Real Food Recovery Options for $1

Real Food Recovery Options for $1

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My previous post covers a bit about why chocolate milk is not some sort of magical recovery drink. It's just a cheap drink that has carbohydrate and protein and a whole lot of added sugar, artificial flavors and colors. Given my preference for real food and a common sense approach in regards to sport nutrition, I have been challenged to post a few real food recovery options that are better for you compared with chocolate milk, but do not cost more money. Here is the full challenge criteria:

  1. Similar CHO & protein compared with 250ml of chocolate milk, which is the common serving size recommended
  2. Cost needs to be as close as possible to $0.99 (the cost for 250ml chocolate milk in Canada)
  3. Under 5 minutes to put together, requiring no or very little kitchen equipment and easy clean up
  4. Portable

Here is the nutrition breakdown of 250ml (Island Farms) chocolate milk:

  • Calories - 180
  • Fat - 3g
  • Protein - 8g
  • Carbohydrate - 29g

It was not easy finding real food options that meet the above criteria, especially from a cost perspective, but as you can see below, it was not impossible either. There are always options and it is all about making good decisions.

Prices have been checked using Till Checker and the Thrifty Foods online shopping feature. Cost of produce varies, but you can sometimes find deals at most grocery stores/markets - check flyers and online! Note that the cost, as specified below is based on prices as checked this week, although I used the full price, not discounted price. FYI - Astro Greek yogurt and apple sauce are on special at Thrifty Foods right now... Your welcome :)

Option#1 - Apple sauce with banana & protein powder

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Let me start by saying that while some might say that protein powder is not 'real food', I think good quality protein powder (preferably whey isolate) is a much better option compared with chocolate milk.

Complement Balance apple sauce (unsweetened) comes in a 796ml container at a cost of $3.49. You need 1/4 cup, which is 62.5ml. This means that each 1/4 cup cost ~$0.27 and gives you 25 calories, 0g of fat, 7g of CHO (1g fiber) and 0.1g of protein.

A small banana, at 100g, cost ~$0.17. It has 90 calories, 0g of fat, 23g of CHO (3g fiber) and 1g protein.

For the purpose of this challenge, I looked for a protein powder that is listed on the NSF website, has no additives and is available in Canada. I ended up picking bipro (note: I am not promoting the brand, this is simply to check cost, etc). At $49.99 for a ~41 serving container, each scoop provides 20g of protein at a cost of $1.22 per serving. We need 10g for the sake of this challenge, making the cost $0.60. Calories are 40.

Total cost for this option is: $1.04. The nutrition breakdown is:

  • Calories: 155
  • Fat: 0g
  • Protein: 10g
  • Carbohydrate: 30g (4g of fiber)

All you have to do is mix 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce with 1/2 scoop protein powder in a portable container, add slice banana and take it with you. If you want to 'blow the budget', add a few dark chocolate chips.  Of course, if you prefer drinking your recovery snack, throw everything in a blender with a bit of ice (to maintain above cost) or almond milk and blend. Easy, fast, portable & cheap.

Option #2 - Tuna with raisins & red pepper (optional)

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Flaked, canned Tuna (Clover Leaf) cost $1.99. At 30g of protein per can, we need a third of that for the purpose of this comparison. Therefore, the cost for 10g of protein and 40 calories is $0.66.

Mix in a handful of raisins (37g) at a cost of $0.25 for 110 calories, 29g CHO (2.5g fiber) and 1.3g protein.

Total cost for this option is $0.91, meaning you have change to spare and you can add a drizzle of olive oil! The nutrition breakdown is:

  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 0g
  • Protein: 10g
  • Carbohydrate: 29g (2.5g fiber)

If you want to 'blow the budget' but add some vitamin C to help with iron absorption from the tuna, add a small red pepper. Cut it in half, stuff the pepper halves with tuna & raisins and eat. The cost for a small, ~100g pepper is usually $0.54. It will add 35 calories, 6g of CHO and just under 1g of protein to your snack, a lot of vitamin C and the total cost will still be a very affordable $1.45...

 Option #3 - Greek yogurt, banana & almonds

As mentioned above, a small banana, at 100g, cost ~$0.17. It has 90 calories, 0g of fat, 23g of CHO (3g fiber) and 1g protein.

For $0.19 you can get 10g of almonds (6-8 kernals) that have 2.1g of protein, 1.2g of fiber, 2.2g of CHO, 4.9g fat and 57.5 calories.

A 500g tub of Astro Greek Yogurt cost $4.99, so that is $0.62 for 1/4 cup, which has 90 calories, 6.5g fat, 2.5g CHO and 5g protein.

Total is $0.99 and the nutrition breakdown is:

  • Calories: 237.5
  • Fat: 11.4g
  • Protein: 8.1g
  • Carbohydrate: 27.7 CHO

FYI - 1 Medjool date has 18g of CHO. If you get a 908g box of dates at $14.99, this 1 date will cost you $0.38. Just so you know... :)

So there you have it. Next time someone tells you that chocolate milk is the only option for those on a budget, show them these 3 different options, at a very similar cost to chocolate milk, with very similar carbohydrate and protein quantities. The only difference is that these options are real food, with no added sugar or artificial colors and flavors. Now, these protein and carbohydrate quantities will likely not be adequate for recovery. Of course, neither will 250ml (1 cup) of chocolate milk...

Recovery needs vary based on body size, the activity performed and when the next workout is. Generally speaking, you need anywhere from 0.5 - 1.2g per kg of carbohydrate along side 0.25 - 0.3g per kg of protein. For a 65kg endurance athlete, quantities will be approximately 78g carbohydrate and 19.5 protein. Of course, chocolate milk will not be enough and that athlete will need to eat real food to meet these guidelines at some point. My question is, why not go for real food right away...?!

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