Post-Workout Smoothie Ideas for Athletes
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After a workout a smoothie can be an easy option to help athletes meet their recovery nutrition needs. Let’s take a look at nutrition priorities following a workout. Then we will explore ideas for building the best post-workout smoothie for athletes.
What are the Nutrition Priorities Following a Workout?
When athletes exercise, they deplete their energy (carbohydrate) stores, breakdown muscles, and sweat resulting in the loss of fluid and electrolytes. Therefore, following activity the goals of recovery nutrition include:
- Rehydrate: Fluid and electrolytes
- Refill energy stores: Carbohydrates
- Build and repair muscles: Protein
Recovery nutrition is of particular importance when time between the training sessions or athletic competitions is limited. When athletes will be competing again the same day or the next, recovery nutrition should be a priority.
Can a Post-Workout Smoothie Help Meet My Recovery Nutrition Needs?
A post-workout smoothie can be a great option to help athletes meet their carbohydrate and protein post-workout needs.
Some athletes do not have an appetite after exercise and find eating a meal to be a challenge. For these athletes, a post-workout smoothie may be an easy solution for meeting recovery nutrition needs.
Carbohydrates in the Post-Workout Smoothie
Adding carbohydrates to the post-workout smoothie is important to help refill energy (glycogen stores). When athletes need a quick recovery to be prepared for a workout later in the same day, aiming for 1-1.2 g/kg of body weight of carbohydrate in the smoothie is ideal (1).
For a 165-pound athlete this calculates to be 75-90 grams of carbohydrates. A well-planned smoothie following a workout can help athletes with meeting these carbohydrate goals.
Source of Carbohydrates in an After Workout Smoothie
There are a variety of ways athletes can add carbohydrates to their smoothies, including:
- Frozen fruit – Enjoy a variety!
- Sliced banana*
- 100% fruit juice
- Milk, yogurt
- Honey, maple syrup
*Sports Nutrition Tip: Freeze banana slices to use in smoothies during the week. This is the secret ingredient to a creamy, delicious smoothie.
Protein in the Post-Workout Smoothie
When athletes exercise, they breakdown their muscles. Thus, including protein in a smoothie following a workout is important to support the repair and building-up of lean muscle mass.
Following activity, it is recommended athletes consume ~0.25 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (2). As a general guide, athletes should plan to include ~25-30 grams of protein in their post-workout smoothie to support their recovery nutrition needs.
Source of Protein in an After Workout Smoothie
There are a variety of ways athletes can add protein to a post-workout smoothie. Consider the following ideas:
- Greek yogurt (3): 13 grams of protein/5.3 oz individual container
- Cottage cheese (4): 28 grams of protein/cup
- Ultra-filtered, high-protein milk (such as Fairlife®): 13 grams of protein/cup
- Dry milk (5): ~11 grams of protein/0.25 cup
- Silken tofu (6): ~6 grams of protein/3 oz
- Nut butters (7): ~7 grams of protein/2 Tablespoons
- Chia seeds (8): ~5 grams of protein/oz
What About Protein Powder in a Post-Workout Smoothie?
Athletes should be able to create a smoothie that meets their post-workout protein needs from food sources. However, when time is limited, protein powders may be a convenient option to assist with meeting sports nutrition needs.
If an athlete is considering the use of a protein powder for a post-workout smoothie, it is important to select a high-quality product. Sports supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way that food is. Dietary supplements may contain banned substances that could potentially make an athlete ineligible for competition.
Due to this, athletes should look for supplements that have been third-party tested. Supplements that are third-party tested have an outside organization evaluate the supplement for accuracy of ingredients. Two companies that evaluate sports supplements are NSF International Certified for Sport and Informed Sport.
Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients in the Post-Workout Smoothie
When making a smoothie to support a quick recovery from activity, athletes should also include ingredients that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Consider including the following anti-inflammatory foods and spices in your smoothie after a workout:
- Berries and cherries
- Tart cherry juice
- Leafy greens
- Nut butters
- Seeds: Ground flaxseeds and chia seeds
- Spices: Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger
High-Quality Blender for Smoothies
Having a high-quality blender can be of great help when making smoothies to enjoy following a workout. My favorite blender for making individual smoothies is the NutriBullet® PRO* (pictured in recipe below). This blender is easy to use, it smoothly processes ingredients, and most importantly, when looking to save time, it is dishwasher safe.
Cherry Berry Post-Workout Recovery Smoothie for Athletes
Putting this all together, here is one of my favorite recipes for a post-workout smoothie (download below). The smoothie features the following:
- Carbohydrates: Frozen cherries* and blueberries, ultra-filtered milk, Greek yogurt
- Protein: Greek yogurt, ultra-filtered milk, chia seeds
- Anti-inflammatory: Cherries, berries, spinach, chia seeds, cinnamon
*Sports Nutrition Tip: Make sure to purchase frozen cherries that have been pitted for your smoothies. Prior to using in a smoothie, check the cherries for any fragments of pits that may have been missed in processing.
This cherry berry post-workout smoothie provides athletes with ~77 grams of carbohydrates and ~31 grams of protein, making it a great post-workout option. The carbohydrate content of the smoothie can be further increased by using a whole banana or using more frozen fruit (resulting in a thicker smoothie).
Post-Workout Smoothie Ideas for Athletes
You are now set with ideas for building a post-workout smoothie that meets an athlete’s carbohydrate and protein needs following a workout. Have fun experimenting with different ingredient combinations to create a variety of smoothies packed full of nutrition.
For additional smoothie tips for athletes, check out my blog for creating high-calorie smoothies to support weight gain.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.