Smoothies are fun and delicious, but they can also be good for you. Some smoothie shops, for example, advertise "boosts" of protein and vitamins at an additional cost.
Homemade smoothies can also be a tasty way to incorporate healthy ingredients into your diet, right from your own kitchen. Nutritionist Val Schonberg of EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting in Atlanta is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Licensed Dietitian (RDN, LD), and board-certified specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). Dance Spirit spoke with Schonberg about how to customize nutrition-packed and yummy smoothies to suit dancers' needs.
Pre-Class Punch: Raspberries + Banana + Coconut Water + Turmeric
Instead of loading up on protein powder before a class, Schonberg suggests dancers use carbohydrates and fluids that are easy to digest. Adding in certain spices, like turmeric, ginger, or cinnamon, will boost your smoothie's flavor and may also provide health benefits through their antioxidants.
Mid-Rehearsal Refresher: Banana + Berries + Nut Butter + Oats + Milk of Choice + Cinnamon
Schonberg says that a snack smoothie between classes or rehearsals should also include fluids and carbohydrates. Adding protein such as protein powder, oats, chickpeas, or nut butter at this stage can give a dancer additional energy to continue performing at their full potential.
After-Dance Delight: Greek Yogurt + Banana + Pineapple + Crushed Ice + Protein Powder + Leafy Greens
After class or rehearsal, a dancer should focus on the three R's: refuel, rehydrate, and repair. Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates to refuel your body after intense exercise. Fruits like pineapple are a delicious way to add sweetness and hydration to your smoothie, and crushed ice ups the water content while making it cool and refreshing. Kickstart muscle repair with protein powder or another source of protein, such as Greek yogurt or your choice of milk. Finally, add in some vitamins and antioxidants for good measure with a handful of greens, like spinach or kale.
Happy Hydrator: Coconut Water + Watermelon + Strawberries + Crushed Ice
For a refreshing and hydrating smoothie, blend coconut water for natural electrolytes, water-rich fruit like watermelon and strawberries, and crushed ice for a chilled consistency. Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and manganese make coconut water a natural alternative to sports drinks.
Soreness Soother: Blueberries + Leafy Greens + Tart Cherry Juice + Ground Flax Seed
Think of this blend like a delicious, fruity foam roller. Colorful fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants and polyphenols. "Polyphenols are chemicals found in plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," Schonberg says. "Tart cherries, pomegranate, and blueberries are examples of foods rich in polyphenols that have received attention for their capacity to aid in muscle recovery and attenuate muscle soreness." Ground flaxseed offers omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been shown to reduce muscle soreness.
Schonberg says that while smoothies make great snacks, dancers should not rely on them as meal replacements. "The most common problem I see is dancers who rely on protein powders as a primary source of protein, rather than cooking and eating whole foods," she says. "And green or veggie powders should not be a replacement for a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables."
So round out your morning drink with a granola bar or piece of toast with nut butter, and make sure to eat whole meals throughout the day. Another tip? Turn any smoothie recipe into a smoothie bowl and top it with even more nutrition-packed ingredients like nuts, granola, seeds, and nut butters.