The days of hot, sweaty workouts are approaching. It's time to upgrade your after-exercise snack from a boring protein bar and a swig of lukewarm water to one of these refreshing protein popsicles. The formula is simple: Blend, freeze, enjoy.
Any liquid can be frozen into popsicle form, but protein smoothies are perfect for after a workout. Eating protein within an hour after exercising may help you build more muscle in the long run. Meanwhile, carbohydrates from sugar or starchy foods help to replenish glycogen in your muscles.
That's not a big deal after a short workout, but it can help you recover after a really taxing one.
Although smoothies can be sugary, adding protein to the fruit keeps them from being too much like sweets, and when you make them yourself, you can keep the sugar to a minimum and include whatever healthy ingredients you like.
You can meet your post-workout protein and carb requirements with almost any meal or snack, but on a hot day, the popsicle format is nutritious and refreshing. Convinced? Here are some smoothie-sicles to try.
This is my go-to smoothie recipe, fresh or frozen. Just put the ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth.
- 1 large banana
- 2 cups frozen mango chunks
- 2 heaping scoops of unflavoured whey powder
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups water
- Cinnamon and ground cardamom to taste
Divide into four servings and freeze. This smoothie also refrigerates well, if you want to keep both your options open. Just put the extra into a jar, and shake before drinking.
- 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
Blend these together, pour into five popsicle moulds, and you're done. The resulting popsicle is creamy and smooth, if a little bland. The taste will depend a lot on your protein powder, so sample the smoothie before you freeze it and consider adding a little more sweetener or maybe some vanilla extract or spices to punch up the flavour a bit.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Here's one for you crafty folks. A peanut butter smoothie gets layered with fruit and juice to make a sweet treat reminiscent of a PB&J sandwich. To be really fancy, you can make it like DailyBurn does, with an extra layer of peanut butter and a sesame seed garnish. We went for the simpler, two-layer option. Here's what you'll need:
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 1 cup skim milk
- 2 teaspoons honey (they recommend three tablespoons, which seems like a bit much)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
- 2 cups juice
Blend everything except the fruit and juice together, and fill eight popsicle moulds half-full. Let them freeze for an hour. Then, top off each pop with a few raspberries and some of the juice. DailyBurn calls for unsweetened raspberry juice, but we used strawberry lemonade.
The extra work pays off: This popsicle is creamy in the peanut butter layer (with a little tang from the yogurt) and tart and sweet in the "jam".
Or Build Your Own
You're probably catching on to the theme: Make any smoothie, then freeze it. To bring your wildest popsicle dreams to life, check out this smoothie formula infographic. In short, you choose a liquid, scoop in your favourite protein powder (or another protein source, like yogurt), and then add fruits and vegetables.
Most smoothies will benefit from a little bit of sweetener, so taste a spoonful and see what you think. To find the nutrition content of your creation, use a recipe analyser like the one at CalorieCount.com.
To freeze a smoothie without any special equipment, grab a paper or plastic cup, fill it about halfway and add a stick. A chopstick snapped in half will do the trick, or try a plastic fork or spoon. Thicker smoothies (like our banana-mango recipe) will hold the stick upright while it freezes.
If you're going to be doing this on the regular, it may be wise to invest in a set of reusable popsicle moulds. With either a store-bought or home-kludged popsicle mould, don't forget that it's easiest to remove the frozen treat if you run the outside of the cup or mould under warm water.
You can also buy disposable sleeves, to make something similar to those icy poles you may remember from your childhood - you know, the ones that came in giant room-temperature boxes. You can either knot the sleeves and lay them flat to freeze, or attach the tops of the sleeves to a shelf in your freezer with binder clips so they hang straight.
When it's time to eat, just push the popsicle out of the wrapping and enjoy.
While your home freezer is obviously the best place to store popsicles, a well-packed cooler may be able to keep frozen treats cold in your car while you run or hike or work out far from home. If you're training with a group, an ice chest filled with popsicles will make you an instant team favourite. Slurp and enjoy.