How to Build a Performance-Fueling Smoothie

Five smoothies you can drink before and after a workout to help you build muscle and improve your athletic performance.

Grab the ingredients, toss 'em in the blender and pulverize. It doesn't get much easier than a smoothie for creating big nutrition with minimal effort. For athletes, smoothies are especially useful right before or right after their workouts, since liquid calories exit the stomach and reach the muscles at a faster clip than solid stuff. Here are few tips to keep in mind when you're whipping up your own performance-boosting beverages.

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Pre-Workout Smoothies

What you eat before a workout can have a huge impact on your performance, energy levels during exercise and even your recovery afterwards. The best pre-workout smoothies combine a ratio of at least 2:1 carbs-to-protein (although it can go as high as 4:1) to provide energy and promote muscle endurance. High-glycemic carbohydrates provide a quick shot of energy. It's important to keep your pre-workout nutrition low in fat and fiber, as these nutrients take a long time to digest and can cause digestive distress during a workout.

Here are a few easy options you can whip up before practice.

  • 1 cup almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup egg whites, dash of cinnamon (265 calories,15.5 g protein, 3.1 g fat, 43.8 g carbs)
  • 1/2 pkg. silken tofu, 1/2 cup orange juice, 3/4 cup fresh or frozen mango, 1 cup ice (213 calories, 16.86 g protein, .62 g fat, 35.07 g carbs)
  • 5 cups frozen peaches (peeled to limit the fiber), 1 scoop 100% whey protein powder (vanilla flavor goes best in this recipe), dash of fresh grated nutmeg (460.6 calories, 31 g protein, 3. 4 g fat, 76.46 g carbs)

Post-Workout Smoothies

The 45-minute window following an intense workout is when your body is most sensitive to insulin, which helps build muscle, so it is important to consume carbs and protein right away. Exercise often lowers an athlete's appetite, so a smoothie is a great way to pack in calories even if you're not hungry.

A common myth is that protein is most important after a workout, but you also need carbohydrates to help produce insulin, build muscle and reduce post-workout soreness. Your post-workout smoothie should be similar to your pre-workout smoothie. You want to pile on the carbs more aggressively than you pile on the protein (again, aim for a ratio of at least 2:1). You have more flexibility with ingredients post-workout, since you can also include fiber and dairy foods, which are limited pre-workout.

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Foods rich in antioxidants also help reduce inflammation and decrease muscle soreness. Adding these to your post-workout smoothies can help you recover even faster. Here are some post-workout smoothies that include anti-inflammatory foods, protein and carbohydrates.

  • 1 cup milk (dairy, almond or soy), 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 handfuls of spinach or kale, 1 cup frozen blueberries (256 calories, 18.8 g protein, 3.3 g fat, 37.78 g carbs)
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 2 tbsp ground flax seeds, vanilla extract, dash of ginger (anti-inflammatory)1/2 cup tart cherry juice, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 scoop 100% whey protein (641 calories, 53.8 g protein, 17.73 g fat, 66.69 g carbs)

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