Athletes of all skills and ability levels have a lot to think about when it comes to fueling their workouts and competitions. Not only do they need to consider when and how much they eat, but they also need to consider nutrient density and macronutrient content of the food.
In other words, athletes should be choosing foods full of nutrients and contain the proper amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Finding the best snacks to fuel your body is a key component of proper nutrition, especially for athletes. Our bodies are finely tuned machines and to function at their best, we need to provide them with the proper fuel!
To help you train like the pros, we’ve laid out some of the best snacks to fuel your inner athlete!
Nutrition for Athletes: Key Considerations
If you want to train like an athlete, you gotta think like one. What does your body need? How long are your workouts? Are you setting personal goals?
When considering the best snacks to fuel your inner athlete, it is important to first consider the athlete (i.e., your body and its needs!), the activity, and key nutrition facts. Everybody can be an athlete, but all bodies are different:
- Avoid snacks that are high in sugar and fat. Fried foods, candy bars, and sodas are all short on healthy nutrients and may not offer enough energy to get you through. These types of simple carbohydrates break down quickly and will be best reserved for athletes that require short bursts of energy during intense workouts.Fats are slow to digest and could cause stomach discomfort while too many simple sugars could cause a dip in blood sugar leaving you weak and drained.
- Eat complex carbohydrates for activities that will last 60 minutes or more. Experts in sports medicine, like sports dietitian Ryan Turner R.D., C.S.S.D., C.D.N., say that depending on the sport or activity, you should try to enter the arena with enough energy for a full 60 minutes.
Complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to process which means they act as a slower, more consistent and sustained energy source.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and spelt
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and pepitas or pumpkin seeds
- legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas
- Match the snack to the activity. If you aren’t preparing to run a triathlon, then you don’t need to fuel your body like you are. Incredibly intense workouts or endurance sports require more carbohydrates. But if you are just hitting the gym for a 30-minute spin class, you don’t need to eat bowls of pasta. A simple snack will do the trick!
- Hydrate! Water is your friend. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends athletes begin to hydrate at least 4 hours before a workout. There are specific factors that need to be considered for endurance athletes and extreme training scenarios but for the majority of athletes, consuming around 17 ounces of water in the hours before the event can keep you hydrated during. If you notice a drop in body weight following your workout, it might be necessary to drink more water before you start.
Sports drinks contain added sugar and salt. Most athletes will be fine with rehydrating with water but if you notice salt on your skin or clothes, or experience muscle cramps, the salt in a sports drink may be useful.
If you require electrolyte replacement, look for a sports drink that is sugar-free or reduced sugar.
Best Snacks That Fuel Your Inner Athlete
When picking your best snacks, consider the type of exercises you’re doing and plan to eat both before, and after, your workout or competition. These are crucial moments in ensuring your body has everything it needs to perform and compete at a high level.
Best Snacks to Power You Pre-Workout or Pre-Event
Eating healthy every day is a great start to training like a pro. But you also want to look at what you’re consuming before your workouts to maximize your athletic performance and energy stores.
Protein and carbohydrates consumed before a workout improve the delivery of amino acids to the muscle, keeping muscles strong and allowing them to grow. While the specifics will vary depending on body composition, and the type and intensity of the activity, pre-workout snacks are best consumed 1-3 hours before you start.
Elite athletes understand that performance nutrition includes pre-workout snacks and meals. Here are some of the best snacks for pre-workout:
- Low-fat Greek yogurt with cereal or fruit.
- Starches and grains like crackers, English muffins, trail mix that includes nuts and seeds. When it comes to trail mix, we recommend mixing mini pretzels, salted cashews or sunflower seeds, and roasted almonds or pepitas
- Harvest Snaps Snack Crisps or Harvest Snaps Crunchy Loops
- Eggs and whole-wheat toast
- Oats and protein powder
- Fruit like bananas, oranges, grapes, and watermelon
Best Snacks You Need to Recover After a Good Workout
The proper pre-workout fuel will help you reach your peak performance, but it will also assist in protein synthesis, helping you grow muscle and recover post-workout. After all, the best athletes know how to train consistently, with balance, and not overdo it. This also means committing to proper recovery!
Whether you’re a competitive athlete, an amateur, or have just resolved to push your limits all on your own, you want to get the most from your exercise routine. What you eat when you’re done with your sweat session matters almost as much as what you eat before you start.
Post-workout recovery snacks help replace what is known as glycogen, which is what your body uses to push yourself during intense workouts.
Eating the right foods will help your body replenish these glycogen stores and boost the recovery process.
Nutritional Guidance for Your Inner Athlete!
Training your inner athlete is tough. Sometimes it wants to push you too hard! But, you can follow some key tips for fuelling and training effectively.
- Focus on easily digestible foods. This helps your body absorb the proteins faster, allowing it to more readily do the good things you need it to do! Try foods like:
- fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, and berries
- quinoa and grains
- Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt has nearly twice the protein of regular yogurt with fewer carbs and fewer grams of sugar)
- protein powders
- Nuts. seeds, and nut butters
- cottage cheese
- Also look for a balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats following a workout.
- You may want to eat more after a workout, compared to before. Following a workout, your body is primed and ready to receive nutrients. Give it what it wants!
- Try to supply your body with what it needs by consuming your post-workout snack within 60 minutes of finishing your activity.
Even though you have stopped working out, your body will continue to burn calories. If it has blown through its energy stores, it will begin to break down muscle for fuel. Which, of course, is the last thing you want!
All of the best snacks for post-workout and recovery will give the body what it needs to repair and build muscle instead of breaking it down.
The best snacks and foods for recovery include:
- Protein shakes. Try to ensure that your shake includes at least 20-40 grams of protein and 40-100 grams of carbohydrates. Your protein powder will include some carbs, but it will not be enough on its own. Mix the powder with milk of your choice. If making a smoothie, you can add fruit as well.
- A balanced meal that includes lean protein like chicken or white fish with sides of green veggies or salad and rice or potatoes.
- Salmon or tuna with sweet potatoes
- Hummus with pita and Harvest Snaps Snack Crisps Lightly Salted
- Quinoa bowl with sweet potato or berries
- Egg omelet with whole-grain toast and avocado
- Whole-grain crackers with string cheese and fruit
The Best Snacks for Athletes Deserve a Flavor Boost from Harvest Snaps
In addition to the tips above, considering Harvest Snaps as an activity-boosting snack will power you through the toughest workouts! With Harvest Snaps Snack Crisps and Harvest Snaps Crunchy Loops, you get big flavor and better-for-you ingredients!
Harvest Snaps snacks can be enjoyed on their own for a quick hit of protein and carbohydrates or they can be savored with healthy hummus or guac dips. Add Harvest Snaps to a homemade trail mix for added crunch and deliciousness on the run.
Harvest Snaps Snack Crisps are made from green peas, red lentils, or black beans and come in a wide range of scrumptious flavors like zippy Wasabi Ranch, creamy Caesar, savory Parmesan Roasted Garlic, sweet and spicy Mango Chile Lime, tangy and zesty Tomato Basil, perfectly spiced Black Pepper, and the OG classic green goodness of Lightly Salted.
When it comes time to play, you need Harvest Snaps Crunchy Loops on your team! Made from red lentils, these bite-sized, ring-shaped loops will have your taste buds dancing. Harvest Snaps Crunchy Loops come in three amazing flavors including sweet and smoky Kick’N BBQ, creamy herbaceously creamy Sour Cream & Onion, and the tantalizingly spicy sweetness of Tangy Sweet Chili!
Level up your nutrition game with the veggie-full, fun, flavors of Harvest Snaps. Find a store near you and prepare to unleash your inner athlete!