Typical endurance athlete nutrition wish-list: Lose fat, gain muscle, improve strength to weight ratio, continue to improve on the bike/run/climb and feel strong while training/racing, no cramps, no bonking, no stomach issues, no starving. Stay healthy throughout the season. Recover quickly. Train/race harder the next day.
A tall order, I know. And, it’s the same list from pros and amatuers. There are many factors that go into a nutrition plan to cover all daily nutrition and training nutrition. In previous posts, we’ve dicussed a lot of options for hydration, lytes, and fuel during training. This week, my Healthy Fuel recipe will provide some support for many of these other requests…and it’ll taste good doing it.
Recipe of the week:
Before-Bed Muscle-Sparing Chocolate Cherry Protein Shake
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
- ½ cup water
- ½ Tbsp organic coconut oil
- ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt (or, 1 scoop any protein powder at 80-100 calories)
- ½ cup pitted cherries or berries
- 1-2 Tbsp organic cocoa powder
- Place chia seeds and water in blender or food processor. Allow to set for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from clumping up.
- Add remaining ingredients. Process/blend until smooth.
- Don’t allow to set for long, or you’ll end up with pudding (the chia seeds will continue to “gel”). Drink ~30-60 minutes before bed.
Why a pre-sleep protein shake? There’s a few reasons to drink up:
First, here’s how it can help you lose fat:
- Many athletes, who are trying to lose fat, find that they are hungry, or eat out of habit, before bed. This shake made with chia seeds, provides satiety to help fill you up, without a lot of extra “junk” dessert calories that you don’t need.
- Having a set portioned dessert can save a lot of calories compared to “grazing.” I often recommend that clients “close the kitchen” after dinner or after a small dessert, and not allow themselves to graze throughout the evening. If you plan on this one shake after dinner, there’s not any gray area that allows extra calories to creep in.
- The healthy fats in the shake, including medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from coconut oil and omega-3s from chia seeds promote healthy, steady hormone levels that discourage insulin resistance. It’s a long story, but overall, the less insulin resistance (and more insulin sensitivity), the less fat accumulation.
How it helps you spare muscle:
- If you’re training hard, your body continues to burn extra calories long after you park the bike. During the night, as you fast for several hours, your body will burn some muscle in the absence of food intake. Long lasting proteins, like those found in Greek yogurt, provide a steady stream of available protein that can reduce overnight muscle catabolism. In fact, the dairy proteins specifically contain branch chain amino acids and glutamine, which distinctly promote muscle recovery after training. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s not just wishful thinking…studies show reduced catabolism and increased muscle gains when protein is consumed by athletes before bed. Don’t eat dairy? No worries, nut proteins, soy, or vegan mixed proteins are all good choices for a pre-bed muscle sparing shake.
How it improves overall health and wellness:
- This shake is simply loaded with health-promoting nutrients. Cocoa and cherries/berries promote reduced bodily inflammation and provide loads of antioxidants, chia seeds provide fiber and super healthy omega-3s fats, and organic coconut oil provides a good energy source in MCTs that are also anti-inflammatory.
When you’re ready for bed, you’re ready for my muscle-sparing shake. By cutting down on evening snacking and filling up on protein, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants, you can give your muscles an edge and keep them around for when you need them.
Give your body what it needs everyday and during training with the right Foods, Drinks and Supplements. If you would like my help with it, I offer comprehensive plans as Instant Downloads and as Custom Clients starting at just $20. And, as a FuelRightBlog reader, get a further discount with coupon code: password-frblog username-reader. I’d love to work with you!
Post-script: A Q&A that I’d like to share with everyone:
Q: Thanks for the recipe. Will it also help me sleep better at night? I don’t eat before bed and I am wondering how this will affect my sleep.
A: Good Morning, Thanks so much for your comment. This is such a legitimate concern, and I’m happy for the chance to address it. In my experience, 2 issues that can negatively affect sleep when actively trying to lose fat AND train hard are 1) a too-hollow-stomach feeling going to bed, and 2) too much liquids before bed. Obviously, this shake should help anyone who’s keeping dinner intake light to have some satiety before going to bed – the whole food protein + fiber really helps. For the latter, this is the exact reason I’ve kept the liquid to just 1/2 cup, which is quite a small amount for a shake, and makes for a very thick shake. The total volume of it is just 1 cup when you’re all done, so the goal is to pack a lot of filling, muscle-sparing ingredients, without too much volume and liquid. As always, I recommend “light” dinner of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats, so you should still not be “stuffed” going to bed. I hope this answers your question and I wish you many good nights of sleep (one of the most important aspects of wellness!). Take care! Kelli