Updated: Mar 10, 2022
After a tough workout, it’s important to feed your muscles as soon as possible to reduce and reverse the damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation they’ve just experienced . Both carbohydrates and protein assist in the process of replenishing muscle glycogen stores and repairing muscle fibers, so they tend to be the main nutrients of focus in post-exercise recovery drinks and meals; but there are some other healing nutrients that are being overlooked [2,3].
In the past few years, chocolate milk has been gaining popularity as an effective post-exercise recovery drink due to its high carbohydrate and protein content, and high bioavailability . Drinking a plant-based smoothie after a workout would provide so much more though! Research has shown that foods high in phytonutrients, such as antioxidants, speed up the recovery process after exercise: muscular strength and blood oxidative markers improve much more quickly when participants consume a recovery aid high in phytonutrients, as compared to a control drink [1,4].
The following images are the nutrition facts for 24 ounces of chocolate milk and 24 ounces of a plant-based smoothie (recipe provided below):
When the nutrition facts of chocolate milk and a plant-based smoothie are compared, you can see that the plant-based smoothie provides:
More vitamin C (an antioxidant for speedy recovery!)
Less fat (allowing the carbohydrates and protein to be digested quicker)
It is also high in potassium, and while there are less carbohydrates than the chocolate milk, more of these carbs are coming from fiber. Not to mention, they are all-natural and cruelty free! Chocolate milk, on the other hand, often times contains added sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup .
Try this anti-oxidant rich smoothie recipe and experience the magic for yourself:
½ banana (phytonutrients: beta-carotene, leutein)
¼ apple, diced (phytonutrients: flavonoids, quercetin—a type of flavonol)
½ cup frozen blueberries (phytonutrient: anthocyanin)
½ cup frozen raspberries (phytonutrient: anthocyanin)
½ cup frozen blackberries (phytonutrient: anthocyanin)
A handful (about 1 cup) spinach (phytonutrients: beta-carotene, leutein)
½ tbsp almond butter
1 scoop pea protein
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds (or hemp seeds) (rich in omega 3's)
Add all ingredients into blender, mix and enjoy!
TIP: Make multiple batches of this recipe and pour it into freezer-safe containers to save for later. Grab one before your workout, and it’ll be thawed by the time you’re ready to drink it!
Pereira Panza V, Diefenthaeler F, da Silva E. Benefits of dietary phytochemical supplementation on eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage: Is including antioxidants enough?. Nutrition. 2015;31(9):1072-1082. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2015.02.014
Saunders M. Carbohydrate-Protein Intake and Recovery from Endurance Exercise. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2011;10(4):203-210. doi:10.1249/jsr.0b013e318223ccb4
Pritchett K, Pritchett R, Green J, Katica C, Eldridge M, Bishop P. Comparisons of Post-Exercise Chocolate Milk and a Commercial Recovery Beverage following Cycling Training on Recovery and Performance. Journal of Exercise Physiology. 2011;14(6):29-39.
McLeay Y, Barnes M, Mundel T, Hurst S, Hurst R, Stannard S. Effect of New Zealand blueberry consumption on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):19. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-19.
Chelsi Brown is a graduate student of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at Georgia State University. With a background in exercise science and health coaching, she aspires to one day be a sports dietitian, helping athletes to perform and feel their best! In her free time, you can find her at the local gym, playing with her pup Buffy, or dancing her heart out at music festivals.