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What Athletes Should Know About Smoothies

By Mike Samuels

Smoothies might seem like the perfect snack or between-meal drink for an athlete, seeing as they're full of nutritious fruit. While smoothies can be beneficial for some athletes under certain circumstances, they may not always be the best choice. Whether a smoothie will help you reach your goals depends on a number of factors.

Crucial for Carb Loading

When you're coming up to a big event or competition, loading up on carbohydrates in the few days before can increase your glycogen stores, giving you more energy on the day. Getting in enough carbs from whole foods like bread and pasta can be difficult, as they're filling and may make you feel bloated, so liquid carbs might be better. Australia's AIS Sports Nutrition recommends having a smoothie made with bananas, low-fat milk and honey as a staple snack on a carb-loading day.

The More Fruits and Veggies, the Better

Drinking smoothies is an easy way to ensure you're getting plenty of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables to support immune function, recovery and general health. Tara Ostrowe, nutritionist to the New York Giants, regularly includes smoothies in the Giants players' diets. She recommends adding plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, kale, lemons, beets, celery, watermelon, apples and blueberries.

Great for Gaining Weight

For athletes competing in strength- and power-based sports or those where carrying extra muscle bulk is advantageous, it can be tricky ingesting enough calories through whole foods alone. Sports nutritionist Anita Bean recommends using smoothies in this instance, adding that milk-based drinks increase muscle protein manufacture after exercise. A good post-workout smoothie could include one or two fruits, one or two vegetables, skim milk and optional additions of protein powder, peanut butter or crushed nuts to boost the calorie content.

Not All Smoothies Are Equal

On the face of it, smoothies can appear to be the perfect addition to any athlete's diet. Exercise caution, though, warns dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot. Premade smoothies can contain up to 600 calories, the majority of which come from sugar. This could be a disaster for an athlete who needs to keep weight down or doesn't require a lot of calories. A better option is to make smoothies at home so you can control the exact ingredients.

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