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Fuel Your Fitness: Top Snacks for Athletes

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  • Digital Team 

Have you ever felt like you hit a wall during a workout, lacking the energy to complete it? Do you get overwhelmed when you open your fridge after a workout, not knowing what to make to satisfy your hunger? You’re not alone! There are so many opinions about what is best to eat for exercise that it can take time to navigate the best choices for fueling your body. Here’s a quick guide on pre- and post-exercise bites to help you feel your best.

Why should I snack?

Snacking is a good idea for three reasons – when you’re hungry, need energy, or want to support your workout with protein and carbs. But people often cut out snacks first when they try to lose weight. However, snacking can help you manage your hunger better.

It’s important to listen to your body and stop eating when you feel full, but waiting until you’re super hungry is not a good idea because you may end up overeating. Snacking can help you avoid overeating and keep you satisfied throughout the day.

Athletes should eat every two to four hours on average to keep up with all the energy demands of the day. Just going from place to place takes up energy. When you add lifting, running, and anything that raises a sweat, their needs are way higher than those of a couch potato. If you’re a serious athlete, keeping up with your body’s demands is tough if you only eat three meals daily.

What should I eat?

Let’s assume you’re an athlete or serious about your workouts and looking for the best way to snack. Here are the things you should include when shopping for your snack supplies:

Protein

Humans need protein to build and repair muscles and bones. Anything strenuous can damage or break them down, and that’s par for the course as an athlete. You should include small amounts of protein throughout your day.

Some snacks are an excellent source of protein and present an opportunity to help you get stronger. Popular high-protein snack examples include hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, tofu, hummus, beans, chicken, tuna, and milk. You can also go for protein shakes if you don’t like chewing.

Not all high-protein snacks are created equal, however. For example, beef jerky is a tasty little snack, but some are loaded with stuff you can’t pronounce. The best beef jerky is all-natural, free of hormones, and made of whole beef.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are found in pasta, rice, bread, fruit, dairy, and sweets. If you’re an athlete, don’t avoid carbs, as they give you energy. It’s crucial to snack on carbs if you want to improve your performance. If you’re snacking right before a workout, go for simple carbs like fruit, pretzels, cereals, and dried fruit. But if you’re nibbling over two hours before a workout, choose more complex carbs like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, beans, and nuts.

Fluids

You sweat a lot when you are an athlete in training, so you need more fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Make it a habit to drink something when you snack during workouts to ensure that you are getting enough fluids. Water is the best option for most people, but if you want something more refreshing, you can go for freshly squeezed fruit juice.

Sports drinks are also good, especially if you sweat a lot because of the electrolytes. However, be careful because they contain a lot of sugar. Even though they taste great, you don’t want to drink too much.

For example, a 20-oz bottle of a popular thirst-quenching sports drink has 36 grams of sugar. A 12-oz bottle of Coke has 39. Whatever you do, don’t turn to energy drinks. They contain caffeine, which dehydrates you more.

The amount of fluid you need might differ for another person. Generally, aim to drink 16 ounces of water with your snack a couple of hours before strenuous physical activity. Glug another 8 ounces right before you go out for training.

Pre-Workout Snacking

Just like you would fill your car with gas before taking a drive, plan to fuel your body before exercise. Have a snack an hour before you begin a workout. You should target simple carbohydrates as the main component with minimal fat, protein, and fiber. These nutrients are essential but can make your tummy feel queasy during exercise because they digest slowly. You want something easily digestible that will give you immediate energy. That is the role of simple carbohydrates.

Contrary to popular belief, they are not less healthy compared to complex carbs. It’s just that people with a sedentary lifestyle do not need it since they don’t move. However, simple carbs are the perfect fuel for your workout.

Post-Workout Snacking

The post-workout phase is the time to relax, stretch out, and focus on recovery. The best way to do that is to reach for a snack. However, you need a different mix of nutrients this time around. You want slow-burning, nutrient-rich, complex carbohydrates and protein. Like protein, complex carbs also protect the muscles.

Planning Your Day

Snacks during the day affect your general well-being as an athlete. While every day will not look the same, athletes should plan snacks before and after training to maximize their workouts. The goal is to avoid significant gaps without eating, where your energy runs low and your protein bank needs to stock up.

Start the day with simple carbohydrates if you are an early riser to avoid feeling weak and tired during exercise. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you should get some protein afterward. It will help you build a protein bank that your body can use throughout the day. 

Suppose you typically exercise at the end of the day. In that case, you may have to monitor how recovery snacks make you feel before bed. Suppose you have a hard time sleeping after eating a snack at night. Your best bet is to snack throughout the day, stopping four hours before bedtime. If you have enough protein, your body will continue to repair and recover while you sleep.

However, some people have difficulty sleeping through the night because they get hungry. These are the notorious midnight marauders. In that case, have a light snack before bedtime to prevent the mid-sleep cravings.

Snack time routines, like fluid intake, vary among individuals. The perfect one for you depends on your peculiar needs. Listen to what your body tells you and adjust your snack habits accordingly.

Snack Time!

It’s super important for athletes to manage their energy, muscles, hydration, and hunger by snacking smartly. Every snack should have carbs, protein, and fluids, and athletes should munch on something every two to three hours. 

But it’s not just about snacking – you need to balance what you eat, like simple and complex carbs at the right times and protein on the reg. Finding your perfect snack and eating schedule can make a big difference in how you perform and feel. So don’t be afraid to try new things and figure out what works best for you.

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