The 7 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Post-Workout Smoothie
You get off the spin bike after a tough workout or finish your last set of jump squats and think: What can I eat to fuel my body, help rebuild muscle fiber, and lower inflammation? It's normal to feel inflamed, sore, and a little tired after a tough workout, since not only have you depleted your fuel stores and the glycogen stored in the muscles, but you've overtaxed muscles and in lifting weights or pushing your limits, you microscopically tear the muscle fibers that allow your body to build them back stronger.
Inflammation is normal, and even beneficial, to a point. After working out, the blood flow rushes in to remove waste, lactic acid, and damaged cells, and replenish your muscles with oxygen, energy, and protein. So what you choose to eat or drink in the hours after working out can mean the difference between feeling fresh, rested and energetic for the rest of the day and several days to come, or not seeing results and even flirting with injury.
Repairing and refueling are vital parts of the recovery your body needs to build fitness over time and avoid injury. This anti-inflammatory post-workout smoothie is designed to help you reach your fitness goals and fight inflammation as your body rebuilds muscle, to be ready to hit it again the next day.
How to Make an Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie
This smoothie has all the secret ingredients you need to fight inflammation and add clean plant-based protein to help build muscle.
If you're like me, or any other ambitious athlete, something is always flaring up to remind you that you have inflammation in the body: There are familiar aches and pains that persist, no matter how many times you take Advil, apply ice to the sore spot, or use KT tape before heading out for a run. Shin splints, sore knees, hip pain, sciatica, a bad back, or a frozen shoulder. It seems like there is always some body part that flairs up just as you are trying to get in better shape and up your volume of working out. That's why fighting inflammation is important, and you can do it with food.
Here are the ingredients you need to add to your smoothie to make it super anti-inflammatory, healthy, and full of plant-based protein, without all the added sugar and other fake ingredients.
1. Spirulina is Key
First, my favorite anti-inflammatory natural ingredient is Spirulina. The best way to get it is in actual spirulina blocks that are deep dark green, frozen, and easily add a boost of antioxidants to your smoothie. Any other color will take a backseat to the spirulina if you use frozen cubes so expect your berries and other ingredients to just be backup singers to this star of the show. Obviously, you are also welcome to add spinach, kale, parsley, and any other green leafy vegetables that you wish, but those are a bonus since they add lots of fiber and vitamins like A, E, K, and C, all of which will help boost the anti-inflammatory qualities of your smoothie.
Read More on the Health Benefits of Spirulina
2. Next Add Sea Moss
Sea moss may be amazing for you but to eat it is gross. I mean no offense to the sea moss plants of the world, but I find the gel a little too ... gelatinous, and the texture gag-worthy. That said it is also the most potent stuff on the planet, containing 92 known nutrients that include vitamins, minerals, and a lineup of powerful antioxidants. Sea moss appears to fight inflammation and when you put it in a smoothie you barely know it's there. So add it. (Note, I tried it as a face mask and it cleared up my pimples, so while you're adding it to your smoothie rub some sea moss on your face!)
Read More on the Health Benefits of Sea Moss
Seeds are the unsung heroes of a plant-based diet. Whether you add Chia Seeds, Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or all of them, your smoothie and your body will benefit. Seeds contain fiber, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are in short supply in the Standard American Diet, so add them and make sure to eat seeds every day. As a bonus, flaxseeds are high in lignans, which are believed to lower cholesterol.
Respected cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn tells his patients to get flaxseeds into their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are also in walnuts so if you want to throw a handful of those into your smoothie, you'll be doing your heart and your brain a load of good.
Read More on the Health Benefits of Flaxseeds
4. Roots Like Ginger and Turmeric
Depending on how spicy you like your smoothie, you can add a little or a lot of ginger and turmeric, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. For me, a little goes a long way since ginger burning the inside of my mouth, including chapped lips, is not the way I like to start the day. But if you can stand it, add it, since these will add another jolt of antiinflammatory, gut-healthy compounds to your morning drink.
5. Blueberries and Other Colorful Fruit
What's in your fridge? Blueberries? A few other pieces of fruit hanging around? Don't let them go to waste. Dump in the berries then cut up the nectarines, and add any citrus, including frozen pineapple or other berries you may have in the freezer. A diverse variety of colorful fruit is going to deliver antioxidants and phytochemicals that all help your gut microbiome be healthier. Diversity is key here, as are the deep blue, red, and orange colors of your fruit since each one is associated with a different group of vitamins and healthy nutrients. Plus fruit adds fiber to your smoothie which keeps the body digesting slowly and you feeling full longer.
Read More on the Benefits of Blueberries
6. Sunflower Seed Butter
You can add almond butter, cashew butter, or any other butter to thicken and add protein to your smoothies. But I choose sunflower seed butter because sunflower seeds provide phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B6 as well as vitamin E. Your body needs vitamin E to function at full throttle. Look for seed or nut butter with the fewest ingredients, or you can also just make your own or throw a handful of sunflower seeds in (the unshelled kind) to get the selenium (another powerful nutrient you need) and other nutrients found in sunflower seeds.
Read More on The 6 Seeds With the Most Protein Per Serving
7. Plant-Based Protein Powder
I am partial to Happy Viking from Venus Williams, but you should feel free to find the powder that works best for you. Venus Williams founded this company (first launching protein shakes) as a way of creating a clean recovery drink for herself. She went mostly plant-based after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that sapped her energy and threatened to sideline her from her beloved game of tennis.
She told The Beet that she needed to get away from inflammatory foods including meat and dairy and focus on eating more plant-based foods. Whatever your reason for choosing plant-based protein powders, know this: Whey and casein have been proven to be inflammatory and casein has even been linked to tumor growth in the lab. Skip that and choose blends of yellow pea, brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds, hemp, almond, and other proteins that grow in the ground.
Finish It Off With a Splash of Almond Milk or Other Plant-Based Milk
Add some almond or oat milk, preferably unsweetened, but if you have vanilla flavor make sure yours is free of chemicals like carrageenan which can cause inflammation in the body. I prefer the cleanest formulas I can find, such as JOI which is an almond paste (the name stands for Just One Ingredient) and you mix it with water to make milk.
Or, try the brand Malk, an organic, clean plant milk company that uses no fillers, gums, binders or carrageenan, or anything else fake. Find one you like that has only filtered water, organic almonds, pure organic vanilla extract, and Himalayan pink salt and that's it. Salt could be a downer for you but after a workout, I actually need to replace some sodium so it's fine as long as you have no issues with blood pressure. You actually need to add back the salt and electrolytes you lost!
That's it. Add some ice and blend on Pulse until smooth and sip. I warn you the green color is intense – almost a blue-green due to the spirulina – which could stain clothes, counters, and even your teeth. So clean it up when done and brush your teeth to get rid of the stain. My blender makes two smoothies worth so I refrigerate the rest. Enjoy!
For more great ideas on how to be your healthiest, see The Beet's Health & Nutrition stories.