Ginger Pear Smoothie

Transform your regular fruit smoothie into a nutritious and delicious meal. For a silky smooth and yummy treat, Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer will give any fruity concoction that extra boost to help you thrive throughout the day. Adding Vega Health Optimizer to your blender takes your smoothie to the next level with complete, plant-based proteins, 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, plus full servings of MacaSure for hormonal support and immune-boosting ChlorEssence.

Ingredients:
•    1 serving (2 scoops) Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer
•    1 banana
•    1 pear
•    ½ tbsp fresh ginger, grated
•    2 cups almond, hemp or rice milk
•    1 cup ice

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Makes 2 complete meal-sized servings.

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What are some healthy but easy food alternatives to consume before, during and after training?  I hear this question often as people are becoming more aware of the importance of diet on performance and recovery. This is a good sign because it means most are starting to truly understand just how fitness is improved.  Simply put, stress (training) combined with adequate rest and proper nutrition is the recipe for improved performance.  Interesting to note, the better the nutrition, the less rest needed, therefore the faster performance improves. Here are some basic guidelines:

Before A Workout

The most important factor in a pre-exercise snack is digestibility. If the food eaten shortly before a training session, race, or even a routine workout requires a large amount of energy to digest, it will leave the body with less energy—the last thing you want before exercise.  Also, eating too much protein directly before intense exercise may result in muscle cramping, since protein requires more fluid to be metabolized than carbohydrate or fat.  Protein is for building muscle, not fuelling it.

For short bouts of high-intensity exercise, fuel up on simple carbohydrate. The healthiest source is fruit. Dates are a good choice since they are rich in glucose, a simple carbohydrate which goes straight to the liver for immediate energy. Fructose, also a fruit sugar, has a lower glycemic index than glucose, meaning it kicks in at slower rate once consumed, and it burns more slowly, which prolongs its effectiveness. Agave nectar, from the blue agave cactus, is an especially good source of easily digestible fructose.  Bananas, mangos, and papayas are also fructose-rich (and alkaline-forming). The combination of glucose- and fructose-rich fruit is a very good energy snack, providing both quick and prolonged energy.

The more endurance oriented the activity, the more fat you should include along with adding small amounts of protein.  The idea is to reduce the body’s dependence on glycogen and the need to consume more food.  Unlike glycogen, fat is plentiful and is near impossible to run out of therefore eliminating the possibility of running out of energy and “hitting the wall.”  I include a small amount of alkaline protein, usually raw hemp, and a source of essential fatty acids, such as ground flaxseeds or soaked almonds, for prolonged, high net-gain energy.

During A Session

Sweat consists of water and electrolytes, both of which need to be replaced during exercise.  Coconut water and dulse, (a seaweed), both rich in electrolytes, can help maintain smooth muscle contractions and energy levels.  In exercise sessions exceeding two hours, I’ll be sure to consume easily digestible nutrients as well, about every 25 minutes.  As I mentioned earlier, the combination of glucose- and fructose-rich foods, (in the form of an energy bar or gel), makes for an excellent quick-energy, endurance-boosting fuel.

Recovery

Immediately following a workout, once hydration has been achieved, the best foods to consume are fresh fruit with a small amount of protein in order to quickly restock depleted muscle glycogen stores. An hour and a half after finishing the snack is the optimal time to consume a balanced, nutrient rich, easily digestible meal.  I recommend a nutritious blender drink containing all the components of a complete meal.  A liquid meal is ideal because it will further reduce the strain on the digestive system during the recovery period. 

It is best to combine multiple sources of protein for balanced amino acid profile; I like using hemp, pea and rice together, as they make up a great synergistic combination. I like hemp protein especially because it is raw, chlorophyll-rich and contains anti-inflammatory properties that help soft tissue repair. pH is also an important factor to be aware of when making a recovery meal as lactic acid is a by-product of exercise. The consumption of plant-based alkaline forming foods will help to neutralize the typically acidic pH of a fatigued body, thereby speeding recovery. 

The most alkaline foods are those with the highest chlorophyll levels – dark, leafy greens are ideal.  However since dark, leafy green vegetables aren’t great for making blender drinks, I use chlorella.  Chlorella is a fresh water algae from Japan.  It possesses the highest amount of chlorophyll in nature, is rich in vitamin B-12 and contains almost 70% protein.

Maca, a Peruvian turnip-like root vegetable, is also an excellent food to help speed recovery and promote energy without stimulation.  Available at many health food stores in powdered form, maca helps to nourish and rejuvenate the adrenal glands.  After training or any other type of stress the adrenals become fatigued.  If the stress becomes chronic and not enough time is allowed for recovery, common symptoms of stress become apparent.

Ease of digestibility, high pH (more alkaline), raw protein source, and nutrient density are all major advantages that post workout plant-based food sources have over animal-based ones.  Vegan or not, for the first few hours after a workout, abstaining from animal products can facilitate a quicker recovery.

Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete, two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion and bestselling health authour. He is also the creator of the award-winning VEGA line of whole food products. www.brendanbrazier.com