:
Calories 258
Carbohydrates 25 g
Protein 10 g
Fibre 5 g
Fat 15 g
Sodium 287 mg

Oat Date Smoothie
Who says you have to eat oats out of a bowl? Oats provide a source of complex carbohydrates for recovery. If you’re working with a blender that doesn’t have much power, try soaking the dates in boiling water prior to adding to them to the blender container. If desired, you can add a touch of maple syrup.

1 1/2 cups milk of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tbsp ground flaxseed or wheat germ
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup dried pitted dates, chopped
1 banana, preferably frozen

Pour the milk in a blender container. Add in remaining ingredients in the order specified. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 sec. Switch to the high setting and blend until dates are turned into small bits, about 1 min.

Serves 2
Nutrition Per Serving:
Calories 301
Protein 15 g
Carbohydrates 55 g
Fibre 7 g
Fat 4 g
Sodium 81 mg

Green Monster Smoothie
Avocado gives this smoothie a creamy richness and plenty of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Not to be confused with coconut milk, increasingly popular coconut water has a pleasant tang and healthy amounts of electrolytes. Add in additional liquid if you find the smoothie too thick for your liking.

1 1/2 cups coconut water
1 cup milk of choice
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 medium ripe avocado
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 tbsp honey
Dash of salt
1 tsp lime zest

Pour 1 cup of coconut water into the compartments of an ice cube tray. Place tray in freezer to freeze. Pour the milk into a blender container followed by remaining coconut water, lime juice, avocado, basil honey and salt. Drop in coconut ice cubes and blend on low for 20 sec. Increase the speed to high and continue blending until the ice is fully mixed, about 20 to 30 sec. Serve garnished with lime zest.

Serves 2
Nutrition Per Serving:
Calories 272
Protein 8 g
Carbohydrates 31 g
Fibre 9 g
Fat 15 g
Sodium 297 mg
Pump It Up
Here are the essential components to a winning post-exercise smoothie:

Liquid Assets – For a single serving smoothie, you’ll need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups fluid. Smart options include skim cow’s milk, 100 per cent fruit juice, almond milk, omega-3 rich hemp milk or coconut water. If you’re a java junkie, try blending in some cooled coffee which would work really well in the milkshake and date smoothies above.

Protein Power – To help stimulate muscular repair after a stiff workout, make sure your smoothie is rich in protein. Milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese, soft tofu or the various guises of protein powder can provide a protein pump.

Subzero Heroes – Frozen fruit provides a payload of vitamins and antioxidants. What’s more, using frozen fruit in smoothies produces frosty thick smoothies, while ice cubes can water down results. Try frozen berries, mango, peaches or banana. If freezing bananas for smoothies, peel them and place in a Ziplock bag.

Phat Fats – Sources of healthy fat make a smoothie more of a complete package and allow it to taste more decadent. Creamy nut butters such as almond or peanut work really well, but you can also use whole nuts, seeds such as hemp, ground flaxseed or avocado.

Spice is Nice – Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger provide a flavour boost without any additional calories. Use lightly as they can quickly overpower other flavours in a smoothie.

Veggie Madness – Leafy greens, cucumber, broccoli, canned pumpkin, celery and even beets are all possible in a smoothie if paired with sweet items like fruit and honey. It’s best not to include much more than 1 cup of vegetables.
Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a nutritionist and writer based in Waterloo, Ont. Find him at www.mattkadey.com.

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