Every day our bodies work through complex processes to keep us alive and our body relies on the energy from the food we consume to carry them out properly. That demand for nourishment keeps us alert, energised, and even safe when our grind increases on more active days, especially before activity.
But knowing just how tedious deciding, planning and preparing the right nibbles can get, we here at All&About have come to the rescue with a guide to help you build the perfect workout snack. Plus, we’ll be sharing some tantalising snack ideas that will have you waiting for your next workout just to get your hands on them.
Be generous with carbs
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel because they break down into glucose to supply your cells with the energy they need to get you revving it up during your workout and store any excess of the sugar as glycogen in your muscles.
Despite low-carb diets being all the rage in recent years, skimping out on this energy source is a recipe for distress as depriving your muscles and brain of their primary source of fuel can wear you out quickly during your workout and affect your concentration.
Plus, we covered a study here, a few months ago, that showed that eating a carb-rich breakfast an hour before exercise enhanced the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates and regulate blood sugar, and also improve digestion. The American Council on Exercise considers the best pre-workout snacks to be those rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein with a small amount of fat. Including a mix of fast-digesting simple carbohydrates and complex ones is considered ideal. Examples of simple carbohydrates include jams, honey, juices, milk, dark chocolate and white bread. Whereas wholegrain bread and rice, oat porridge, fruits and vegetables are good sources of complex carbs.
Pair them up with some protein
Exercise – especially strength training– causes the little fibres in your muscles to tear. This isn’t a bad thing because the fibres that replace them while your body is resting tend to be stronger. Protein is key for muscle building, so it only makes sense to include some in your pre-workout energy blast. Eggs, turkey, grilled chicken, nut butter, hummus, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are all examples of good protein sources that will marry up perfectly with the carb element of your snack.
A little bit of fat goes a long way
While fat is an important dietary component that should be included in your meals and snacks, loading up on it pre-workout might not be ideal as it can make food slow to digest and can leave you with an upset stomach when you exercise. Many of the carb and protein sources listed above also have a sufficient amount of fat, but if you feel like your snack is lacking in that department, adding some nuts, nut butter, slices of avocado or oil will do the trick.
– Trail mix: This mixture of dried fruits, nuts and (if you want to!) some chocolate provides a mouth-watering combination of flavours and a good balance of macronutrients.
– Wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese: If you prefer something savoury, this is the snack for you. Add a bit of sweet chilli sauce for some extra flavour.
– Apples and nut butter: This lunchbox classic is also a good pre-workout staple. Replace the apples with celery for a savoury alternative.
– Hummus with pita bread: If you’re looking for something that incorporates this region’s flavours, look no further! This popular Lebanese restaurant starter is as tasty as it is nutritious.
– Smoothies: These are perfect before morning workouts when the mechanics of eating can feel a bit tedious. Get creative! Any combination of fruits, greens, nut butter, milk (including plant-based milk) will do. You can add or omit any of these elements as you see fit.
Points to remember
– Make sure you’ve had your snacks at least 30 minutes to an hour before working out. Your stomach will thank you for this and you will have a better chance of avoiding the pesky stitch.
– Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Ensuring you get enough to drink before and during exercise is just as important as being fueled up properly for a safe and efficient workout. Keep a bottle of water handy at all times.
By Tesneem Ayoub