Loving the BITE: Almond Butter Smoothie
Wanna improve as a cyclist? You can gain an edge if you consistently consume a recovery meal or snack. To recover well after a hard ride, you simply must use fluids, carbs, and protein to replenish hydration and glycogen stores while reducing muscle wasting and damage from free radicals. Sound tough? It can be. Sometimes, you simply don’t feel like eating or drinking. Other times, you don’t have anything ready or available. Or, maybe you still just don’t believe it’s important.
Take it from me, as a professional Sports Nutritionist & athlete, it is. Want more energy the rest of the day instead of dragging yourself to bed at 8:00pm? Want to train hard again tomorrow and actually see improvements rather than defeat? Make recovery a priority. You’ll replenish your body best if you get something in within 30 minutes of finishing any hard training – this is when enzymes are most desperate to replenish glycogen (stored energy in muscles). To make it easier, use our “Perfect Recovery Smoothie:”
Recipe of the week: Almond Butter Smoothie
First, let’s skip the $8 per jar almond butter the store and make our own. Simply place your almonds in a food processor and process until smooth. It may take some time. I know, it’s loud. You may have to scrape the sides a bit. If it seems to dry, add some oil (peanut oil, olive oil, almond oil, etc). Keep going. It will usually form a “ball” of almond butter and then suddenly appear as smooth and perfect. If you like crunchy nut butters, add more almonds to your smooth butter and process until it’s perfect for you. To make Super Butter, add ground flaxseeds, about 1/4-1/2 cup per 1 lb almonds. You’re kids will never know it…but they’ll be eating nut-and-flax butter & jelly.
Then, take your almond butter and make your Perfect Recovery Smoothie:
Place the following in a blender or food processer:
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 cup milk (or, if you have undenatured whey protein, use ½ cup milk & ½ scoop undentaured whey)
- ½ Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1Tbsp almond butter
Process until at your desired consistency. Add ice cubes and/or water as needed. For convenience, many several batches at once and freeze in individual servings. Then, just thaw in the refrigerator 1 day before you need it. If you ride from home, it will be setting there in your refrigerator ready to go. If from your car, simply put it in a small cooler with an ice-pack.
Serves 1: Approximately 370 calories, 42 gm carbs, 14 gm protein
Why is this perfect recovery?
Strawberries & honey provide carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores & antioxidants to reduce any exercise-induced damage.
Milk offers both whey and casein proteins. Whey is a “quick acting” protein that reduces muscle wasting immediately. Casein is a “slow acting” protein that reduces muscle wasting for hours to come. And this is not just speculation. Whey and casein have been studied extensively in nitrogen balance studies (nitrogen balance is an indication of protein breakdown).
Coconut oil is a recovery wonder-food sending energy directly to cells’ mitochondria (energy producers), thereby reducing muscle wasting after exercise. Read all about it in last week’s Loving The Bite.
Well, most everyone has heard that almonds are good for you. However, I often still run into resistance among clients who aren’t sure if they should eat such a high-fat food. And, many don’t realize that almonds are not only good, but great. They are nutrient-packed, extremely heart healthy, full of antioxidants, and may be a whole food alternative for cyclists that suffer from leg cramps at night. Really, I believe they round-out my perfect recovery smoothie.
First, we find even more evidence that whole foods will always win out against supplements for promoting overall health (this is not to say that supplements don’t have their place). The flavonoids found in almond skins team up with the vitamin E found in their meat to more than double the antioxidant punch either delivers when administered separately. When the nutrients are combined in a “whole food,” they deliver a one, two, punch.
Almonds are uniquely positioned to reduce risk of both Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. You see, LDL “bad” cholesterol is actually damaged, or oxidized due to free radicals and elevated blood sugar after we exercise and eat. It’s this damaged LDL that’s able to enter the walls of our arteries and form plaques. Since almonds reduce blood sugar surges after meals AND provide flavanoid antioxidants and Vitamin E to “quench” free radicals, they reduce this damaging reaction. And, not just a little, but significantly. In studies, isolated almond flavanoids alone increase LDL’s resistance to oxidation by 18%. When you add the skin of the almond, and use the “whole food,” the resistance is increased to over 50%! It’s much easier to push up a big climb when your blood flows efficiently through your arteries rather than squeezing through plague-narrowed ones!
Almonds’ appeal goes beyond supplements to medications. They actually are as potent as statins in reducing C-reactive protein, a marker of artery-damaging inflammation. In fact, twenty potent antioxidant flavonoids were identified in almond skins in one study, some of which are well known as major contributors to the health benefits derived from other foods. For two, catechins found in green tea, and naringenin, which is found in grapefruit. Then, almonds also contain resveratrol, the anti-inflammatory agent found in red wines. For non-wine drinkers, this is great news. For those of us who like wine, even better. We can enjoy our almonds and drink our wine, too!
Well, that takes care of our hearts, but what about our legs? If you’ve ever suffered from leg cramps after training, due to fatigue and/or electrolyte imbalance, this one’s for you. In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesium, 257 mg of potassium, and 75 mg calcium. These are the exact minerals usually needed to relieve leg cramps. In fact, potassium is an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart and those used in exercise. While many athletes may need supplementation as well, this is a great whole-food start. In my opinion, almonds have a leg-up on many recovery foods.
It may sound a little nuts, but I think almonds should be a part of your everyday diet. And, anytime you can include them in recovery, do it. Since many athletes have a hard time actually eating after training hard, it can be much easier to drink. You’ll get a cold, nutrient-packed, glycogen-replenishing, muscle-saving, energy-producing treat. Smooth.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.