How was your weekend? As I mentioned on Friday, mine was spent relaxing, spending some quality time with my mum for Mother’s Day, exploring the farmer’s market, and sleeping. I also ran a new-to-me route on Saturday morning, with plenty of scenery that I’ve never noticed before. One thing about doing a ton of long-distance training on a treadmill with only a TV and other gym-goers to keep you entertained is that it makes real outdoor runs seem so quick! Does anyone else find the same thing?
A little while ago I talked about my 3 secrets for making every early morning workout awesome , and this week I want to share my favourite post-run recovery smoothie with you. It’s full of powerful ingredients that help fight inflammation and promote quick repair and healing in our bodies, both of which are essential if you’re very physically active. Not only will this smoothie do fabulous things for your insides, but it tastes great too!
Before I get to the recipe, let’s talk about each of the superstars inside it. Many are also useful when eaten pre-workout because they help to start the recovery process before you even begin sweating, but rolling everything into one post-workout smoothie is a really easy way to reap the benefits of all of them.
***Disclaimer: Always check with your doc first before taking new dietary supplements to ensure that they’re right for you.***
Dark leafy greens
This is probably the most ‘well, duh’ ingredient on the list, but it’s a must-have. The darker the better. These gems are full of vitamin A (for immune function and organ support), vitamin C (which acts as an antioxidant to help protect cells from damage, and produce collagen to help heal wounds), and K (for healthy bones). They’re excellent anti-inflammatories, and some varieties contain high levels of folate and calcium, as well as potassium for proper nerve and muscular function. For a guide to all sorts of greens, check out this infographic.
Simple but oh so good for you, bananas contain potassium, an electrolyte that needs replenishing after exercise. They’re also a clean carb with natural sugars, and post-workout, the sports nutrition experts of the world recommend replenishing our bodies with energy in a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio. The banana takes care of the carb bit, without causing the spike in blood sugar (and inevitable crash) that refined sugars do.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, muscle is made from protein. As we work out, (particularly if you’re strength training), small tears form in our muscles that need to be repaired. This is where protein comes in. It’s also used for increasing the size and strength of your muscles, and the sooner you can consume a high-protein food after a workout, the better. There are lots of sources of high-quality protein, (think lean chicken, fish, beef, Greek yogurt, eggs, milk, chickpeas, beans, legumes, and seeds), and even if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are protein powders that fit your dietary needs.
As many of you know, I’m a big advocate of the ‘whole foods first, supplements second’ mentality, but when time is limited and you don’t have whole food protein sources on hand, protein powder is a great alternative. My preferences are Promasil (whey, sweetened with stevia, no artificial sweeteners, gluten and soy free), and Vega Sport (plant-based, vegan friendly, gluten free, allergen free, no artificial sweeteners).
You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about coconut water lately, and it’s for good reason! As you’re well aware, exercise makes us sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes (specifically sodium and potassium) which our bodies need to reduce muscle cramping and function optimally. Drinking water helps to re-hydrate our bodies, but straight-up water is missing these electrolytes. Coconut water not only provides them, but also delivers plenty of naturally-occuring vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help to replenish energy levels post-workout.
The main reason I’ve included ground flaxseed in this smoothie is because of its high omega-3 essential fatty acid content. Omega-3s are found in oily fish like salmon and sardines, as well as enriched dairy, but these sources aren’t suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Flaxseed provides omega-3s in plant-based form, and like many of the other ingredients on this list, has anti-inflammatory properties. The addition of a healthy fat source also helps us to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals from the dark leafy greens. You can either purchase ground flaxseed, or the whole seeds (as shown above) and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder. Either way, be sure to store them in the fridge to preserve the quality of the oils.
I was never into ginger as a kid, but these days I can’t get enough of it! Here’s the deal: Even exercise (which makes us look and feel fantastic) creates inflammation. Each time our muscles contract, they become slightly inflamed. More contraction = more inflammation, stiffness, and soreness, but there are foods that we can eat to help tame this. Fresh ginger has super powerful anti-inflammatory properties thanks its phytonutrients, which have been shown to relieve joint and muscle pain, and aid in recovery. These benefits aside, ginger is also a fantastic natural cure for digestive issues and nausea, and can help strengthen your immune system.
Maca Root Powder
Maca root has been used for years as a healing whole food, but as far as athletes are concerned, it’s used for improving adrenal function and enhancing stamina, endurance, and overall performance. Maca is an adaptogen, which means that it helps our bodies to respond more efficiently to stress, whether it’s workout-related or otherwise. It also helps to boost overall mood and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
I like to add cinnamon to practically everything, but it has a lot more going for it than just taste! Cinnamon prevents blood clotting and helps to promote healthy blood flow. It also has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties.
Yep, that same bright yellow spice that you find in your favourite curry is a fabulous inflammation fighter! Turmeric helps to boost circulation, which during exercise, means that more oxygen can travel to your working muscles. Like ginger, it can be taken before workouts to boost the recovery process before you even start sweating, or afterwards to help speed the recovery process. This is all thanks to its active ingredient, circumin, which is a super anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
This is a blue-green algae that is typically available a a powder, liquid, tablet or capsule. It’s one of the world’s most highly concentrated plant-based sources of complete protein, meaning that it provides all of the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make on their own. Like the other superfoods in this list, it provides a whackload of vitamins and minerals, has been known to increase endurance, and speed post-exercise recovery. A little goes a very long way!
I love chugging a big one of these smoothies after my hard runs and heavy lifting sessions, but it’s also great if you’re feeling a little low on energy. I don’t know about you, but most green smoothies tend to significantly kick my energy levels up a notch. Greens for the win!
Now I want to know…
Do you have a favourite post-workout recovery meal or drink that makes you feel revitalized and re-energized?