If you are a cyclist or endurance athlete like me, you probably have a love affair with food. You think about it all the time and you like to eat A LOT of it. When you burn thousands of calories a week, even thousands of calories on a single ride, you have a lot of delicious work to do in order to replace what was lost and repair the body.
So I figured, what better way to launch my blog than to give you a tasty recipe that will fuel you up properly for your next workout?
Why this smoothie is so awesome:
It’s whole food based, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory, and of course, (because we are all yogis here, right?) vegan.
It also contains specific foods that are best suited to aid in recovery, like essential amino acids, starch, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Before we dive into the recipe and why it’s so great, lets talk post-workout nutrition.
Recovery Nutrition 101
Sports nutritionists agree that the two most important nutrients after a workout are carbohydrates and protein, typically in a 2:1 ratio 30-60 minutes after completion, depending on the intensity and duration of your workout. After your ride or other workout, the carbs your consume replace lost glycogen (the form of carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver), and the protein you eat helps to repair and rebuild muscles. These two nutrients are synergistic, meaning that they work together in the body to perform the aforementioned (and other important) functions.
However, did you know that not all carbohydrate and protein sources are created equally, especially when it come to post-workout recovery?
You might already know the difference between simple and complex carbs, or perhaps even more about nutrient timing (i.e. the best times to eat these two groups of carbs). When you are eating a whole food diet, most of your carbohydrates will likely come from complex carbohydrate sources like fruit and starchy vegetables. But fruit and starch do different things in the body after eaten. The carbohydrates in fruit (e.g. fructose) will go to the liver first, whereas the carbs in starchy foods like potatoes and bread go directly to the muscles where they refill glycogen stores. From a muscle recovery perspective, replenishing glycogen is what we want to happen first, so starches like sweet potato are optimal to eat after a workout over other whole foods.
Similarly, the type of protein you eat after a workout can affect your body’s ability to recover. Different protein sources have different assemblages of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Without nerding out on you too much (because it happens a lot), just remember that some amino acids are more important than others when your muscles are repairing themselves after exercise. These include essential amino acids (the ones your body can’t make on its own), particularly the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Whew, I think that is enough science for today. Let’s get to the recipe.
Green Recovery Smoothie:
- 1 cup roasted sweet potato
- A handful of baby spinach
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- 1/4 avocado
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 scoop of your favorite plant based protein powder (I recommend one that is unflavored and contains BCAAs)
- Stevia to taste (or you can leave out)
Don’t be scared about how green this smoothie looks – it doesn’t taste like grass like a lot of blended green concoctions do.
What’s great about this smoothie, other than the targeted nutrients (starch and BCAAs) and anti-inflammatory properties (from omega 3’s and green leafy plants) it has, is that you can play around with macro-nutrient ratios depending on the type of workout you had. For example, more intense workouts will require more carbohydrates and protein post-workout relative to fat. Had an easy day? Take out the sweet potato and add in more flax seeds and avocado.
Let me know what you think, or what your favorite recovery foods are.
Stay tuned for more post-workout recovery recipes and a closer look at the science behind recovery nutrition.