FOCUS on Smoothies for Runners
Smoothies are an easy way to enjoy great nutrition and often people don’t know how to make a good homemade smoothie. A nutrient dense smoothie eaten strategically may be used by a runner to fuel pre and post running and recovery, both from training and from injury. We will talk about:
1. How adding Smoothies into your food plan may support you as a runner
2. How to make a smoothie – share all our practical tips
3. Give some ideas for therapeutic smoothies – so combinations to help particular health or performance concerns
FOCUS on Smoothies for Runners
An overview of using smoothies in your food plan based on a 2018 Australian Study, Smoothies: Exploring the Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviours of Consumers and Non-Consumers.
The researchers say:
· Smoothies appear to play a positive role in the diet of some individuals; promoting increased consumption of core foods (e.g. fruit, vegetables and dairy products).
· However, smoothies may also contain discretionary ingredients that could promote increased calorie intake, especially if they are consumed as snacks and subsequent compensatory dietary behaviours are not employed.
· With overweight/obesity remaining a major public health issue, understanding how popular snack foods and beverages (such as smoothies) contribute to caloric intake and influence broader dietary behaviours is important.
· It’s important to know what ingredients are in a smoothie as well as energy value and Glycaemic Load
· Smoothies are Energy Dense – so consider them as part of your food plan i.e. total dietary intake (nutrient status and calories -not as discretionary foods or drinks)
· Smoothies help you consume recommended amounts of Fruits and Vegetables
· Including protein and fibre elements in your smoothie will help with satiety – keeping you full (interestingly in the Australian study participants perceived smoothies as drinks not food so people thought they would quench thirst not relieve hunger)
Could a smoothie be eaten as part of refuelling nutrition on an ultrarun (if a runner didn’t have to carry their own food)?
We look at one study about: Contribution of Solid Food to Achieve Individual Nutritional Requirement during a Continuous 438 km Mountain Ultramarathon in Female Athlete – which was looking at effect of multi-day continuous endurance exercise on blood glucose control and appropriate intake of food and drink in a female athlete.
Conclusion: Carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake from solid foods contributed to maintaining a fast pace with a steady, mild rise in blood glucose levels compared with liquids and gels when a female runner completed a multi-day continuous ultramarathon with little sleep.
The foods mentioned in the study were: sports drinks (isotonic and hypertonic formulas), cola, gels, milk product, tea, soup, other liquids (all other drinks consumed), fruits, sweets, bars, noodles, bread, rice products, wheat products, powder, and other solids (all other products consumed).
Smoothies or Shakes aren’t mentioned but it made us wonder if they would be appropriate?
We think it would be an easy way of getting fast release CHO into the body very quickly as less digestion and assimilation is required. Carrying food in smoothie/liquid form on an ultra may increase weight significantly though. BUT if you have a support team i.e. friends and family…you could get them to meet you at strategic points where you could consume the smoothie and then be off again. Just our personal thoughts.
Other benefits of eating smoothies for runners include:
· A way of fuelling pre and post run training
· Can be used as a meal replacement or a snack to help you meet your energy/nutrition targets
· Easy to digest
· If you add protein can help with muscle building
· Using the right ingredients can be Supportive to health conditions/healing injuries/anti inflammatory
How to make a smoothie – we share our practical tips
Equipment – we discuss using jug and cup blenders
You’ll need a blender – ideally a jug blender or perhaps a nutri-bullet type although you may start off using a hand held blender stick. The jug type is great to pour from and you can make more than one portion size whilst the nutri-bullet type is great as you use the cup for blending the ingredients and then you can screw on a lid and travel with it to eat/drink later.
The main benefits of investing in a more expensive blender is that you will get speed and also the ability to blend frozen fruits/veggies/ice and more solid ingredients. Speed is always important if you like to blend and go – ultimate fast food!
You may wish to use an airtight flask if you’re carrying your smoothie – some flasks will help keep smoothie chilled which may make it more palatable especially if you are eating it a while after you have made it.
Why you should eat your smoothie rather than drinking it!
A smoothie is regarded as a meal replacement or a snack replacement – it’s FOOD and whilst it’s blended so easy to digest, it’s advisable to sip it slowly, and swill a mouthful before swallowing – both will allow digestive enzymes to do their work in helping to break down nutrients so we may digest and absorb optimally. So, our tip is don’t GULP or rush through your smoothie!
Which ingredients to include in a smoothie and getting the proportions right.
We suggest PLATE balance in a glass – you’d include protein, fat, carbohydrate and vegetables including a liquid base.
Combination of Ingredients and Proportions
Ideally for one serving:
· 2 cups of VEGETABLES e.g., spinach, watercress, salad leaves, celery, cucumber, courgette, beetroot, carrots, kale
· ½ – 1 cup of FRUIT e.g., apples, pears, orange, grapefruit, berries, melon, mango, peaches, pineapple, banana – choose ½ cup if you are focusing on body composition/weight management – FRUIT will provide CHO – you may combine a few fruits if you prefer. You may wish to add OATS which will also increase CHO content
· PROTEIN e.g., protein powder – a portion is usually 20-25g protein, silken tofu blends really well, KEFFIR is rich in protein (dairy or non-dairy milk fermented drink), Yoghurt, Nuts/Seeds/nut butter – will add a combination of protein and fat. Adding cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans will also give you protein and fibre and add some bulk to your smoothie
· FAT – adding a small amount of healthy fat to your daily food plan is important for good health – you may be getting your daily fat requirement in other meals but if not you may wish to consider adding avocado or coconut oil or nuts/seeds. I often add chia seeds and ground flaxseed which are good sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids
· BASE LIQUID – lots to choose from – nut milks, coconut milk, coconut water, vegetable juice (avoid fruit juice but could use a small amount for taste), chilled herbal tea, OR WATER – I tend not to use water just because of TASTE – often beginners at making smoothies get “put off” when they use water as it dilutes the TASTE – for one portion probably looking at 100-200ml of liquid
EASY MEAL REPLACEMENT RECIPE = 2 cups of veggies + ½ -1 cup fruit + 1 portion protein + 100-200ml of liquid
However, if you were making a smoothie as a pre run snack you may need to focus on quick release CHO fruits in a higher proportion and skip the protein – we’ll talk more about using smoothies for pre and post training later.
Often people will totally focus on FRUIT and LIQUID. The danger with that is that it may be HIGH in sugar/carbohydrate, all be it natural sugars, but that may be too much sugar and may lead to blood sugar imbalance, promote weight gain, contribute to Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic health diseases.
Adding veggies to your smoothie is a great way to add fibre and keep you full for longer and adding PROTEIN helps also with satiation and helps you get your protein target in your daily meal plan.
So, following the proportions we suggest helps you get a balanced smoothie.
Getting the taste and consistency right for your smoothie preferences
TASTE and CONSISTENCY is about personal preference, we suggest you taste test a sip, and if you’d like your smoothie thicker or thinner adjust it, and if you feel the taste is bland add something to pep it up.
We like ginger, turmeric or cinnamon, and citrus like lemon or lime, or fresh herbs like mint. Cacao for a chocolately flavour.
The base liquid is the thing that’ll really help with taste. Aileen uses a green juice or 50:50 nut milk: water. Sometimes a small amount of sweeter fruits can help e.g. a ¼ banana or a small portion of pineapple or mango.
Smoothie Essentials – what to keep in your larder and freezer to make a great smoothie so you can easily make a sweet or savoury smoothie at any time!
· A natural unsweetened/unflavoured protein powder
· A range of frozen fruit in the freezer – cherries, summer berries, mango and pineapple chunks bananas in quarters
· frozen ginger or fresh
· lemons/fresh ginger/cucumbers/celery and spinach in the fridge
· non-dairy milks and coconut water
Freezer Food Prep Tips
Many of the supermarkets sell FROZEN SMOOTHIE PACKS which include a mix of fruits and sometimes veggies like avocado and spinach – they make a good smoothie base, all you have to do is take your portion out and then you can add the other ingredients.
If you have a robust blender you may be able to blend frozen fruits and veggies. An added bonus is that your smoothie will be chilled from the frozen fruits/veggies.
You may wish to make your own SMOOTHIE POUCHES for the freezer and then freezer add liquid and blend, or blend and freeze your smoothie liquid and store in a beaker in the freezer then take with you and defrost on the go. Both options work well if you like to batch food prep.
Our GO TO Smoothie Recipes – personal favourites
Karen’s Banana Berry Smoothie
“Mine is VERY simple. I have a banana or some berries, a protein powder and almond or coconut milk and that is it…Oh, on occasion I may have avocado or spinach, but it is rare. I tend to only have smoothies around my training, hence the bananas and Protein Powder”
Aileen’s Green Mango Smoothie
“Made with protein powder, frozen mango chunks, spinach and almond milk. Super easy, I always have ingredients in the kitchen so it’s an easy favourite.
If I have a bit more time, I’ll make a green juice with cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger as my liquid, then I’ll add avocado, green leaves, green frozen peas, pomegranate seeds and a scoop of protein powder – gives a really zingy taste and the avocado makes it silky smooth”
When buying a pre-made fresh smoothie in a shop or café – remember to check out the ingredients!
There are many “fresh pre-made smoothies” or made for you smoothies available in shops or cafes – it’s always best to check the labels or ingredients on menus so you know what you’re getting – often they are too sweet and not balanced.
Pre and Post Fuelling and Therapeutic Smoothies to support recovery and health conditions
Ideally you should be including quick release carbohydrates in the 30-60 minutes before a run and also you would not wish the smoothie to be too high in fibre as this may be difficult to digest prior to running. One of our favourite pre run recipes is:
Banana Berry (Pre Run)
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup natural unsweetened yogurt
- 1/2 to 1 cup almond milk
- 1 teaspoon of honey
Beetroot and Coconut
· 1 small raw beetroot chopped
· 1 small apple or ½ cup fresh or frozen pineapple
· ½-1 cup coconut milk
· 1 teaspoon of honey
POST RUN RECOVERY
Post run our aim is to replenish glycogen and electrolytes, ideally taking nutrition on board within 30 minutes of completing run.
Watermelon Recovery (Post Run within 30 minutes)
- 2 cups chopped watermelon
- 1/2 cup kefir or natural unsweetened yogurt
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 teaspoon of honey
Pina Colada Calmer (Anti-Inflammatory Post Run within 30 minutes)
· 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
· 1 small banana
· 1/2 cup spinach
· 1-2 cups almond milk
· 1 tablespoon chia seeds
· 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
· ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
· ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
TIP: If you want to have this smoothie later i.e. not as your immediate post run QR CHO snack – it would be a good idea to add some protein to get a balance of Carbohydrate:Protein for optimal recovery
Using a smoothie to support bone health or tissue health would be a great support when recovering from an injury – the anti-inflammatory Pina Colada Calmer would be good or for …
Calcium, Vitamin K, magnesium and Potassium are all vital for bone health
Bone Builder Smoothie
· 1 cup spinach/kale (Calcium, Magnesium and Vit K)
· ¼ cup Cashews or Almonds (Magnesium)
· ¼-1/2 cup papaya or banana (Potassium)
· ¼ Avocado
· 1-2 cups of non-dairy milk or coconut water
Runners are at risk of soft tissue injury affecting our muscles, ligaments and tendons……and recovery can be slow … we talked about this in Episode 26 Nutrition for Soft Tissue Injury
There are 3 phases to support when supporting tissue healing
1. In phase 1, nutrition is important in helping prevent chronic inflammation setting in. But, this said, the ACUTE inflammatory cascade is IMPORTANT in the overall healing process. So, including ingredients rich in Magnesium (dark green leafy vegetables), Bromelain (enzymes found in papaya and pineapple) and anti – inflammatory agents such as curcumin (turmeric) and gingerol (from ginger).
2. In phase 2 swift introduction of specific nutrients may help minimise scar tissue. This in turn may help reduce the risk of re-injury and/or tissue degeneration. Focusing on building collagen will support this phase (nutrients such Vitamin C, manganese, and continuing to manage inflammation with nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids and protein to help build and repair.
- Vitamin C is important in the regulation of collagen synthesis e.g., red bell peppers, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale and variety of berries
- Manganese activates collagen-producing enzymes and is also known to protect collagen from damage e.g. nuts and seeds
- Omega 3 will help in the continuation of inflammation reduction, and supports laying down of collagen in soft tissue. For smoothies add ground flax seed or walnuts
- Protein is important for enhancing wound healing, consider a whey protein powder as it is rich in the amino acid glutamine, which is needed for collagen production.
- Zinc – low levels is thought to delay wound healing
3. Phase 3 nutrition is about building on the nutrition introduced in phases 1 and 2 to attain/maintain tissue health so you can return to your running whilst minimising the chances of re-injury.
FOCUS on Smoothies for Runners
1. Smoothies may be a good addition to a runners food plan so long as they are
- Nutrient dense and made of natural ingredients
- Have a balance of Macro and Micro Nutrients in line with plate balance concepts or training strategy
2. Making a smoothie can be a time saver and may be used as a meal replacement, addition or as a snack – remember to consider the energy (calorific value of a smoothie) within your overall energy requirements
3. Be prepared – all you need is a blender and some everyday ingredients in your store cupboard and freezer
4. Smoothies are great to take to work or travel with if you prepare in advance
5. Experiment with recipes and create your own favourite GO TO Smoothie recipes and taste test and adjust to get it right for you
6. Smoothies can be designed for pre and post fueling, for meal replacements and to support recovery from injury
7. As nutritionists we’d look at your WHOLE FOOD PLAN and add some therapeutic supplements for injury recovery process. Including a nutrient dense smoothie perhaps with additional supplements included is a great way to support your healing process
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
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