Smoothies – before or after a workout?

One beneficial aspect of smoothies is that they are portable and when used wisely, can help to keep the calorie intake within control. But like anything else, timings can clearly play a part in correctly utilizing smoothies for meeting your nutritional requirements.  In this article, we will share some insights into whether smoothies are better before or after a workout.

Smoothies can be had anytime – both before your workout, or after. But the timing matters. Before a workout for it would help in getting that energy boost but it can also lead to that heavy, bloated feeling that can ruin a workout. For an energizing and effective workout, it would be better to have light smoothies with adequate nutrients and minerals that are not too high in calories. Also, it is better to have at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before the workout so that the digestion process does not hinder your workout. If you are looking at a post-workout smoothie it is better to first rehydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water. Smoothies can be consumed 20 to 30 minutes after a workout so that your body has cooled down and muscles have relaxed.

Why does timing matter?

The timing before the pre-workout matters because if you have your smoothie just before your workout, adequate time for it to digest and release the necessary energy is not provided. 

Instead, it may make you duller as digestion would still be going on and it requires more energy. This may affect the workout. If you have the pre-workout smoothie at least 30 mins before the work out ample time is given for it to go through the digestive tract and for the body to start absorbing and replenishing the energy, you are going to expend. If you are going to have the post-workout smoothies without allowing your muscle to cool down or your body to relax the smoothies can leave an odd feeling in the stomach.  This is why it is better to immediately drink water after the workout and then once you have relaxed and allowed 15 mins to pass the smoothies be consumed. 

Do not delay for more than 30 minutes for consuming your post-workout smoothie as the body will be in need of the replenishment of the energy and you will feel fatigued. Smoothies are useful post-workout if your meal is going to be 2 to 3 hours later. But if you are going to have a meal within an hour after the workout, then the smoothies can be avoided as the total calories ingested can tend to overshoot beyond your caloric needs. After the workout since the hunger level is more the body may not register the calories ingested immediately. By the time your hunger is satiated, you might have consumed more than what is required. Smoothies are themselves calorie-laden but since you drink it, you do not realize it, and having a full meal on top of that will more often than end up in overfeeding.

How long before the workout should I have my smoothie?

It is always better to consume smoothies no later than 30 minutes before a workout, especially if you feel hungry before the workout, or you are working out on an empty stomach. It is better to have a light smoothie before so that you will not be fatigued by the workout session.

If your workouts are in the mornings, you can even replace your breakfast with a smoothie.

Will I negate the effects of exercise if I have the smoothie after a workout?

Here, the entire consequences will depend upon the timings. It is always better to eat or drink and replenish your stores within an hour after you have worked out so that your glycogen stores get replenished and the body can immediately start building and repairing the muscle tissue that was broken down during the workout

So if you are going to get a full meal after your workout then it is better to avoid the smoothie because you will just be ingesting too many calories (on the same topic, check out the blog post about how many smoothies you should drink a day). But in case you will be having your meal much later, then smoothies can be sufficient to replenish and help the body in building the tissue. Ensure that you use both protein and carbohydrate sources so that muscle-building and energy replenishment – both happen.

What to add to your pre-workout smoothie?

If your workout is going to be primarily aerobic then you can add in more carbs. But if it is strength training you could look at increasing the proteins. This is because carbs get burned when doing aerobic exercises while for strength training more proteins are needed for the repair of the muscle tissues.

In a pre-workout smoothie, it is better not to add heavy ingredients such as yogurt, milk, or protein powders and rather limit the ingredients to fruits and vegetables and possibly a few nuts. Nut butter also can be used as a protein source. This will give you the energy boost that will sustain you through the heavy workout. Also, it’s better to avoid sugars – all types of sweeteners, even syrups, frozen yogurt, fruit crushes, etc. This applies to those following vegan and non-vegan diets.

You can add a few proteins and fats from ingredients such as avocado, coconut milk, chia seeds, flax seeds, or almond butter.  These add-in fats are necessary for sustained energy. It is also advisable to add in your greens at this time such as kale, spinach, arugula, etc. This will give the necessary nutrients to help improve overall health and energy. 

What should you add to your post-workout smoothie?

In your post work out smoothies, you can add slightly more calorie-dense ingredients such as yogurt, avocado, coconut oil, etc. You could add in the banana, fruits, protein powder, flaxseed, nut kinds of butter such as peanut butter, almond butter, etc. After heavy sweating, the body needs to add nutrients and electrolytes. The so-called healthy smoothies that you get to buy have lots of sugar which will not help here. You will feel the initial boost which will soon be lost when you will be hungry again. Instead, complex carbs, fat, and proteins give a more stable and consistent energy release.

So what do you add to your post-workout smoothie?

  • You can start with a liquid base. Do not depend on fruit juice as much because fruit juice tends to be high in sugar content. What you could do this to add in plant milk, coconut milk, or coconut water which will act as a liquid base and keep the sugar content low.
  • Next, you can add fruit for sweetness, and these frozen bananas are excellent because they give your smoothies a creamy feel. It also has lots of potassium and other nutrients that are hard to get in regular food. You can also add in mango or frozen berries but limit your fruit ingredients to a maximum of 2 to ensure that the sugar content does not increase.
  • Next, you can add in a few leafy greens to add in vitamins and essential minerals which would also boost your overall energy levels. It is well known that leafy greens have a sufficient number of antioxidants and fiber that can help you with your muscle recovery. Moreover, it has fiber that helps you have that full, satiated feeling.
  • Now you can add protein because this is important for you to build muscle tissue. You might make it easier by adding in protein powders which could be a plant-based protein powder or from other sources based on what your dietary preferences are. Ingredients such as nuts /nut butter and avocado can help supply the necessary protein.
  • You can top your smoothies with chia seeds, flaxseeds which will further improve the nutritional profile of your smoothies.

In conclusion, smoothies are good both before and after a workout but what matters is the timing and meeting the nutritional demands. If you ensure that at least 30 minutes gap is kept before work out consuming smoothies and at least 15 minutes gap is maintained after an intense workout, you will be able to optimally meet your energy requirements without your workout being affected.