The Best Pre- and Post-Workout Smoothies

Workout smoothies are incredible nutritional tools. In just a few minutes, you can literally cram all the nutrients you need into one drink that's easy to prepare and enjoy. But making quality workout smoothies is more than tossing your favorite ingredients into a blender and chugging the results. Many factors, including your workout style, duration, and intensity, should determine what goes into your smoothie.

Before Strength Training

Strength/resistance training places emphasis on your muscles. Like every other tissue in your body, muscles are fueled primarily by carbohydrates. To make sure that you have all the fuel you need as soon as you start your workout, it's important to use high glyemic index (GI) foods. These sugars will be absorbed and put to use quickly to provide a quick boost of energy.

Muscles are also highly dependent on protein. Once ingested, this macronutrient is broken down into amino acids and repurposed. Your body then turns it into whatever sort of tissue it needs. In this case, the focus is your muscles, which are damaged as you work out. Having some protein in your system before you exercise will minimize the damage and help your body get a head start on recovery.

Generally, the pre-workout ratio of carbs to protein should be about 75 percent carbs and 25 percent protein. A small amount of fat can also be tossed in since your body will also look to burn fat for fuel during long, low-intensity workouts. It should be consumed about an hour before your workout.

Pre-Strength-Training Smoothie Components

  • Protein powder
  • Milk (of your choice)
  • High GI fruit like mango, peach, or pineapple
  • Flaxseed

After Strength Training

As mentioned, strength training actually causes damage, in the form of microscopic tears, to your muscles. This damage is exactly what you want to happen, though, which may sound a bit strange. In response, your brain starts a series of adaptations designed to prevent that damage in the future. And just like any other building project, raw materials are needed. So, after you lift, protein needs to be your focus.

Of course, carbohydrates are still needed post-workout. But at this point, you'll be using low-GI foods so you can maintain your energy levels and avoid a blood sugar crash. This steady supply of carbs will also stimulate a balanced production of insulin, the hormone responsible for getting protein to your hungry muscles.

Drink your smoothie within two hours of completing your workout; your muscles will be primed to absorb and use the nutrients more efficiently.

Post-Strength-Training Smoothie Components

  • Protein powder
  • Milk (of choice)
  • Low-GI fruit like banana or apple

Before Cardio

Since cardio training, like running or cycling, focuses more on your cardiovascular system, your nutritional needs are going to be very different. Although protein is still necessary—your muscles are still working, after all—you won't need as much. Plus, protein is hard to digest and could cause discomfort if you eat too much before heading out for your run. Still, protein helps slow down the absorption of carbs, which will give you a steady supply of energy during your workout. A small amount of fiber will accomplish the same thing. But again, fiber could upset your stomach, so use it sparingly.

Your primary concern before a cardio workout should be carbohydrates of both high- and low-GI varieties. This blend will ensure that you have a rich stream of fuel to draw from as you exercise. As such, your smoothie could be anywhere from 75 to 100 percent carbs, and should be consumed 30 minutes to an hour before starting your workout.

Pre-Cardio Smoothie Components

  • Milk (of choice)
  • Banana
  • Strawberry
  • Honey
  • Ice (as needed, for thickness)

After Cardio

Once your workout is over, hydration should be your focus. At the same time, you need to replenish your body's energy stores within 30 minutes of your workout. So, in many ways, your post-workout smoothie will look a lot like your pre-workout smoothie. This time, though, you do want to be sure that you're getting plenty of electrolytes.

Post-Cardio Smoothie Components

  • Mango
  • Yogurt
  • Honey
  • Ice (as needed, for thickness)

Drinking the right smoothie can help you make the most of your workout routine. Educating yourself on your nutritional needs based on your preferred exercise style will ensure that you're optimizing your pre- and post-workout time.

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