Smoothies have become synonymous with healthy eating. Whether you make one in the morning for breakfast or it’s your go-to fuel for post-workout recovery, blended concoctions are a convenient way to fast-track nutrients into your body. However, your smoothie is only as good as what you put in it. You can completely customize smoothie recipes to satisfy what your body needs and tastebuds want, tailoring the ingredients to help maximize nutrients, build muscle, or lose weight. Thing is, discerning what’s wholesome versus what’s clever marketing has become a harebrained endeavor.
As a sports dietitian, I’ve spent years crafting smoothies for athletes. So let’s dive into some of the add-ins that get top marks, why they’re good for you, and how to combine them into the ultimate smoothie for your goals. Note: Ideally these supplements should be taken daily to get their full effect since many aren’t stored in the body to be used on subsequent days.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body. In its most basic sense, you can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. It’s the key structural protein that ensures the strength, elasticity, and regeneration of our connective tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones. The amino acids needed to make collagen in the body are different from those needed to build muscle. That’s why we find it to be a great addition to smoothies.
Top choice: Momentous Collagen Peptides
Why we like it: This product combines two high-quality collagen sources (grass-fed bovine hide and a collagen peptide formula proven to boost collagen in tendons and ligaments), as well as vitamin C, shown to increase bioavailability (how easily something is absorbed and used by the body).
Also try: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. The formula also comprises vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to boost effectiveness.
Adaptogens or adaptogenic substances are plant compounds used in herbal medicine purported to protect the body against biological and physical stressors. Recent pharmacological studies rationalize their effects at the molecular level, but more research is needed.
Top choice: Navitas Organics Superfood+ Adaptogen Blend
Why we like it: This blend combines three of the most powerful adaptogens (maca, reishi, and ashwagandha). The herbs and mushrooms give this an earthy, somewhat nutty taste that blends pretty seamlessly into smoothies.
3. Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Digestive Enzymes
This trio is important for gut health. Combined, they can reduce inflammation and heal damaged intestinal linings associated with leaky gut (which exacerbates celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome). Creating homeostasis in your gut can improve everything from digestion and nutrient uptake to the more surprising obesity and depression.
Top choice: Floré by Sun Genomics Balance
Why we like it: Floré Balance is a one-of-a-kind supplement that boasts six high-quality, internally verified probiotic strains, prebiotic fibers, and immune-supporting ingredients shown to support the growth of healthy microbes in your gut. Each ingredient has undergone years of research and multiple levels of scientific rigor to validate its benefits. A good probiotic should have up to 10 billion colony forming units (CFU) and at least five different strains per bottle, according to Harvard Medical School. Floré Balance has 80 billion CFU/g, making it a high-dose prebiotic and probiotic. You can buy it in powder form or pour each capsule into your smoothie (just remember to store ’em in your fridge; these are living microorganisms). To make sure you’re getting the optimal blend, do the brand’s Personalized Probiotics & Gut Microflora Test. The subscription plan of your custom probiotics is $99/month; and they offer free reformulations until you feel an improvement.
4. All-in-One Vitamins and Minerals
Sometimes it’s difficult to get all the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. Boosting smoothies with all-in-one powders is the easiest way to solve that problem. The quality of these powders is extremely important, so in this case you really do pay for what you get (i.e. higher-quality nutrition without contaminants).
Top choice: Athletic Greens
Why we like it: One scoop of Athletic Greens provides 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced ingredients geared toward aiding digestion, gut health, nervous system support, immunity, energy production, healthy aging, and hormonal and neural support.
Other superfood add-ins to give your smoothies a boost include:
- Go RED Superberry Exercise Recovery Blend: This exercise recovery blend is loaded with potent antioxidants to help aid in cellular repair, alleviate exercise-induced muscle damage, and support the immune system.
- Laird Performance Mushrooms: Mushrooms are powerhouse foods that provide a ton of health benefits. This powder combines chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane, and maitake mushrooms. It’s the perfect addition to your smoothie to contribute to overall wellness, and keep your body and mind fueled all day long.
- Cherrish Tart Cherry Juice: Tart cherry juice is one of the most popular recovery beverages for athletes, since it has some of the highest amounts of anthocyanins—antioxidants responsible for reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Ayni Smooth Digestive Superpowder: This supplement combines bioavailable prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and adaptogens in one palatable powder. Turmeric and cinnamon (adaptogens) fight inflammation; maqui berry (antioxidants) and prebiotic inulin (prebiotic) feed good bacteria in the colon, and improve nutrient absorption; and cat’s claw (adaptogen) helps cleanse the GI tract while green papaya (fiber-rich digestive aid) promotes regularity. Cinnamon and turmeric are the main flavor profiles, but its overall earthiness makes it especially good with chocolate protein powder.
The Best Smoothie Recipes for Men
Best Smoothie for Recovery
If you work long hours but are training for a half-marathon in your free time, you need a smoothie that’s loaded with nutrients that boost cognition and aid recovery from early-morning training sessions.
Best Smoothie to Build Muscle
If your goal is to gain muscle mass and strength, and you’re training five days a week, you need to prioritize protein. If you struggle with poor appetite in the morning or after a workout, this smoothie is easy to get down.
Best Smoothie to Lose Weight
If your goal is to lose 10 to 15 pounds over the next three months while preserving muscle mass, drink this smoothie to replace your usual breakfast. The recipe is ideal for someone who’s dairy adverse or lactose intolerant.
Jordan Mazur, M.S., R.D., is the coordinator of nutrition and team sports dietitian for the San Francisco 49ers.
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