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Proper Post-Workout Smoothie Practices

Updated on August 29, 2018
rachel-leigh profile image

Rachel is a health blogger who coaches other women in diet and exercise.

Benefits of Post-Workout Smoothies

When you work out, your body burns calories and loses nutrients. These need to be replaced for your body to successfully recover from exercise and replenish what was lost. There are many different elements of nutrition that can affect your post-workout recovery, but the major components of nutrition are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. You may have heard these components collectively referred to as macros.

Drinking a smoothie after your workout helps you to pinpoint the ratio of macros that your body needs at that particular time. The human body absorbs and utilizes nutrition from liquids faster than solids, meaning that a smoothie is an ideal means of replacing macronutrients in a timely manner.

Getting the right nutrients is necessary, but it isn’t the whole picture. Even if you’re consuming the right ingredients, you may be sabotaging your efforts if your timing is off. The timing of the food and drink you consume is just as important as the substance. When using smoothies to reach your performance and wellness goals, it’s crucial to drink the right smoothies at the right time.

The following types of post-workout smoothies provide different benefits depending on the type of workout and the individual's goals. Read on to see which type works best for you.

Refueling and Recovery

Exercise not only burns the sugar in your bloodstream, but the glycogen (stored sugars) in your muscles, as well. You have a window of approximately 30 minutes from the end of your workout to replace these sugars or your body will start to deplete your muscles. This is known as a catabolic or “muscle wasting” state. Taking in fast-digesting carbs from a recovery smoothie prevents muscle wasting and keeps your body in an anabolic (muscle saving) state.

Meal Replacement

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a specific food. Meal replacement smoothies should be consumed as a low-glycemic meal or after a blended workout lasting more than 60 minutes. A blended workout is comprised of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which causes your metabolism to be “up” for an increased period of time. An ideal healthy diet should consist of 5 to 7 low-glycemic meals every day that contain nutrient-dense carbs, lean protein and healthy fats.

Trim and Low-Calorie

Although calories are not always the enemy of a strong fitness regimen, sometimes you want to go a little lighter on your calorie consumption. Trim or low-calorie smoothies generally contain many of the same ingredients as other smoothies, just in smaller doses or slight variations. A recovery or meal replacement smoothie may use real peanut butter, whereas a trim version of a similar smoothie may substitute low-calorie peanut butter flavored powder. These types of smoothies are better used after a light workout or cardio day. They typically work well for dieters, seniors or someone looking for a snack between meals.

What is Nutrient Timing?

Nutrient timing is a planned adjustment of macronutrient intake to help improve workout performance or lose weight. As I mentioned before, what you eat is just as important as when you eat.

The nutrient timing strategies of post-workout smoothies are based on how the body handles different types of food at different times.

Nutrient timing has multiple goals:

  • Partitioning (putting nutrients where you need them when you need them)
  • Improved health
  • Improved body composition
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Enhanced workout recovery

General Nutrient Timing Guidelines

  • Eat every three to four hours. No macronutrient can sustain you for longer than that.
  • Eat 20-30 grams of protein at every meal. That's equivalent to one cup of Greek yogurt with slivered almonds or one four-ounce serving of chicken breast.
  • Feel free to eat your regular amount of carbs before a workout, but don't "carb-load" unless you're training for a marathon or something equally as taxing.
  • Get carbs and protein after a workout. Post-exercise protein helps you build lean muscle while carbs replenish your energy levels.
  • Eat more in the first half of the day to control appetite and reduce nighttime bingeing.

© 2018 Rachel Leigh


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