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The 6 Best Smoothie Recipes for Better Performance and Health

Whip it good with these smoothie recipes to make healthy, energizing, and delicious drinks optimized for the needs of the endurance athlete.

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When you need some recovery nutrition in a hurry, or when you require something healthy in your belly that isn’t a bowl of oatmeal, there’s nothing better than a smoothie. For people who struggle to get enough protein and certain nutrients each day, a smoothie can also help fill in the gaps. And a frosty smoothie is undeniably refreshing when temperatures are soaring. No wonder why they have become sacrosanct for many fitness fanatics.

But too often athletes fall into smoothie repeat by whirling together the same boring ingredients over and over again – a habit that can prevent your blender drink from reaching its full nutritional potential. When certain ingredient upgrades are sent for a ride in a blender, what you get is a creamy drink with the goods necessary to help an active body recover better and reach peak health. After all, the permutations and combinations that go into a smoothie are nearly endless. So, yes, everything from spinach to cottage cheese can play a starring role in your next blender creation.

These ingredients don’t just taste good – science shows they can help you to optimize your athletic performance and recovery. Think outside the box with these ingredient pairings and smoothie recipes – as you’ll soon see (and taste), these power couples are the new blade runners.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Kefir + Sweet Potato 

(Photo: Getty Images)

Instead of milk, you should consider using tangy kefir as the base for your post-training blender drinks. This fermented dairy drink is laced with probiotics, microorganisms that can help improve the make-up of your microbiome which could pay off with improve digestive health and a more robust immune system, two benefits that should interest most triathletes. One study review suggests that a more diverse gut microbiota, which can be achieved by eating a greater amount of fermented foods like kefir, could help athletes better adapt to the stress of exercise. It’s also a good source of calcium to help you maintain break-resistant bones.

With sweet potatoes, you’ll benefit from a huge amount of beta-carotene contained within the flesh. Beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A in our bodies, which is then used to help improve bone and immune health. You certainly don’t want to blitz in raw potato, so steam or boil peeled cubes of sweet potato until tender and keep them stashed in the fridge or freezer to be used in smoothies at a whim.

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

  • 1 cup plain kefir
  • 1 cup cooked peeled sweet potato
  • 1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder of choice
  • 2 teaspoons almond butter or peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 small frozen chopped banana

Place all of the ingredients in a blender container in the order listed and blend until smooth.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Tofu + Spinach

(Photo: Getty Images)

If you prefer a plant-based lifestyle, but don’t love blitzing plant protein powders into your drinks, then tofu is a stealth way to give your smoothie a boost of protein. One-half of a block delivers about 10 grams of the macronutrient to help spur muscle recovery. The key is to use tofu that is labeled “soft” or “silken,” which blends effortlessly into drinks without making them taste oddly bean-y. The velvety bean curd is also a source of a handful of essential micronutrients including phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.

Spinach not only lends your smoothie the color of health, but also a huge amount of vitamin K. Research has linked higher intakes of vitamin K-rich foods like spinach with better heart functioning. Baby spinach is fairly neutral in flavor so is a great option for sneaking more veggies into your smoothies.

RELATED: Yes, You Can Make Muscle on Plant Protein

Big Green Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk
  • 1/2 block soft (silken) tofu
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 cup frozen mango cubes

Place all of the ingredients in a blender container in the order listed and blend until smooth.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Cottage Cheese + Frozen Blackberries

Cottage cheese isn’t always top of mind when considering smoothie ingredients, but the curds should be. Cottage cheese is packed with protein – about 15 grams in a 1/2 cup serving – to help your muscles recover better from a hard-charging workout. That makes it a more cost-effective source of protein for smoothies than Greek yogurt or protein powder. Cottage cheese also supplies bone-benefiting phosphorus and vitamin B12 to help with nervous system functioning.

All frozen berries will infuse your smoothie with anti-inflammatory antioxidants, but blackberries go beyond the call of duty by also giving you significant amounts of fiber – roughly 6 grams in a 3/4 cup serving. An important perk when you consider how important eating enough fiber is for gut health and disease prevention, and that very few of us eat enough.

Lemony Berry Cheesecake Smoothie

  • 1 cup milk or unsweetened dairy-free milk (or use kefir)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup frozen blackberries

Place all of the ingredients in a blender container in the order listed and blend on high power for 1 minute, or until smooth.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Avocado + Dried Plums

(Photo: Getty Images)

Avocado lends a smoothie a thick, fudgy consistency along with a nutrition payload for athletes including heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber, and a range of micronutrients including folate, vitamin K and potassium. An avocado smoothie is like a milkshake, but way better for you. Consuming at least two servings of avocado per week was linked with a 21% lower risk of a heart attack, compared with little or no intake, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The best avocado for use smoothies are ones that give slightly when squeezed.

Dried plums (or prunes) are an overlooked method of adding natural sweetness to smoothies and are more nutrient dense than dates. The nutritional bounty contained within dried plums includes vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and manganese. Plus, they are typically softer than dates, so they will blend with less effort.

Chocolate Fudge Smoothie

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 1 scoop plain, vanilla or chocolate protein powder of choice
  • 3 dried pitted plums (prunes)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Place all of the ingredients in a blender container in the order listed and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, blend in additional milk or water.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Navy Beans + Tart Cherries

(Photo: Getty Images)

It’s good and all to try to incorporate many different healthy ingredients into smoothies, but navy beans? You bet. They give the drink a creamy texture not to mention a nutritional boost including extra amounts of fiber and plant-based protein. And because they have a more mellow flavor than other beans, they won’t alter the overall flavor much at all.

Over the years, several research studies have shown that the antioxidants in tart cherries can help athletes in motion better adapt to training which may translate into improved performance metrics. In some stores, you can find bags of frozen tart cherries that are smoothie-ready, but you can also use soaked dried tart cherries to add a nutritional boost to your drink.

PB+J Smoothie

  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup milk or plain non-dairy milk of choice (or use kefir)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
  • 1/3 cup canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Place cherries in a bowl, cover with warm water, and let soak 20 minutes. Drain cherries and place them in a blender container with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

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Smoothie Power Pair: Watermelon + Hemp Seeds

(Photo: Getty Images)

Banana and berries aren’t the only fruit you should be blending. Watermelon is a naturally sweet addition to smoothies and true to its moniker is full of water to help with rehydration efforts. Plus, it’s a reliable source of lycopene—a potent antioxidant that contributes to cognitive longevity.

And don’t overlook hemp seeds as a smoothie addition: The subdued cousin of cannabis delivers great nutty flavor along with a praise-worthy amount of protein – about 10 grams in each 3 tablespoon serving. To up its nutritional cache further, the seeds are laced with must-have omega fatty acids and magnesium, a mineral that the National Institutes of Health says is involved in more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body including those that regulate DNA production, protein metabolism, and bone formation. Herbs like mint or basil are a great way to add summery fresh flavor to blender drinks for virtually zero calories.

Minty Watermelon Smoothie Bowl

  • 2 cups chopped watermelon
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoon hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries

Place all of the ingredients in a blender in the order list and blend until smooth and thick. Pour into a serving bowl. Garnish options included nuts, seeds, cacao nibs or granola.

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Upgrade Your Smoothie With These Mix-Ins

Whirling any of these products into your smoothies can take them to the next level.

Gnarly Whey

Protein-dense whey powder is sourced from grass-fed cows and enriched with both prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health.

Sambazon Acai Supefood Packs

Frozen acai puree delivers a hefty amount of recovery-boosting antioxidants and frosty sweetness.

KOS Organic Plant Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter

High-quality plant protein is bolstered by a range of micronutrients and a blend of nutritious fruits and veggies. Plus, who can argue against this flavor profile?

Navitas Organics Cacao Powder

Instantly adds deep chocolate flavor to your blender drinks and a big wallop of antioxidants.

Bob’s Red Mill Flax Meal

An inexpensive way to infuse your smoothie with nutty flavor and a wallop of nutrition including omega-3 fat and fiber.

Live Conscious Beyond Greens

Each scoop of the powder is a powerful mix of greens, functional mushrooms, prebiotics, and probiotics. And without making your smoothies taste too “green.”

RELATED: You’re Probably Making Smoothies All Wrong. Here’s How to Do It Right