Wednesday, January 15, 2020 • Berkely, CA 94704

Are you about to start a new fitness routine? Maybe you’re looking lose a few pounds, feel better, and get in shape. Maybe you’ve been an avid runner, lifter, or yogi, and are just looking to change things up. First and foremost, whatever your stage of fitness, congratulations on committing to making the effort to take your physical health seriously. Far too many people either take their bodies for granted or create excuses to avoid giving themselves the exercise and physical activity they need to have a long, healthy life.


As you build your plan, you’re likely researching what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find some good practical advice, but you’ll probably also run into lots of fad diets and workouts, and conflicting information about each. We’re going to look specifically at one aspect of your routine: whether it’s healthy to have a smoothie when you’ve completed your exercise.


What Makes a Healthy Smoothie?


To begin with, let’s make sure we’re clear about what a smoothie is. It’s a thick but smooth drink with the consistency of a milkshake with a base of pureed fruit. That said, you’ll easily be able to find everything from very healthy 3 day detox smoothie recipes to others that are essentially pure sugar. So, let’s distinguish what makes a smoothie good for you (while still tasting good) and one that is basically a convenience store slush-drink.


As we already mentioned, fruit is the base of any true smoothie, but be sure you’re using real fruit without added sugars. The natural sugars in fruit will make it sweet enough without adding frozen or flavored yogurt, ice cream, or syrup. Even more innocent-seeming ingredients like honey or agave should be avoided.


To balance out the nutritional value of the smoothie, beef it up with natural proteins and healthy fats. Some great sources for these are unflavored Greek yogurt, almond butter, chia seeds, spinach and avocado.


The Importance of Refueling


Now that we’ve looked at what a smoothie is, let’s see why advocates of post-workout smoothies believe in them. When you exercise (whether it’s strictly cardio-based, using weightlifting machines, or anything in between), you are building muscles by creating tiny tears in your muscle tissue, which need to be repaired to reap the benefits of the workout. You are also depleting some of your body’s natural sugars called glycogen. Protein and fat help repair the muscle, and natural fruit sugars build the glycogen back up.


When to Eat


Let’s get back to the original question: will a post-workout smoothie help you, or just replace all the calories you’ve sweated away during your workout? The simple answer is that, yes, drinking a smoothie after exercising will help you with two major conditions. One: as we’ve discussed, it needs to contain only healthy ingredients. Two: you need to time it correctly. To properly refuel, you must get your sugars and proteins within an hour of exercising. The sooner the better. If you can save time by preparing your smoothie in advance and putting it in the refrigerator. Just be sure to avoid pre-made, store bought smoothies; they usually have some unhealthy ingredients included.


When to Not Eat


While it’s important to refuel within an hour after working out, you don’t want to “double dip.” That means, if you work out and plan to have a normal breakfast, lunch, or dinner within an hour, get your healthy sugars, proteins, and fats from the meal. If you have a smoothie and then eat your supper, you’re likely to feel bloated, and your blood sugar may be all over the place.


If you plan on replacing a meal with a smoothie, just make sure you make a large enough serving to fill you up, and that you’re getting a balance of nutrients throughout the day.


As you can see, the answer to the post-workout smoothie is generally “yes,” unless you’re about to have a meal. Pack it with healthy fats, proteins, and fruits, and your body will thank you!