Nutrition

Post-Ride Recovery Shake

Nutrition is so important not just before your ride to fuel your work out, but also after your ride to help your body replenish and recover. After exercise, nutrition is responsible for initiating the rebuild of damaged muscles, restoring energy reserves, and enhancing body composition. Essentially, nutrition shifts your body from a catabolic (breaking down) state to an anabolic (building up) state. 

If you do not refuel adequately within the anabolic window (that’s 2-4 hours post-work out), you risk moving into the catabolic state. Your ride has primed your body for catabolism; it’s acidic and inflamed from all your hard work, and now desperately needs a boost from food in order to continue building rather than breaking down.

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The quickest and healthiest way to get all the nutrients you need after your ride is with a homemade recovery shake. Smoothies and shakes are great when you’re in a state of fatigue, because they have been pre-digested (or “pre-chewed” – sounds gross, but basically blending all the foods up is taking some of the work away from your digestive system, which is a good thing). They also allow you to pack a whole lot of good stuff into one cup.

Here is a simple formula for whipping up a post-ride recovery shake, with lots of ideas for delicious combinations:

  1. Choose a base liquid: coconut water, nut milk, fresh pressed juice, green tea, or just filtered water.

  2. Add a carb: banana, dates, frozen mango, pineapple, or berries.

  3. Add a protein: hemp hearts, chia seeds, nut butter, or protein powder.

  4. Add an antioxidant-rich superfood: spinach, spirulina, turmeric, ginger, or cacao nibs.

That’s it! The ratio of carbs:protein should ideally be 4:1 in order to adequately promote glycogen recovery and stimulate muscle synthesis. The antioxidants help to offset any oxidative damage that occurred from your huge expenditure of energy over the past 45 minutes.

Our favourite combo? Almond milk, frozen banana and mango, a scoop of hemp hearts, and a handful of spinach with a chunk of fresh ginger. Yum!

Enjoy!

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?

It’s a launching pad for clean eating,
a stepping stone towards optimal health.

We all know that to be “healthy” we have to eat our fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and sleep deeply. If we do these things, we’ll probably feel pretty good most of the time. But what a lot of us don’t know is that it’s possible to feel more than pretty good. It’s actually possible to feel great, a lot of the time, and what’s crazy is that so many of us don’t even know what that might feel like. We’ve gotten used to feeling pretty good.

As a holistic nutritionist-in-training, one of the epiphanies I keep having over and over again is that we’ve given up on optimal health. We’ve decided that feeling fatigued, sleeping restlessly, having digestive problems, experiencing debilitating PMS, and more is normal. These things might be common, but they don’t have to be normal. There’s so much more contributing to your health than vegetables and water, and when you start to nurture these other areas – like relationships, time in nature, a diet rich in local and seasonal foods – and when you start experimenting with possible ways to lend your body a hand – like with supplements, different food preparation techniques, and cleansing – you might notice that you feel better than you thought you could.

Cleansing is the practice that scared me the most. I eat a lot. My days are long, typically keeping me on the go from about 6am to 10pm, and I work out for work, teaching 10-12 spin and barre classes a week. Those two factors combined mean that my calorie consumption is probably much higher than it is for other women my age and size (although I’ve never counted a calorie and couldn’t begin to guess how many I consume and burn in a day, sorry not sorry). I also love food. I see it as fuel, I see it as medicine, but I also see it as the most fun and creative part of my day. I like to cook, I like to eat, and I did not like the idea of not doing those things for a few days.

In school I learned that one of the major health practices missing from Western culture is fasting, or cleansing. Plenty of ancient traditions and Eastern cultures have fasting built into their customs and rituals. And guess what? They have much healthier digestive systems than we do. (There are other contributing factors, of course. For example, fermented foods are missing as a staple in most Western diets. And we eat a lot more sugar and refined carbohydrates.) Digestion is the bodily process that takes up the most energy. If your digestion is sluggish, it could not only be stopping you from absorbing necessary nutrients, but could be contributing to that overall feeling of fatigue that seems to plague so many of us. We abuse our digestive systems, pouring in tons of processed foods, alcohol, dairy, and other foods that are tough to break down, but, what’s almost worse is that we never give our digestive systems a break. While it’s still working on the ice cream from last night, we’re up again and giving it some coffee to contend with.

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I knew all of this, but I was still resistant to try a cleanse myself, because I didn’t want to feel hungry. I couldn’t imagine having only water or juice for several days in a row. Then, a local smoothie company called Blended For You approached me and asked if I would try one of their smoothie cleanses. This sounded like the perfect fit for me: I could give my body the break from food that it needed, but still get all the vitamins and nutrients I craved for fuel, and enjoy different blends of flavours and ingredients throughout the day.

I tried the Trainer Cleanse, which consists of five smoothies a day for three days. I loved that each smoothie was so different, and that I was given an order in which to enjoy them – it took out the guesswork and made me feel supported along the way. I started my day with the Greens Daily Dose, had the Greens Detox, The Athlete, and The Remedy on-the-go throughout the day, and ended my day with the Blueberry Boost. Each one was packed with a hearty base of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like coconut oil or almond butter, and had different therapeutic boosters such as dandelion root, spirulina, turmeric, and more.

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The smoothies come to you packaged and frozen. I would simply move tomorrow’s smoothies from the freezer to the fridge, and when I was ready to enjoy, I would add the smoothie to a mason jar with either coconut water or just filtered tap water, shake it up, and drink. It was quick and easy, and delicious. My favourite smoothie was definitely the Greens Detox. It’s a spicy smoothie made with spinach, kale, lemon, avocado, cucumber, cayenne, vegan protein blend, turmeric, ginger, dandelion root, and chlorophyll. Wow! That’s a good pre-work out smoothie. I hadn’t felt that energized in a long time.

What I love about Blended For You, aside from the fact that they’re a local company making health more accessible, is that they really aim to use the smoothie cleanse to set you up for success moving forward. This cleanse is not about taking a break from bad habits so that you can return to bad habits with more vigour; rather, it’s a launching pad for clean eating, a stepping stone towards that state of optimal health the we were talking about. They provide an awesome ingredient guide that gives you plenty of ideas for how to structure your diet after the cleanse so that you can continue to feel great.

So, how did I feel on the cleanse? I felt good! Mornings were the best part. I had more time, I had a kick of fresh vitamins, and I felt motivated by my healthy choices. I also probably taught some of the best classes I have in a long while, because I felt lighter, more focused, and more energized. By dinner time, I was hungry. I ended up steaming some broccoli and carrots for a small meal, just to get the sense of my stomach feeling full. But in terms of energy levels, strength and endurance, mental focus, and mood – I was feeling better than usual.

The key, as always, is to listen to your body. That sounds a lot easier than it really is. It takes time to build that connection that allows you to really hear what your body needs. If you haven’t yet gotten the message that you need to cleanse, then don’t do it. But if you’re starting to sense that your system needs a bit of a break, I highly recommend the Blended For You smoothie cleanse as a safe and approachable option. And again, when cleansing, be flexible. Listen. A cleanse is not about starving your body (at all!), it’s about supporting your body.

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Cleanses don’t seem so scary to me anymore, but I do think I’ll stick to a Blended For You smoothie cleanse next time my digestive system needs a break, rather than diving into a water cleanse (not for me!). Since my cleanse, I’ve been turning to their smoothies to supplement my diet. I love the Greens Detox whenever I need an energy boost midday, and the Maca Energy is a great coffee replacement in the morning. Blended For You doesn’t only offer cleanse packages; you can handpick your own selection of favourites, and sprinkle them into your diet, which is a great option if you feel like you need a boost of nutrients.

And guess what? All Cadence riders get a discount on their first purchase from Blended For You! Use code CADENCEVAN$15 upon purchase to get $15 off your first order, valid until March 31.

If you have any questions about the smoothies, or about cleanses or nutrition in general, feel free to reach out by leaving a comment below or finding me in the studio.

-Olivia

Spin Snacks

The key is to listen to your body

As a fitness instructor and nutritionist-in-training, I often get asked about the best foods to eat before and after work outs, and when exactly to be eating. Just as for all things health-focused, the answer is going to be different for everybody. Depending on metabolism, routine, health goals, preferences, and so on, there are going to be different “best” eating and exercise plans for each person. For example, if your favourite go-to spin class is at 6am and your health goals at the moment are to slim down, my recommendation to you would be far different than an after-work spinner whose main health goal is training for a PB at her next triathlon.

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Having said that, there are a few rules of thumb that the majority of us spinners can use as guidelines. First, eating after class is more important than eating before class. Now, if you’re attending a 530pm spin, of course you will have eaten throughout the day, but for those 6am and 7am spinners, it’s sometimes hard to know if you should set the alarm 15 minutes earlier to grab a bite, or hit snooze and show up on an empty stomach. The truth is that the jury’s still out on the exact effects of fasting pre-workout, and for long-duration exercise you would definitely want to fuel up beforehand, but for a 45 minute early-morning ride, it’s not a bad thing to save breakfast for after. You’ll be more likely to avoid cramps, and your body will use fat stores instead of carbs for energy (which doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re losing fat, FYI, but it might . . . more research is needed). 

The caveat here is that you do have breakfast right after. You don’t have to have a granola bar in your pocket to consume during your cool down, but you do want to make sure you’re eating within the hour. If you eat before your ride, your body has some nutrients stored up to help you with recovery, but if you haven’t broken your fast yet, you need some protein and carbs, stat. Protein will help in muscle and tissue recovery and carbs will help restore your energy.

My favourite post-spin breakfast is this smoothie:

-3 big handfuls of spinach (it’s a lot of spinach)

-1 cup of frozen mango

-1 banana

-1-2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

-1-2 tablespoons hemp hearts

-1-2 cups almond milk

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I use this recipe as my smoothie base every day, and then throw in whatever else tickles my fancy that morning (a spoonful of almond butter, cinnamon, an orange . . .). It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, but, even more important for your post-spin breakfast, it’s got all the carbs and complete proteins your body needs to recover and refuel.

If you’re reading this wide-eyed, wondering how anybody could possibly hop on the bike without having a bite first, then you’re not alone. Lots of us most definitely need to eat before a work out, whether or not the sun has risen yet. The key is to listen to your body, and if you’re hungry, then eat. My recommendation would be a piece of fruit, as this will be digested quickly and keep you feeling light as you ride, while also giving you instant energy. Melon is the most quickly digested, so if you’ve got some cubes of cantaloup in the fridge then go for that. A couple mandarin oranges, a banana, or an apple are all great options, too. If that doesn’t fill you up enough, add you favourite nut butter. My go-to is slices of apple dipped in almond butter (banana and peanut butter is the other classic option).

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What if you’re a 9-5er who heads straight from the office to the bike? You probably need a boost of energy en route. My green smoothie would be great for you, too (all that fruit will give you a healthy sugar buzz to get you going), or, if you didn’t pack around a smoothie all day, keep it simple with a handful of nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and pistachios are all good choices because they are high in protein and high in carbs, which is what you need to prevent muscle damage, while giving you energy to push yourself.

My favourite post-spin dinner is a big bowl packed full of whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats. I love building bowls right after a work out because you can assemble a nutrient-packed meal from leftovers, fresh produce, and whatever you happen to crave in the moment, and it can be done in just a few minutes. It’s important to eat within an hour to ninety minutes of your work out, to properly repair muscle tissue, refuel, and recover, so a bowl is a quick and easy way to do that. Here’s my basic recipe:

-A base of either quinoa or brown rice (or whatever other grain you have on hand)

-A handful of spinach (or whatever other greens you have)

-A big scoop of roasted veggies (whenever you have an evening at home, roast a big pan of small chunks of sweet potato, cauliflower, carrots, and your other favourite root and cruciferous vegetables – these are great to have on hand, stored in the fridge, throughout the week)

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-A big scoop of hummus

-Half an avocado

-A sprinkle of your favourite seeds (I usually go for pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, and a generous scoop of hemp hearts)

Other great add ins: sauerkraut, falafel, salmon, chickpeas, fresh veggies.

Drink lots of water after your ride, and it’s a good idea to add in some electrolyte supplements to replenish the mineral salts that you sweat out!

If you have any favourite pre- or post-ride meal ideas, please share below! And feel free to comment with any questions.

-Olivia