By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
As more football coaches have turned their attention to nutrition as a way to gain an edge on the competition, smoothies have become popular pre- or post-workout snacks for players. A smoothie provides players with sustenance through nutrients and antioxidants while offering an opportunity to improve the taste with ingredients the players enjoy.
Nutrition consultant Molly Morgan shared 10 benefits of smoothies for players on the go.
- The convenience. Restaurant menus now often include smoothies as a healthy alternative to eating a larger meal with unhealthy sides. Convenience stores often sell bottled versions, and preparing a smoothie at home can be easier than making a sandwich.
- The nutrition value. Smoothies can be used in addition to meals to boost calories for players looking to add weight the right way. Smoothies also include nutrients and antioxidants. A smoothie can serve as a snack or a side for a full meal.
- The transparency. The toughest part about going out to eat is guessing what ingredients are used in the preparation of your meal – and the nutritional contents. If you’re counting calories, you may want to control your intake by making your own smoothie.
- The power of mixing. If you don’t enjoy eating fruits or vegetables on their own, try preparing a smoothie. You can mix a touch of cinnamon or honey to improve the taste. Just don’t go overboard with syrups or other sweeteners.
- Increase the protein intake. While Morgan doesn’t recommend adding protein powder to a smoothie, she does advocate for adding protein-rich ingredients such as Greek yogurt, protein-rich yogurt, and nut butters. A six-ounce cup of fruited Greek yogurt has about 13 grams of protein.
- Attention to detail. Once an athlete starts preparing his own smoothies, he is more likely to learn about nutrition. For instance, he might find that protein recommendations for teenagers are often misunderstood. Teen athletes need 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of weight. A 150-pound football player needs about 75 to 120 grams per day, at the most. Surpassing that recommendation can result in an unbalanced diet. When athletes have protein above and beyond their daily needs, it is crowding out calories from other key nutrients like carbohydrates and fats.
- Never miss breakfast. There are a couple of smoothie additions that help provide a perfect jump-start to the day. Those additions include the three necessary ingredients of any breakfast: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Those ingredients help to provide longer lasting energy. In addition to the yogurts listed above, try adding fish oils or flax oils as well as Chia seeds.
- A pre-practice fueling session. Smoothies before a workout or game should include protein, carbs, and be lower in fat. Ingredients that are easy on the stomach will help to avoid unexpected bathroom breaks. An example: 1 cup of vanilla yogurt with 1 cup of frozen mango cubes and a 1/4 cup of orange juice or coconut water. That will provide 325 calories, 3 grams of fat, 68 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of protein.
- A recovery boost. Recovery smoothies can be more focused on a blend of carbs and protein. Try a chocolate milk-based smoothie like: 1 cup of chocolate milk, 1 frozen banana, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. This provides 435 calories, 19 grams of fat, 55 grams of carbohydrates, and 17 grams of protein.
- Hydration on the go. A high-powered blender like a Ninja or Vitamix makes it easy to blend smoothies, and the attachment can be removed to take the smoothie on the go. Smoothies are hydrating and can count towards daily fluid goals/recommendations.
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