Blackberry & Coconut Water Post-Exercise Recovery Smoothie

Well, I’m so darn inspired by this late summer weather we’re having, I thought it would be an ideal time to post about exercise nutrition. 

(That, and the small fact that our son is currently running 60 km/37 miles a week on average with his cross-country team.  We are getting a very quick sense of just how seriously Americans take their sports! When I inquired jovially about the two hour daily practices, Monday through Saturday, the coach looked at me square in the eyeballs and responded ‘this is not a club, it’s a sport.” Gotcha).

Exercise and Hydration 

It’s no secret that proper nutrition – before, during and after exercise – is an integral part of every athlete’s comfort, performance and recovery.  
Hydration, the hub of all biochemical processes in the body, is critical to athletic performance.  The average adult body is made up of 50-70% water. Even mild dehydration (1-5% loss of body water) has been shown to reduce efficiency and performance and can lead to early fatigue during exercise.    
Moderate Intensity Exercise of Less than One Hour

Every individual is unique but as a general rule, if you are working out at moderate intensity levels for less than a one hour period, water should be your primary hydration source (no need to flood your body with sugar and electrolytes it doesn’t need at this stage).

Higher Intensity Exercise of More than One Hour
If you are engaging in higher intensity exercise of more than one hour however, water alone will not suffice.  Your body sweats out vital electrolytes at this level and also requires carbohydrates to provide energy to working muscles. Electrolytes are essential minerals, including sodium and potassium, that are needed to regulate critical body functions like heart beat and blood pressure. When we sweat, we lose sodium and to a lesser degree potassium, magnesium and calcium.  Sodium is critical for transmitting nerve impulses and proper muscle function. Even a slight drop in blood sodium can cause problems (hyponatremia).

Sports Drinks vs. Coconut Water

Numerous studies have shown that sports drinks (which contain carbohydrates and electrolytes) can delay fatigue, enhance physical performance and speed recovery in athletes.  However, most of these drinks deliver carbohydrates in the form of processed liquid sugar including high fructose corn syrup.
Coconut water on the other hand, is derived naturally from the juice of young green coconuts.  It is lower in carbohydrates and calories than most sports drinks and higher in potassium. Coconut water also contains magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.
The one critical electrolyte that coconut water does not deliver in sufficient quantity however is sodium (athletes lose more sodium through sweating than potassium over prolonged exercise) and that is why I recommend adding a pinch of sea salt for exercise of more than one hour duration.
Hydration Prior and During Exercise 
Every individual will have different preferences for hydration prior to exercise however studies reveal that many of us continue to fall short of our needs.
As a general guideline, it is recommended that individuals consume in the range of 500 ml (16 ounces) of water prior to exercise and sip small amounts of water — every 10 minutes or so depending on intensity — during exercise.  Carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment generally only becomes relevant after one hour of exercise. 
If you are engaging in high intensity exercise of over one hour in duration, you can sip on a combination of coconut water with a pinch of sea salt and some orange juice and/or honey.

You can experiment with what works best for you but here’s an idea of what a homemade sports drink might look like: 3 cups coconut water, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1 Tbsp honey.

Replenishment, Repair and Recovery following Exercise
Following exercise, I recommend a recovery smoothie which has added protein (for muscle repair) and fruit (to replenish depleted glycogen stores naturally) while delivering antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which you will not get from high fructose corn syrup.  Exercise, like all metabolic processes, gives rise to free radical production and it’s important for athletes/exercises to avail themselves of a diet rich in antioxidants to offset this equation. 
I recommend consuming the smoothie ideally within 30 to 60 minutes of completing high intensity exercise of more than one hour in duration.  This time frame is generally viewed as the optimum window for replenishing glycogen stores and facilitating muscle repair and recovery.  
I prefer liquid nutrients at this stage for recovery as many athletes/exercisers feel they need time to relax their stomach muscles (and calm their sympathetic nervous system generally) after high intensity exercise and before taking in solid food.  Nutrients – notably carbohydrates and protein – in the form of smoothies, are ideal because they are easier to digest and more quickly absorbed by the body than solid foods.  For those who tolerate protein powders in smoothies this is also an option but if you prefer to source from whole foods, blended Greek yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds offer excellent sources.

A fun anecdote: Professional tennis player John Isner, who played the longest tennis match in history at Wimbledon in 2010, credits his 11-hour marathon endurance on the court to coconut water mixed with sea salt.  (Post-match he adds protein powder for recovery).

Blackberry & Coconut Water Post-Exercise Recovery Smoothie

Blackberry & Coconut Water Post-Exercise Recovery Smoothie
  • 1 cup (250 mL) blackberries, (frozen is absolutely fine)
  • 1 medium sized nectarine or peach, skin on chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL or more) coconut water
  • Handful (8 – 12) natural almonds
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt**
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) honey (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) sea salt

Serves 1

Nutrition Notes:

  1. You can use any combination of fruit that works for you.  Fruit is generally frozen at the peak of freshness so if fresh fruit is too expensive or not at its prime for whatever reason, frozen fruit is a great option.
  2. **You can substitute protein powder (whey or vegan) in place of the yogurt if preferred.  My experience is that occasional protein powder is generally fine for most but keep in mind that powder is not whole food and, if over-consumed, can lead to GI distress.  Discover how your body responds and adjust accordingly.


  1. Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until desired consistency is achieved.
  2. If smoothie is thicker than desired, simply add additional fluid — coconut water/water/milk beverage of choice.

© Inspired Edibles

I’m not gonna lie
I squealed like a girly when I saw my first lemon tree

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  1. Sandra @ Kitchen Apparel says

    eeee…I would squeal too if I saw lemon trees in people’s yards. My cousins who live in CA have a Mayer Lemon tree…brats!!! Hope you’ll one day be using fresh lemon juice from your own yard.

    What great information about hydrating after working out…I always heard that coconut water is better but I never understood exactly why. Love the combination of peach and blackberry in your smoothie. I’m sure your son loves coming home after practice to something like this.

  2. Angie says

    I adore the combo of peaches and blackberries in this wholesome smoothie. Indeed a perfect post workout drink.

  3. SallyBR says

    Well, I squealed like a girl with the notification of a new post from you, and one with exercise recovery advice, AND coconut water! You know how to please a native Brazilian who is admittedly addicted to exercise ;-)

    beautiful photos, the smoothie glass is a dream!

  4. Shu @ Mummy I can cook says

    LOVE THIS! So simple but so great for you. Back home in singapore, we could get fresh coconuts easily and after a hard workout there was nothing more refreshing than cracking open one and drinking straight from it- liquid gold! I still love coconut water so much; love your smoothie take on it with blackberry!

  5. Cowen Park Kitchen says

    I love coconut water as a post-workout drink! Sometimes I add a splash of cold coffee–sounds weird, but the flavor is great and it adds just a teeny boost of energy.

  6. Koko says

    60km a week….Kelly, that’s just insane. Good for him….whew!! Tired just thinkin’ about it.

    I love your tip about the sea salt!!! I’m so glad to have learned that…I thought coconut water replenished everything. I will add sea salt from now on!

    I started to say ‘blackberries and nectarines, two of my favourite things’ but then I kept reading and realized that coconut water, honey, greek yogurt, and almonds are all my favourites too. I guess this one is just huge smoothie of AWESOME.

  7. Libby with Lemony Thyme says

    Hi Kelly. I can’t wait to share this with my work family. We’ve just embarked on a Wellness Program which means increases exercise for many of us. This is such a great article and recipe. Thanks, Libby

  8. beyondthepeel says

    Great post Kelly. I love the extra little recipe for the natural energy drink (like homemade Gatorade). The smoothie looks amazing too. I was so excited the first time I saw one. My in laws live in San Diego and have a lemon tree. I always feel like I’m visiting another planet! The avocado tree and orange tree really contribute to that feeling too. SOOOO jealous.

  9. says

    Well that’s a way I could enjoy coconut water. On its own I find it very… I don’t know… bland – I think I expect too much from it, but when mixed up with other yummies I bet it’s delicious!

    I want a lemon tree :(

  10. says

    Nice Smoothie but I don’t think I ll get blackberries here but we have a lot of Coconuts from our trees. I often forget to drink during the day, I know bad habit! I found that drinking more then 1 glass of liquid before workout makes me heavy so I avoid doing that. thank you for all the info, need to remember that about the sodium.

    Your lemon tree is gorgeous!!

  11. Elizabeth says

    Kelly, the information in this post is incredible! You are so generous — thank you for making this available; it is incredibly useful/helpful and answers many of my questions about when to replenish with sugar vs. just sticking to water. I also like the way you provide an alternative to Gatorade. I am going to try this natural version the next time. Your smoothie is simply beautiful. Thank you for this post!

  12. Eva Taylor says

    My nephew swears by these energy filled smoothies, he usually has them on the go for breakfast; I’ll be sure to forward this one to him. That’s a lot of running, good thing your son has a nutritionist for a Mom, making sure he is well fed and hydrated. I saw that photo of the lemon tree on your FB and was equally as excited for you! It’s nice to see you back blogging Kelly. We’re heading back up north until Tuesday and then I’m afraid it’s going to be back to reality! Sigh.

  13. says

    A coconut water-based smoothie sounds excellent and completely new to me. I love smoothies with kefir base (I don’t know if kefir is popular in Canada… or US) thanks to its tanginess, but I would love to taste the coconut water version one day. Your presentation is as usually flawlessly beautiful.
    I am far from 60 km a week (I don’t run at all actually) but your exercise nutrition tips are very useful even for a very moderate exerciser ;-) .

  14. inspirededibles says

    Haha, I’m not in the 60 km/week bracket either Sissi! (my son has enough intensity for both of us ;-). Yes, Kefir is quite popular here in health circles — very similar to yogurt as you know, but with a thinner consistency and three times the amount of probiotic cultures! Coconut water on its own, as Charles suggests, is somewhat bland tasting but it’s full of nutrients and when combined with fruit = dynamite! :).

  15. inspirededibles says

    It’s a lot of running without rest — seems like a lot of structural stress to me but then again, I’m not 15 anymore ;-). Enjoy every moment at the cottage Eva… I will be thinking of you… labour day weekend is always a critical turning point in so many ways. Sigh indeed (but hey, fall cooking/baking is right around the corner!)

  16. inspirededibles says

    I’m so happy you found it useful Elizabeth! That’s always my goal; even if it only reaches one person but helps them, I’m peaceful :). Let me know how you like the homespun energy drink if you give it a try and any modifications you decide to make. Cheers to you – thank you for dropping in with your kind words and support.

  17. inspirededibles says

    Yes, my son is the same way, he can’t stand having liquid sloshing around in this stomach when he’s playing soccer — drives him nuts. That’s why I specifically mentioned ‘every athlete will have their preference’ — the science is one thing but you always know your body and performance best so it’s a bit of trial and error. Glad you like the smoothie Helene! Thanks so much for stopping in.

  18. inspirededibles says

    Yes, I seem to remember a San Diego connection (another great part of the world). It’s amazing to me that citrus trees are as common here as a birch tree would be at home. I’ve yet to see an avocado tree (double squeal!) — glad you like the homespun energy drink — it works really well!

  19. inspirededibles says

    Thanks so much for stopping by Libby – I’m delighted to here the information is useful to you and your work environment.

  20. inspirededibles says

    Haha, yup, seems like a lot, doesn’t it? (especially without break/rest days… that’s what I don’t get — too much structural stress). Anyhoot, hope you enjoy the coconut water concoction — yes, the salt is key at a certain point. It’s a nice little combination of ingredients — glad you like KoKo! :)

  21. inspirededibles says

    Weird is perfectly comfortable in my world :) — thanks so much for dropping in Fawn; I appreciate you taking the time and always love to see new faces at Inspired Edibles. Welcome!

  22. inspirededibles says

    I had my first fresh cut coconut (literally pulled from a tree) in Jamaica this past March. It was indescribably exciting and delicious — I had never had ‘fresh’ coconut before. There’s no comparison. Liquid gold is a perfect description Shu. Thank you so much for dropping in.

  23. inspirededibles says

    Thanks Angie — the combination does work rather well — so full of life and natural sweetness, delightful with the note of lemon.

  24. inspirededibles says

    Wow, mayer yet…brats indeed :). The breadth of vegetation and produce here is staggering. As my husband said the first day we arrived, ‘it’s as though every plant in the universe wants to grow here’ :). That pretty much sums it up. Cheers Sandra — glad you found the info useful. Yay!

  25. says

    My nephew was on the cross-country team at his CA college and yes, the coach, my nephew and the whole team took it very seriously. He was running 7 to 10 miles every morning and who know how many on the weekend. But having been I runner myself at one time, I do understand the addiction. :) Great advice on staying hydrated in so many ways and this is a great post-exercise smoothie! Love that handful of almonds that you threw in there.

  26. Emilie@TheCleverCarrot says

    Excellent recipe Kelly! I’ve recently started drinking coconut water… my husband loves it too! You know, now that you’re in CA, you can shop at my beloved Trader Joe’s!!! Is there one near you? Best store ever. They have coconut water for a great price :)
    Thanks for the wonderful tips too. Very thorough :) xo

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