After bouts of long or hard exercise lasting sixty minutes or more, the body’s stores of muscle and liver glycogen can become depleted. This can significantly effect performance, as the body’s main fuel for exercise is glucose, and the body stores glucose in the form of glycogen. Run out of glycogen and you run out of gas. So naturally, one would want to replace the lost glycogen before the next workout. This is done by consuming carbohydrates, which are then broken down into glucose and are stored as glycogen. The problem is that it can take 48 to 72 hours to replenish glycogen stores, unless you know a little secret. Sports scientists have recently discovered a small window of time where glycogen can be quickly absorbed by the muscle tissue. Fifteen to forty-five minutes after exercise one should consume a “healthy” portion of simple carbohydrates (not complex) mixed with a little protein in a 6 to 1 ratio. Miss this window and you will have to wait a few days to feel at your best.
Does this mean that you should gobble down sports bars and electrolyte drinks? Not if you want to be optimally fueled. The best choice for a post workout re-fueling is a good old fashioned smoothie. Not your chain-store variety with boosts of this and that, served in a styrofoam cup and so cold that you get brain freeze, but the kind that you make at home with fresh fruits and seeds. Fruits are composed of three main ingredients, water, sugar and fiber. The water is a no brainer, we need it post exercise. The sugar is a mixture of glucose and fructose, and the fiber is a mixture of insoluble and soluble. Fiber is a necessary component in that it regulates the entry of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing an insulin spike. Turn a fresh orange into orange juice (by removing the fiber) and suddenly it jumps way up on the glycemic index. Earlier I mentioned that the body stores glucose as glycogen, so what does the body do with the fructose contained in fruit? Well, the liver also contains stored glycogen, but these stores are different in that they are created mainly from fructose and not glucose. The protein component of the smoothie can come from a very high quality seed such as hemp, which has a complete amino acid profile, and also supplies EFA’s (essential fatty acids). The addition of dulse flakes (kelp works as well), makes sure that you are replacing the electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat, without consuming large quantities of inorganic salt.
My personal favorite organic smoothie recipe:
2 ripe bananas
6 large dates
2 tablespoons Nutiva hemp seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon dulse flakes
1 dash cinnamon
2 cups filtered water