With this post I will start my first of a series of posts examining nutrition for athletes.
The theme is “Nutrition is Easy”. I want to help cut through the misinformation spouted by the many fads that have come and gone (and many that are popular currently), but I will write about this mostly in the next post. I have lived through, adopted and written about almost all forms of consumption, dieting and athletic nutrition (from veganism to vegetarianism to Atkins to South Beach to Food Pyramid to Carb Stacking/Loading etc. etc.) and seriously… Nutrition is Easy! On the other hand… correct, effective and productive supplementation is harder. Getting supplementation right for an individual is an ongoing topic that I will address in future posts. I don’t need any external motivation to write about these topics (because for many years.. and especially recently.. I have seen so much ridiculousness and almost religous zeal for adoption of certain “dieting methodologies”) but when I type in dieting for athletes in Google and this pointless article on Livestrong.com comes up (could have been written by a 6 year old and offers virtually nothing to anyone that hasn’t lived in a cave all their lives.. and some things that are just plain wrong) I feel even more compelled.
This post will be about my post workout smoothie and general caloric needs for an athlete (and how they are higher than many believe but I will also go into that more in the next post).
After a serious run (or other longer duration aerobic activity), serious workout in the gym (one lasting 75 minutes to 2.5 hours like mine do) or other intense and long duration athletic activity (60 minutes or more), your body is starving and begging you for the replenishment it needs to repair and grow stronger from the physical attack that you have just given it! You don’t become stronger during a workout.. you become weaker. It’s simple. The only way that you can become stronger from a workout is recovering from it and nutrition plays a vital role in that recovery (the other important forms of recovery have been discussed in previous posts but will be gone into more depth in future posts). The 90 minutes directly following intense exercise are a window of opportunity for helping to ensure adequate repair of the damage that you have done. If it is possible for you to consume more quickly, the first 45 minutes is even better. If you just ran for 90 minutes or more, blasted your muscles at the gym for over an hour, biked for 2 hours etc. your muscles, tendons, fascia, liver, endocrine system, lungs, heart, brain and other organs and tissues have been stripped of so many vital nutrients that were used to facilitate your performance of the exercise. These nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, sodium, potassium and magnesium, antioxidants and many, many other micronutrients. I will go more into how these nutrients are used and needed in my next post, but understand the idea that you need much more than a Gatorade or a 200 calorie Protein Bar after a long hard workout. Consuming either one of these is barely making a dent in replenishing any of your depleted resources. You need a lot (significantly more than you think) of calories, carbs, proteins, fats, electrolytes, minerals and antixodants in your post workout meal!
I will detail here my basic post workout smoothie (doens’t have to be a smoothie… blending it just generally makes it taste even better) ingredients and nutritional data. It tastes like dark chocolate and berries!
My post workout smoothie:
16oz Soymilk (Almond, Cow or Goats Milk is also fine.. I don’t really recommend Rice Milk as it is devoid of protein but it could also be substituted)
16oz Juice (I am a big fan of Acai, the Naked Juices, Orange or really any high quality juice)
2 tbsp of Chia Seeds
2 tbsp of Flax Seeds
2 scoops of high quality Protein Powder (currently using Muscle Milk but there are many good protein powders.. post a comment and I will reply with other good brands.. some are almost worthless. I like the Chocolate flavor as it balances out the fruit flavors nicely but obviously the flavor is up to you.)
1/4 cup of Raisins
1 cup of fresh or frozen dark berries
Don’t believe the anti simple sugar zealots! You need fast acting sugars to shuttle in the other nutrients in the drink into your muscle cells. This has been a known fact for 50 years (probably a lot longer). We are not making candy, we are making a high performance drink! There are times (like after a hard workout and during a hard long workout) when you want fast acting sugars. They will not turn into fat.. they are necessary to perform a vital function which is to create a cellular response to quickly open access in your cells to flood them with the nutrients they are so desperately craving. Should you be constantly consuming Pepsi all day long? Of course not but fast acting simple sugars (like the fructose in fruit juice) have a place in your diet and are vital post workout!
The ingredients above do not have to be adhered to exactly by any means (different fruit can be added, many times I like to add peanut butter, granola, some vegetables like beets… a great anti-inflammatory and tastes better than you think and etc.) but collectively they give you a huge amount of everything that you need to start your recovery off with a necessary bang!
I will now detail the nutritional data and I know that many reading will be shocked at the total amount of calories (most writing about smoothies don’t give the nutritional data), carbs and fat but what one has to understand is that if you just ran 12 miles you burned between 1800 – 2000 calories. If you hammered 3 body parts (plus your core) in the gym, you burned probably 1500 calories. Even after consuming a smoothie like this you are still in a state of caloric deficit (and we haven’t even taken into account your daily resting caloric basal expenditures.. which are probably higher than the average because you are an athlete with good muscular development!). Top level athletes (men and women) really do consume between 4000 – 7000 calories a day.. because they need it. Could you adjust down the amount of the ingredients somewhat if you only went for a 5 mile run or had a short intense workout in the gym.. absolutely. Don’t eliminate many (or any) of the ingredients, just reduce the amount thrown in (maybe cut the amounts in half or slightly more).
Total Nutritional Data:
159 grams of Carbohydrates
56 grams of Protein
36 grams of Fat
32 grams of Fiber (!)
700 mg Sodium
2000+ mg of Potassium
Plus this drink is just brimming with antioxidants (from the juices, the raisins and the berries) that were destroyed during your workout (working to neutralize the lactic acid you built up among other things). The healthy fats and lignans from the chia and flax seeds work to strengthen your tendons and joints and provide hormonal support.
As an aside, Costco has far and away the best deals on Organic Flax and Chia Seeds if you have a membership. You can get 2lbs of Flax Seed for about $7 and 2lbs of Chia Seeds for $10. 1lb of Chia Seeds cost $17 at Whole Foods! 3.4 times as expensive… brutal!
The generous amount of fiber in this drink (I am a big fan of fiber) is a side benefit and will also help to move the nutrients and you!
How scary is it to think of consuming almost 1200 calories after a workout! If your workout approached the level of duration and intensity that I described above… what is scarier is starving your body with a 180 calorie SlimFast bar! Once again.. if you have a very low bodyweight, exercise at a lower intensity and generally under 45 minutes to an hour… feel free to cut the amounts down significantly with the exception of keeping at least 35 grams of protein. You will still have a very powerful drink that will work quickly to help you get stronger and faster from the hard work that you put in!
In a future post, I will go into much more detail on nutrition in general.. and why “Nutrition is Easy”!
Best of luck in your training,
Great writeup! One thing I would alter is throwing in two handfuls of spinach or kale into the blender. The taste will be masked by the banana and fruit and it is an easy way to get the nutrient-rich, dark, leafy greens your body needs.
I couldn’t disagree more, however, with your Muscle Milk protein powder. The nutritional information from this reads like a hit list of things I try to avoid whenever possible, let alone when my body is vulnerable and in need of recovery: casein protein, maltodextrin, and over half of the last dozen ingredients are forms of sugar. No thanks!
I don’t have the same workout regimen you do, but you might consider trying something more natural and/or organic. I make my own with organic hemp protein as the base. Tastes great, provides about the same calories with a ton of bonus natural nutrients that I think you will find beneficial.
Thanks for the comment!
I agree with you on the spinach or kale.. I sometimes do this and it is a favorite of my good friend the Runivore http://therunivore.com/a-cup-of-green-deliciousness/ I much prefer the fresh spinach or kale (as opposed to the already bagged variety because there can be issues with bacterial contamination because of the prewashing) and I guess sometimes I just don’t take the time to get it at the store and wash it but without a doubt it tastes good and does add extra important ingredients.
There are many, many brands and versions of proteins and I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that Muscle Milk is the only one that my readers should use. By no means. There are a ton of different proteins out there and personal preference and ease of accessibility do come into play. The only thing that I would say is (and I will be writing about this in a future nutrition post) is that post workout is one of the two times when you do want to be consuming simple sugar and/or oligosaccharides (like maltodextrin.. which I know has gotten a bad rap in some circles) because you want a quick insulin response to shuttle in the protein, carbs and nutrients into your muscle cells. Complex carbs work too slowly. The other time is during a long duration endurance event where you also want quick acting simple sugars. All this having been said.. if these ingredients aren’t your preference then there is no specific reason to get your carbs from them. The simple sugars found in the juice will have the same effect.
Thanks for the link to the hemp protein! It is a very good food source and I may try it. A friend of mine also turned me on to HumaPro http://humapro.com/ and there is some pretty cool science behind it. I have always been a whey protein guy, but I may try it.