Recipe: (Chocolate) Cherry Berry Recovery Shake

sarah cuff Food for Runners, Nutrient Timing, Recipes for Runners 21 Comments

DSC_0021 - Version 2This fantastic post-workout recovery shake meets the requirements for optimal recovery. Drink it within 20 to 30 minutes of finishing your long or hard run for best results.

Why is it so great? Its base is made up of coconut water, a natural source of electrolytes along with tart cherry juice, a powerful source of antioxidants (specifically anthocyanins) that help our muscles recover from workouts faster. The banana (or medjool dates) makes for great quickly absorbed carbohydrates to refill those depleted glycogen stores, plus bananas are a great source of potassium. The blueberries and strawberries are also sources of the sugars that your body will turn into your glycogen stores but more importantly they contain powerful antioxidants to help alleviate inflammation.

While your recovery shake should be primarily composed of carbohydrates with little to no fat, a small amount of protein helps to both push the carbs into your cells more quickly and kickstarts muscle re-synthesis. Hemp hearts and chia seeds provide protein as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In order to bring the shake into the optimal ratio of between 3:1 to 4:1 carbs to protein, you can use a half scoop of high quality protein powder (such as Vega Sport or Ergogenics hemp pro or New Zealand whey).

Raw cacao powder can be added if you’re a fan of chocolate! Choosing raw unprocessed cocoa powder ensures it contains the beneficial flavanols (a type of phytonutrient) known to be heart-healthy. And if you choose to add greens powder or dark leafy greens, they are full of phytonutrients known to support the immune system. Lastly, this shake contains no added processed sugars of any type This is beneficial as sugar is inflammatory – meaning it can delay recovery – and sugar lowers our immune system leaving us more susceptible to bugs and illnesses.

DSC_0010 (Chocolate) Cherry Berry Recovery Shake (makes 1 serving) Ingredients 

  • ½ cup coconut water (or water)
  • ½ cup tart cherry juice (must be tart, not sweet or black – nothing added)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 Tbsp hemp hearts (and/or chia seeds)
  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries, preferably organic
  • 6-8 frozen strawberries, preferably organic
  • ½ scoop of high quality protein powder, such as Ergogenics or Vega Sport
  • 1-2 medjool dates, pitted (for a sweeter shake)
  • 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 scoop greens powder (such as Amazing Grass Superfoods original) or 1-2 kale leaves, washed and de-ribbed or handful of baby spinach 


  1. Place all ingredients in a high powered blender, pulse and then mix on high until completely smooth.
  2. Enjoy immediately; or pour into a to-go container to bring with you in order to consume it as soon as you complete your workout.

Nutritional Info

  • Total carbohydrates: 50 grams (without dates), add ~15g carb per date
  • Total protein: 15-17 grams
  • Total fat: 2-3 grams

* carb to protein ratio is approximately 4:1 * Enjoy! Eat clean, run strong, be well… Cheers, sarah

Sarah J Cuff, RHN

Comments 21

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    1. Post

      Yes, for sure, slivered pistachios sound delish! Just keep in mind the more fat added to the shake, the slower our body will absorb it (opposite of what we want our bodies to do with recovery nutrition – we want it to be absorbed as quickly as possible post-run!).

  2. Sarah, this looks delicious! I love the combo of cherries and chocolate – and I am a huge fan of drinking a recovery smoothie following all of my workouts! I make one every day! You mention, though, that you should aim to keep the grams of fat in your post-workout meal to a minimum. However, doesn’t one tbsp of Hemp Seeds contain about 4 grams of fat? Along with the tsp or two of chia seeds, that should add up to about 5-6 grams of fat per recovery shake using the recipe you have listed (not 2-3). Is that too much, do you think? I’m just curious because I normally do add chia seeds and sometimes flax seeds to my smoothies and I hope I’m not overdoing it on the fat immediately following a workout! Thanks 🙂

    1. Post

      Thanks Kate! I’m also a huge fan of cherries and chocolate 🙂 And recovery shakes!! Yes, fat should be kept to a minimum as it inhibits absorption… And of course we want our bodies to absorb this nutrition as quickly as possible. You are absolutely right – 1 Tbsp hemp hearts = 4g fat, and 1tsp chia = 0.75g fat. So yes, between 5-6 grams of fat per recovery shake! Studies show that recovery drinks containing around 4 grams fat do not inhibit recovery, they still appear to work very well… So as long as we keep it to a small amount of hemp/chia/flax – we are totally fine. I usually add more hemp and chia and even almond butter when I’m having a smoothie at other times in the day (not as a recovery drink). Great question!!

      1. Thanks, Sarah! One last question for you: I’ve always heard that the optimal ratio of carbs-to-protein should be 4:1. Is there a benefit to having the ratio be 3:1, as opposed to 4:1? I see you suggest a range from 3:1 to 4:1. Thanks again!

      2. Post

        Hi Kate… Another good question 🙂 Depending on the study you look at, it is generally 4:1, but it’s been shown that 3:1 works well also. I aim for 4:1 but know we don’t have to be overly extremist in ensuring exact numbers – anywhere between 3:1 to 4:1 will do the trick!

      3. I’m curious to know …Would some coconut oil, 1-2tsp, or whole coconut milk, (canned version cream and its water mixed be a suitable fat, given it is a MCT? Thanks

        1. Post

          A little bit shouldn’t hurt. The goal of not putting too much fat into this shake is to ensure the food moves through the stomach as quickly as possible. Medium0chain triglycerides must still be broken down to medium-chain fatty acids by the pancreatic lipase. From there once they do move through the stomach, they are quickly absorbed in the small intestine and go straight to the liver. So while they are absorbed more quickly from the small intestine than long chain fatty acids, I’m not sure they wouldn’t slow the process of nutrients moving through the stomach. So a teaspoon should be fine, but I’d still caution against putting too much fat from any source in the recovery shake. However, post-recovery shake, an hour or two later with your recovery meal, I’d certainly use coconut oil and full fat coconut products generously!

          1. You Rock Sarah! Thanks for the detailed information! I’ll certainly watch that Fat intake before the Race.
            I’m guessing you are pretty High on all that Fat loading (one more day…well after you plough through today!) and feeling pretty good… amazing!

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  11. Thanks for your info at the Sun Run training clinic and bringing a sample of your shake! I wanted to ask you, but didn’t have a chance, is there something that can be added instead of a protein powder? I would prefer to avoid adding a powder to my shake.

    1. Post

      For sure, was great to be there – and I’m happy you liked the shake 🙂 Yes, for sure, instead of protein powder, I’d just add another 1-2 Tbsp of hemp hearts… That way you get 10g complete protein plus more omega-3 fatty acids!!

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