Sip on smoothies regularly? Self offers advice on what ingredients to look out for and how to build a better post-workout beverage at home.
I've become much more of a smoothie person than I used to be, in part due to the crop of juice bars and health food joints that some serve them up all over NYC, and in part to my new single-serve blender that makes clean-up much easier than with a clunky blender. I'm most apt to grab one after a tough workout class, because smoothie and juice bars are always so conveniently located next to gyms (or even inside them!) But I can't help but wonder whether that post-workout smoothie is really just undoing all the hard work I just put in. I tapped Melissa O'Shea, RD and Director of Nutrition at Exhale Spa to share her smoothie know-how.
A post-workout smoothie can provide all the nutrients you need to refuel, but timing is everything! You should always eat within an hour after your workout in order to rebuild your glycogen stores and get your body the means it needs to repair muscle tissue, says O'Shea. Eating a regular meal soon after the gym? Skip the smoothie. If you still have several hours to go until your next meal? Blend up a smoothie with both protein and carbohydrate sources and you're golden!
Avoid smoothies with added sugars — real fruit is all you need for a sweet treat. If it contains a syrup, flavored yogurt, honey, agave, ice cream or frozen yogurt, just say no! Fruit will help sweeten your smoothie, but you'll need protein and fat to keep your blood sugar from spiking. O'Shea recommends Greek yogurt, kefir, chia seeds, almond butter, avocado or coconut oil for the fat/protein combo. Plant-based protein powders, like Sunwarrior, is also a great booster if you had a really tough workout or your diet is lacking in protein. Want even more of a nutritional punch? Toss in a handful of spinach or kale — you won't even be able to taste them once everything is blended!
O'Shea suggests skipping the juice bar and blending your smoothies at home — you'll know exactly what's going in, and you'll save cash. Check out two of her nourishing and hunger-busting recipes.
Coconut Cocoa Smoothie
- 6 oz plain low-fat kefir
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 ice cubes (if you are using a fresh banana, add in two extra ice cubes)
Green Chia Smoothie
- 4 oz low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/2 banana
- 1 handful fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon high-quality honey or agave
- 4 ice cubes (if using all fresh fruit)
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