Snacks are important. They can be consumed at any time of the day, and can offer performance advantages when timed correctly before and after a workout. Think of snacking as a fueling advantage, another opportunity to receive important nutrition for the day.
Truthfully, not everyone needs to snack especially if your eating enough at mealtimes. However, it’s common for people to not eat enough at mealtime, resulting in consuming an over-sized snack later to make up for what was missed in previous meals.
A snack’s purpose is to curb your appetite until your next meal. Though for athletes, especially when in heavy training, will need to eat about every 4 hours (if not more frequent). This means by 4 pm you’ll likely need a snack to fuel up before you head out for your afternoon workout.
An ideal healthy snack is one that pairs both a good source of carbohydrate (to maintain a steady blood sugar) and protein (to curb appetite). Choose wholesome foods, and mix-and-match protein and carbohydrates for a satisfying snack. Here are some suggestions.
When you reach a point of intense food cravings for sweets and indulgent food, it’s time to plan ahead. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. When ravenous we tend to crave sweet, high-calorie foods and will overeat. There is a simple solution. On a hunger scale of 1 to 5 (1 = not hungry, 5 = ravenous), eat when you rate your hunger at a 3. Keep the cookie monster at bay by taking a look at when you have problematic cravings and find a sensible solution such as adding a wholesome snack prior to your typical cravings.
I recently surveyed a couple professional triathletes via Twitter on their favorite healthy snack during training season. Their response?
Justin Roeder – “Homemade chocolate-dipped granola bars from my grandma! Mixed nuts, granola, cranberries, and of course chocolate!”
Gwen Jorgensen – “Real food. I like to homemake.”
I love hearing from triathletes that use food as fuel and don’t depend on sports products, and I’m glad they find ways to include chocolate in a healthy way.
Now, I want to hear from you. What’s your favorite snack while training?