How post-workout smoothies got *so* popular

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IIf you happen to be hungry after class on the Upper West Side of boutique fitness giant Barry’s, you’re in luck, at least if you like a post-workout smoothie.

You can go to Juice Press, which is two blocks from the studio. Or, there’s Joe and the Juice, which is three blocks away, or Juice Generation, which is four blocks away. Or, more conveniently, there’s Barry’s in-house fuel bar, where you can order a shake before your workout and have it ready for you when you’re done.

The high density of smoothie locations in these few Manhattan blocks (which also contain an Orangetheory, CorePower Yoga, and Equinox, which has its own cafe, including smoothies), might seem unusual. But really, that’s just one exaggerated example of the decades-long marriage between the fitness industry and the post-workout smoothie. It’s such a profitable connection that opening smoothie spots near gyms has literally become part of the former’s business model.

So how did smoothies become almost synonymous with fitness culture?

The history of smoothie popularity is tied to the history of fitness itself. It dates back to the mid-1970s, when working out was becoming more mainstream and gyms – once dark, stripped-down scenes usually reserved for men – began to be marketed to women. As more women began working out, gym owners recognized the potential of their spaces as a social setting, says Danielle Friedman, author of Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World.

As a result, gyms have become sprawling, full-service wellness centers, often featuring restaurants, lounges, and juice bars. These spaces became singles scenes and networking opportunities, Friedman says — she says gym-goers in the ’80s reported spending up to two-and-a-half hours in the gym between socializing, being pampered, working out exercise and eat.

Meanwhile, the smoothie itself was gaining traction: what was once a niche product mostly consumed by Californian counter-bodybuilders and bodybuilders was becoming widely available as the culture of health and fitness spread, with popular chains like Smoothie King, which opened in 1973, and later Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Planet Smoothie and Jamba Juice appear in more locations.

Somewhere along the line, smoothies have overtaken their sister drink, juice, as the typical gym offering (although many establishments that serve one still serve the other), and although culture fitness has changed dramatically since the 70s and 80s, the smoothie lives on.

Why Gyms and Studios Are So Supportive of the Post-Workout Smoothie

Today, the status of the gym as a social space has wavered as a growing culture of efficiency has popularized “get-in-get-out” training. And yet, this change hasn’t impacted the popularity of smoothies since they’re tailor-made for on the go, to sip on the way to another destination or back to work.

Joey Gonzalez, the Barry’s CEO who launched the Fuel Bar in 2011 (it’s now in 77 of their 82 locations), says the smoothies he serves have become a way for customers to extend the Barry’s experience. outside the studio, wearing their trademark smoothie cups as a badge of honor on the street, on the subway or in the office.

Indeed, smoothies can be a big deal for the gyms and studios that serve them in-house, at least according to the dozens of industry articles encouraging gym and studio owners to explore this revenue stream. Logistically, it’s a way to serve a fresh, substantial item without investing in a full kitchen, says Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, associate professor of history at The New School and author of the upcoming Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession. And at a time when there are more home exercise options than ever before, it behooves gyms and studios to provide such amenities that can only be enjoyed in person, Friedman points out.

Much like buying popcorn at the movies is almost mandatory, a post-workout smoothie is part of the in-person gym experience for many people. This cultural connection has so far withstood the test of time — and rapidly changing fitness and nutrition trends — because smoothies are such a malleable category. They are customizable and can be packed with supplements and other trendy ingredients. In other words, the smoothie is very large, says Petrzela, which means there’s room to add a lot.

But are post-workout smoothies the best way to refuel?

Despite their popularity and ubiquity, smoothies produce a divisive response among sports dietitians as recovery foods because, depending on their ingredients, they often contain too much sugar or lack the combination of protein and carbohydrates needed after a workout. strenuous workout. Even a smoothie crafted with the proper nutrients can’t fill you up the way solid foods can, says sports dietitian Amy Stephens, who adds that it can lead to overeating later in the day. On the other hand, smoothies can have the two-in-one value of being both hydrating and nutritious, in addition to being very convenient.

Personally, Petrzela says she’s wary of any food that claims optimization as its primary benefit, or has the potential to remove the social function of food. There’s also the fact that smoothie ingredients are often marketed as magical “superfoods,” says Emily Contois, a media studies professor at the University of Tulsa and author of Diners, Guys, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Food Culturewhich is a red flag to watch out for when it comes to receiving nutritional advice, especially in the context of fitness.

But with the right ingredients and in the right context — as in, not a replacement for an actual meal — Stephens says a smoothie can be a perfectly nutritious post-workout snack. The keys to its long-term success may be the same as the keys to seeing long-term fitness gains: convenience and consistency.

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