by Matthew Kadey

When you’re looking for a quick breakfast or post-ride fuel, nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blended drink can provide you with the necessary mix of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and antioxidants to promote health and kick start muscle recovery. But a smoothie can be so much more than just milk, fruit and a scoop of protein powder. The items below can turn any smoothie into a nutritional heavy hitter.

Beets

It turns out that a root vegetable might be one of the best natural performance boosters around. Recent studies suggest that nitrates in beets are converted into nitric oxide in the body, which works to widen blood vessels. The outcome is increased blood flow to working muscles, allowing for improved exercise performance. Ruby beets add earthy sweetness to smoothies, not to mention stunning colour.

Blend this
In a blender, whip together the following until smooth: 1 cup coconut water, 1 medium-size chopped beet, ½ cup frozen raspberries, ½ cup plain yogurt, 2 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup, 1 tsp fresh ginger and ½ tsp cinnamon.

Matcha

Green tea meet your matcha. Made from ground tea leaves, matcha green-tea powder contains close to 137 times more antioxidant potency than traditional green tea. Antioxidants are thought to help athletes by reducing the oxidative cell damage associated with high-intensity training. Matcha works well in smoothies with tropical flavours, such as mango and coconut.

Blend this
In a blender, whip together the following until smooth: 1 cup light coconut milk, ½ cup silken (soft) tofu, 1 cup frozen mango cubes, 1 tbsp fresh mint, 2 tsp honey, 1 tsp matcha powder and 1 tsp fresh ginger.

Avocado

Avocado transforms a smoothie into a deliciously creamy treat, not to mention infusing it with a payload of nutrients including folate and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. The most flavourful avocado for a smoothie is one that gives slightly when squeezed.

Blend this
In a blender, whip together the following until smooth: 1 ½ cups water, ½ avocado, 1 cup baby spinach, ¼ cup parsley, 1 frozen banana, ½ cup plain yogurt, juice of ½ lemon and 1 tbsp honey.

Ricotta Cheese

This creamy guise of cheese is particularly abundant in whey protein. Studies have shown that whey is among the best types of protein you can eat to promote muscle recovery and growth. To trim saturated fat from your smoothies, opt for light versions of ricotta.

Blend this
In a blender, whip together the following until smooth: 1 cup milk, ½ cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese, ½ cup frozen blueberries, ¼ cup rolled oats, 2 tbsp almond or peanut butter, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract, ½ tsp lemon zest and ¼ tsp cinnamon.

Canned Pumpkin

Puréed pumpkin lends smoothies a natural sweetness and mega amounts of beta carotene, an antioxidant that revs up immunity and promotes good vision. Be sure to choose 100 per cent canned pumpkin instead of pumpkinpie filling.

Blend this
In a blender, whip together the following until smooth: 1 ½ cups milk or non-dairy alternative, ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée, 1 frozen banana, 2 tbsp walnuts, 1 tsp vanilla extract and ¼ tsp allspice.

Quinoa Flakes

With the rising tide of athletes following gluten-free diets, quinoa flakes offer an opportunity to bolster smoothies with a shot of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals sans gluten. The flakes are made by passing the whole quinoa through a roller to flatten the seeds. Look for them at health-food shops.

Blend this
In a blender whip together the following until smooth: 1 cup apple cider, ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup quinoa flakes, 3 tbsp pecans, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, ½ tsp orange zest and ¼ tsp cinnamon.

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