Categories: Nutrition

Healthy snacking – myth or reality?

November 8, 2016

“I’m training for an event, I can eat what I like.”

Have you ever heard someone utter these words, or even said them yourself?

Yes, physically active individuals have a higher energy expenditure than their sedentary counterparts and therefore may need to consume more calories, but thinking your next race makes you exempt from making good nutritional choices couldn’t be further from the truth.

As an athlete you can still pay the price for choosing food and drinks with little or no nutritional value, so beware!

Making good nutritional choices is obviously important for main meals, but arguably more so for snacking, as it’s dangerously easy to reach for whatever snacks are close by and convenient, which are often of the high sugar, high fat, and highly processed varieties. As snacking contributes to a significant proportion of total energy intake, it’s important to optimize what you snack on.

As snacking contributes to a significant proportion of total energy intake, it’s important to optimize what you snack on.

Snacking has had a bad reputation for being a major contributor of becoming overweight, but if done right it can be very good for you, contributing positively to overall macro and micronutrient intake, whilst also increasing the variety of what you eat. Unhealthy snacks can increase body fat and negatively affect blood sugar levels, however physique, health and even mood can be positively affected by making informed choices.

Luckily there are some great tips below to highlight the amazingly tasty snacks you have at your disposal to stay healthy, but that will also help to fuel performance and optimise recovery.

The key is to choose the right snack for the right scenario.

Use your fitness or performance goal to help define how, what and when you should be snacking. Do you train to build muscle and size or is endurance performance your key focus? Is your weakness after dinner when you crave an unhealthy treat before bed, or do you suffer from the dreaded mid-afternoon lull at work?

Healthy snacking for the office 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.

Nuts as a healthy snack

Healthy Snacking for sleep

The restorative powers of sleep have long been recognised, but utilizing nutritional strategies through the night to optimize recovery is a more recent discovery… and no this doesn’t mean you have to set your alarm four times in the night to eat extra meals!

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.

Greek yoghurt

Add a small handful of nuts and seeds, like pistachio, cashews, flaxseeds and pumpkin to Greek yoghurt for a high protein snack that provides a steady dose of calcium, fats and fibre whilst you sleep.

Healthy snacking for endurance performance

Training for a marathon, cycle sportive or triathlon requires lots of sustained energy for long hours and lots of miles. Homemade flapjacks are a brilliant carbohydrate snack that will give your body a great source of slow-release energy to fuel these sessions. Fruits and berries, smoothies and yogurt will give you energy but won’t disturb your digestion right before training.

Smoothies, the healthy snack

Healthy snacking for muscle building

Recovering after training in the gym (or any training for that matter) requires addressing three main areas. Fluids to rehydrate, carbohydrate to replenish energy stores and protein to support muscle recovery. One product contains all three of these and is 100% natural. Milk. A pint of milk is an excellent post-workout snack that will kick-start the recovery process and is not only readily available, but also inexpensive.

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.

Milk and healthy snacking

It’s time to make it a reality

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, physical goals and ultimately performance. Hopefully from the examples above you can see that snacking doesn’t have to be unhealthy, boring or expensive, in fact quite the opposite. Get into the kitchen, get creative and make all your friends jealous of how epic your snacks are!

Tag Polar in your photos (@PolarGlobal) to show us the awesome creations you’re snacking on, we’d love to see what you’re making.