A smoothie is like your dietary sixth man. The blended beverage won’t get the bulk of your caloric “minutes,” since most of your daily intake comes from regular meals. But when you need help with a goal–like bouncing back from a tough workout, adding extra muscle, or just getting high-quality nutrition when you’re in a hurry–smoothies are ready to step on the court and shoot the lights out. Here are three ways smoothies can support your efforts to be a better athlete, along with sample recipes to get you started.
Studies have shown that taking in a combination of protein and carbs after a workout can help speed up muscle recovery. The carbohydrates replenish depleted glycogen stores (your main source of energy during a workout), while protein lowers your body’s levels of cortisol (a muscle-catabolizing hormone) and boosts muscle-building protein synthesis. I recommend post-workout drinks with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein—which means if your mix has 10 grams of protein, it should contain 20 grams of carbohydrates. (Learn more about post-workout nutrition.)
Good, nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources for a recovery smoothie include fresh fruits, fruit juice (look for brands labeled “100 percent juice”), and oats. Some fruits, like pineapples and tart cherries, have anti-inflammatory properties that can lend additional support to muscle recovery. For protein sources, try milk, yogurt (Greek or regular) or protein powder.
If you need to pack on pounds for next season, smoothies can help you reach your goal. A smoothie supplies extra calories, and saves you from having to spend time cooking (and chewing) yet another chicken sandwich. Mix in calorie-dense ingredients like peanut or almond butter if your goal is to add on a lot of mass in a hurry.
*You can up the calorie count by another 200 calories by adding a large banana and increasing the chocolate milk portion to 16 ounces.
Busy athletes don’t always have time to sit down and eat. When you need a quick meal replacement or fast breakfast before practice, a smoothie can come to the rescue. Add fresh fruit like blueberries to your mix for carbs that will help fuel your brain for the day and provide compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. For a protein that can help tummy health, try Kefir, a yogurt-like beverage stacked with probiotics that support your gastrointestinal system.
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