Sports Nutrition: Looking Beyond Protein


When it comes to your post workout recovery needs, it isn’t all about the protein.

As a Sports Nutritionist, I’ve worked with both elite and everyday athletes, in strength and endurance based pursuits, and I often see limited knowledge around what nutrients help accelerate recovery, beyond protein.

I’ve seen first hand how the following nutrients can benefit any level of athlete or active individual, particularly to help speed muscle recovery and allow you to bounce back with resilience post-workout.



1q7a8491_miniIron-deficient anemia is the number one nutritional deficiency in the world1. I actually learned the hard way just how easy it is for female athletes, vegetarian athletes, and/or endurance athletes (I am all three) to become anemic. It takes deliberate planning, and smart supplementation to keep your levels up, and protein alone doesn’t supply this crucial mineral.

Now that I’ve experienced it myself, it’s all too easy to spot the early warning signs in others.

For athletes, a few common signals of having low iron will often be lethargy (and no amount of sleep seems to help), commonly catching colds and flus, lightheadedness, becoming overheated, winded or “gassed” too easily mid workout, and generally a loss in stamina (that may otherwise be attributed to overtraining). Visit your health care practitioner (MD or ND) for a blood test referral.

Iron plays a crucial role in helping transport vital oxygen from our lungs to our tissues, via our red blood cells. When we don’t have enough red blood cells, our immune system is suppressed and our heart must work harder to compensate for a lack of oxygen.

Find it in: Purefood Iron

I recommend female, vegetarian and/or endurance athletes take PureFood Iron at least 5x a week, in a smoothie combined with raw cacao powder, and a handful of dark leafy greens (such as chard, beet greens, or spinach).

Additional Whole Food, Plant-Based Sources:

Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, lentils, peas, potatoes, oatmeal.



B Vitamins

B vitamins help convert your food into energy, and are used as catalysts in the cellular repair process. Athletes lacking in B-vitamins may have a decreased ability to repair and build muscle2.

Subject: Several varieties of kale in a wood crate freshly harvested from a garden. Including Lacinato Kale, red Kale, and Green Kale.

B vitamins are also essential to help form hemoglobin in red blood cells, a major determinant of oxygen delivery to the muscles during exercise.

What I find interesting is how well both strength and endurance focused athletes respond to increased intake of B-vitamins. Strength athletes tend to notice more power or capacity, and endurance athletes more stamina, or “staying power”.

Find them in: PureFood B

Outside of smoothies, I recommend mixing PureFood B with mashed avocado on sprouted whole grain toast.

Additional Whole Food, Plant-Based Sources: whole grains, avocado, beans and legumes, guava, lemon, holy basil, spirulina.




Fresh citrus and ginger smoothies with fruit slices on rustic wooden background, view from above

Antioxidants defend against exercise induced muscle tissue damage, otherwise known as oxidative stress. While there’s inconclusive research to indicate that antioxidants offer a performance advantage, researchers do agree a diet rich in antioxidants offers a wider protective margin3. No wonder I see so many people confused about what to eat beyond protein!

Aim for a wide variety of sources, such as Vitamin C and E, selenium, polyphenols and carotenoids.

Find them in: PureFood C, and Smoothie Boosters

Perfect for adding to daily smoothies. I also recommend mixing PureFood C into chilled dips like hummus, or creamy nut butters, just before serving with chopped fruit or vegetables.

Additional Whole Food, Plant-Based Sources: citrus fruits, parsley, peppers, pineapple, papaya, cauliflower, broccoli.



Quality Carbs

Often overlooked in favour of protein, yet carbohydrates can actually help facilitate the absorption of certain amino acids found in protein, such as tryptophan. Carbohydrates also help replenish

preparation of sweet potatoes on cutting board.

glycogen, a form of energy stored in your muscle tissue.

Replenishing glycogen helps your muscles feel re-energized post-workout. This is especially helpful for athletes trying to fit in several training sessions within a short recovery window, or anyone wanting to bounce back after a workout and not feel too depleted.

What I often encounter is athletes who skimp on carbohydrates in an attempt to lean out, yet they aren’t recovering well from workouts and struggle to gain strength. Rather, I recommend removing refined grains, emphasizing whole foods, and simply keeping portion sizes in check.

Whole Food, Plant-Based Sources: Whole grains, legumes, fruit, root vegetables, squash, potatoes, yams. Combine a 1/2 cup to 1 cup serving with your choice of protein post-workout.


Beyond protein, whether you blend them into smoothies, or mix them in dips, organic whole food sources of vitamins and minerals along with a variety of antioxidant compounds, and quality carbs are a winning combination for post workout recovery, repair and resiliency.


Let us know what your go-to recovery eats are! Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

Emma Andrews Pranin Organic Ambassador Expert


Emma Andrews is a Vancouver based Holistic Sports Nutritionist (RHN), longevity educator, culinary explorer, and endurance athlete.





  1. World Health Organization. Accessed online 06/06/2017:
  2. “B-Vitamins play an important role in athletic performance”. Oregon State University Extension Service. Accessed online 06/06/2017
  3. “Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance”. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Accessed online, 06/06/2017
  4. Haas, Elson M., and Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.

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