If you’re active and working out frequently, you can eat whatever you like, right?
Well, not quite.
Yes, its’s true that if you’re physically active, you have a high energy expenditure and may need to consume more calories – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to make good nutritional choices.
Choosing food and drinks with great nutritional value is obviously important for main meals, but arguably more so for snacking.
Snacking has had a bad reputation for being a major contributor of becoming overweight – which may be the case if you opt for high sugar, high fat, and highly processed snack that just happen to be close by and convenient. But, if done right, snacks can positively contribute to overall macro and micronutrient intake and add needed variety to your diet.
The key is to choose the right snack for the right scenario – whether you’re looking to:
- Fuel your workout
- Recover after your workout
- Improve your sleep and recovery during the night
- Avoid the afternoon slump between workouts
Here are some healthy snacks to have before and after a workout and in between.
Training for a marathon, cycle sportive or triathlon requires lots of sustained energy for long hours and lots of miles. The most optimal way to make sure you have enough energy for your workout is to fuel before the workout, but if you need a boost during a long and/or hard workout session, you can grab a Gu gel or a sports drink which are easy to digest.
If it’s been a while since your last proper meal, some suitable pre-workout snacks could be:
- Homemade flapjacks, which are a brilliant carbohydrate snack that will give your body a great source of slow-release energy.
- Fruits and berries, smoothies and yogurt to give you energy without disturbing your digestion right before a workout.
“I normally eat a light meal and have some coffee around 90 minutes before I work out. But if the timing is weird and I haven’t eaten in more than two hours, I might have a light protein shake, a bar, or bread with nut butter,” says runner Kate Grace.
Recovering after a workout requires addressing three main areas:
- Fluids to rehydrate
- Carbohydrate to replenish energy stores
- Protein to support muscle recovery
To make sure you get all that is easier than it sounds. There is, in fact, one product that contains all three and is 100% natural: milk. A pint of milk is an excellent post-workout snack that will kickstart the recovery process and is not only readily available, but also inexpensive.
Triathlete Mirinda Carfrae knows this: “Every other day after a hard session I’ll go for a glass of chocolate milk.”
If you want to optimize post-workout recovery, you can try whey protein because it’s absorbed faster than the protein contained in milk. Milk, however, is a better source of protein throughout the day.
Or, you can try a smoothie like runner Molly Huddle: “After a run, I usually have a smoothie with cashew milk, banana, frozen berries, and spinach.”
Healthy snacks Between workouts
To keep your energy levels steady and avoid the dreaded afternoon slump, the key is to snack on something that will keep blood sugar levels stable.
A few handfuls of nuts are a fantastic choice that will give your body something tasty and nutritious.
The key watch-out here is to choose plain, non-salted nuts and that the fat content is naturally quite high.
“I love snacks but also avoid snacking too much,” says triathlete Andy Potts. “I try to have planned meals as much as possible, but snacking is inevitable when you’re burning thousands of calories a day, like I am.”
“The key to snacking is to nosh on something that can have a dual purpose: satisfying a craving and fueling your body. Nuts are great for this – and their also my go-to post-workout snack.”
Healthy Snacks Before bed
The restorative powers of sleep have long been recognised, but using nutrition to optimize recovery during the night is a more recent discovery (this doesn’t mean you have to wake up four times a night to eat).
Consuming a pre-bedtime snack, including the slow-release protein casein, will drip-feed your body with a key component of the recovery process throughout the hours you’re asleep.
Yogurt and other dairy products are a great source of casein, which puts them high up the list of snacks to have before bed.
A High Protein Snack Before bed
To provide your body with a steady dose of calcium, fats and fibre while you sleep, add a small handful of nuts and seeds, like pistachio, cashews, flaxseeds and pumpkin to Greek yoghurt.
Boost Your Workouts with Healthy Snacks
Snacking has the potential to offer a huge amount of positives in the pursuit of healthy eating and living, but can also have a significant impact on your training, fitness and performance.
Hopefully the examples above spark an interest into healthy snacking that doesn’t have to be boring or expensive – in fact, quite the opposite.
Get into the kitchen, get creative and start enjoying epic snacks that’ll boost your workouts!
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.