After lifting, most of us think of drinking a protein shake. Protein in liquid form immediately after a tough workout is great for recovery and keeping us in an anabolic, muscle friendly state. However, just as important post-workout is carbohydrates and antioxidants. An intense workout uses our stored carbohydrate, glycogen, for energy. If we do not replenish these stores quickly, your next workout may suffer because your energy stores may be low. Carbohydrate, along with the protein, help stimulate insulin which will help deliver the protein as amino acids to the muscles. In fact, it appears a 2:1 ratio carb/protein is optimal for recovery. The muscle breakdown also can cause some free radical/oxidation damage as well as inflammation, and it is wise to increase your antioxidant and anti-inflammatory intake to help counterbalance the negative effects including muscle soreness. An intense workout can also temporarily leave the body’s immune system a bit low, although long term exercise helps to increase the immune systems efficiency. Having vitamin C and other immune system boosters should also be included in a post-workout meal.
Kiwi can offer a nice combination of these nutrients. Consuming 2 Kiwi (medium) will give you about 120 calories, about 30g carbohydrate , 6 g of fiber, and has a high content of flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants). It also contains about 3g of Vitamin E and is high in Vitamin C, both of which have antioxidant properties. The flavonoids, mostly found in the skin, have also shown to be helpful in blood vessel health. Flavonoids are also found in dark chocolate which is a major reason it is touted as a health food. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega 3 fatty acid found in the seeds of Kiwi, and has anti-inflammatory effects (think fish oil, which contains ALA as well). On top of all of these benefits, kiwi even has 1g of protein per piece!
Are all Kiwi created equal? No. Golden Kiwi has a bit more of these powerful nutrients, especially the antioxidant functions, however green Kiwi (also called Hayward) is not too far behind. I do recommend buying these fruits organic. The skin is prone to hanging on to pesticides and can be hard to wash off. Peaches are similar in terms of skin pesticides, and they usually make the list of dirty fruit that should be bought organic. I suppose kiwi isn’t as common, so it is usually not on the lists although it should be. If you do not like to eat the kiwi with skin, just blend it into your protein shake. Many of the health benefits come from the skin!
Kiwi is not a magic cure-all food, nothing is. However, it does pack a punch in terms of nutrients for its relatively small size. It has a great blend of nutrients that are perfect after a tough workout, or anytime for that matter. Of course, benefits of these nutrients vary and some claims are rather bold considering a lack of good science. The rage these days is all of these tiny compounds in fruits and vegetables that have wonderful effects. Whether they do or not is still debatable. However, kiwi has some proven compounds that can have great effects, without taking pills or expensive powders with flavor/color additives. Fruit and vegetable intake in general positively correlates with many health benefits from cancer prevention to maintaining a healthy weight. It goes in my ‘why not’ list due to all of the pros that go along with this fruit without any negative effects (unless you are allergic). I’d much rather enjoy a tasty fruit rather than scarf down some post-workout powder. Just stick to a basic protein shake and blend the kiwi with it or eat it whole.