Train Hard, Recover Smoothly (plant-based protein smoothie review)

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After a pretty hard half marathon a weekend ago, the theme of the week for me has been recovery.

As anyone who has raced in the middle of marathon training will tell you, recovering isn’t as simple as taking a few rest days or dialing down the mileage. You still have to keep your eye on the big prize (in my case, the Boston Marathon), which means working a recovery week into a training schedule that’s just light enough to let your body repair itself, but still challenging to keep you on track.

When it comes to recovering from a hard race in the middle of training for another hard race, there are three main ingredients to consider:

1. Dial back the intensity of your runs in the week following the race, along with decreasing your mileage (Though, not by too much. For the seven people who like reading my weekly Boston Marathon training updates, I’ll sum up my recovery week training separately.)

2. Take your sleeping and napping schedule to the next level, getting as much sleep as you humanly can (I know: not always an easy thing to do when you’ve got children, jobs, and maybe even a social life to somehow fit into your already busy training schedule);

3. Pay extra special attention to what you eat and when.

OK, let’s talk about that last part. Food is always fun!

Some of you may know that I’m a no-meater. I live mainly on a plant-based diet, eat eggs a couple of times a week, and, very occasionally, add fish to my bed of rice and greens.

I do make a conscious effort to add micronutrients to my diet, be it via a multivitamin or large quantities of spinach. I love avocado and nuts, which give me plenty of fatty acids, even if it’s been weeks since I last ate salmon. And getting enough carbs in is rarely a problem for most runners.

One challenge I face when I’m in peak training, though – meaning I run or train for 12 or more hours a week – is getting enough protein. The recommended range of protein intake for endurance athletes is 1 – 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight (per NASM). For me, that’s roughly 60 to 100 grams of protein daily.

That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It’s not an unattainable requirement when you consider that a bowl of lentil soup may have anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein (depending on how large of a bowl we’re talking about), and that’s just one meal. Runner favorites like bagels and pasta (anything containing wheat, in fact), are pretty protein-rich, as well.

But if you’re a no-meat athlete, chances are you’re paying extra special attention to your protein intake – and if you aren’t, you should be.

It is around this time of the training cycle that I add a protein smoothie to my day, either as a quick post-run snack, or an afternoon pick-me-up. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been testing (tasting!) and enjoying a new hemp protein smoothie powder from Manitoba Harvest (received via Fit Approach: thanks, ladies!).

Now, something else you should know before I tell and show you about this is that in addition to being a no-meater, I don’t do dairy either. It’s an allergy, not a whim, so whey protein powders are not an option for me. That can be a bummer for those who expect their protein shake or smoothie to be… well, smooth. If you’ve experimented with enough plant-based protein powders, you’ll know that many can be a challenge to blend well and easily. For years, I stayed away from them because of the chalky texture and taste — or I would compromise by adding very little to a smoothie, so I wouldn’t actually taste it.

However, when I got my sample of Hemp Protein Smoothie flavors and saw Vanilla Chai in there, I knew I might have a smoothie-taste game changer right there.

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

So I put it to the ultimate test: a simple protein shake. Just pour 12 oz of almond milk over a serving of hemp protein smoothie powder and shake until smooth. I used a simple blender bottle like this one; no power blenders or anything fancy. And voila. The consistency was smooth, if not a bit thicker than I expected. (Since my first try, I’ve been mixing about 3/4 to a half serving of smoothie powder with 12 oz of Almond milk. I also tried it with water and it was good, but I prefer the nuttier taste of the almonds added to the vanilla and chai flavors of this smoothie!

Several friends noticed that the color of the smoothie is green. And that’s true! In addition to protein powder (15 g per serving), the smoothie mix contains an organic harvest greens blend of spinach, kale and broccoli. This gives the drink a bit of a green tint, and you can taste the greens a tiny bit, too. (Imagine adding some spinach to your morning smoothie — the effect is the same.)

Another “recipe” that became a quick favorite is a simple mix of the chocolate flavor powder, almond milk and a tablespoon of sunflower butter. That’s it! No fancy add-ons, no need for electrical outlets and super-powerful blenders. Just fill your Blender Bottle with almond milk, throw your favorite flavor of Hemp Protein Smoothie in your gym bag and, on your way out after a workout, add, mix, shake, drink — and recover!

Hemp Protein Smoothie cover

Last but not least: now through April 30, 2016, you can use code hempsmoothielaunch16 for 15% off Hemp Protein Smoothie products on And don’t forget to enter Manitoba Harvest’s photo contest by posting pictures of your favorite protein smoothies on social media, tagging @ManitobaHarvest and using the #hempproteinsmoothie hashtag. Participants will be entered to win a case of their favorite flavor of Hemp Protein Smoothie.

Wishing all who raced or trained hard these past few days a happy, healthy and smooth recovery! 🙂

Note: This post was sponsored by Manitoba Harvest. As always, opinions are my own.

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