Snacks to Fuel Workouts

by in Healthy Tips, May 18, 2010

berry blast smoothie

No matter how you like to exercise, you need food to fuel your workouts. Your body needs nutrients both before and after to perform at its best. Since you may not always have time for a meal, have these power snacks ready to go.

Before Exercise: Energize!
The key to a successful workout is giving your body fuel—exercising on an empty stomach leads to a less beneficial workout (there’s no gas in the tank). Since you don’t want to feel weighed down by a heavy meal—a light snack is all you need.

How many calories you need to eat will vary from person to person but 100-150 is a good place to start (a serious athlete or very active man will need more). Aim to have the snack 1 to 2 hours before a workout and choose foods that are high in energy-producing carbohydrates. If your snack is too high in protein or fat, you won’t digest it in time and you risk cramping and burping through your workout.

Our top picks:
fresh fruit, non fat yogurt, dry cereal, pretzels, low fat granola bars

After Exercise: Recover
Post exercise your body craves more healthy carbs along with protein to replenish energy stores and repair tired muscles. Eating a healthy snack right after is the best way to prepare for your next workout. Ideally, choose foods with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein (examples below) and get that snack within 30 to 60 minutes post workout when muscle cells are most sensitive.

Our top picks: smoothies, trail mix, chocolate milk, cottage cheese and fruit, cereal with milk, 1/2 a turkey sandwich, apple with peanut butter

In a pinch, a protein bar can come in handy, but some brands are better than others. Use our tips for finding the right one.

Stay Hydrated
One of the leading causes of fatigue during exercise is dehydration – use our tips to keep your fluid intake in check.

Recipes to Try:
Blueberry Blast Smoothie
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bars
Almond Lover’s Trail Mix
Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

For more ideas, download my handout — Top 10 Snacks For Athletes

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (6)

  1. Julie says:

    Great advice! I do a long workout in the morning and follow it up with a bowl of the Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal with 1% milk. I do half a serving of the cereal, and then top it with a banana and half of another type of fruit, like an apple or pear. For me it's the perfect combination of simple sugars, complex carbs, and protein my body craves right after a workout.

  2. Evan Thomas says:

    Great advice! I typically do a lot of running and need a full breakfast(complex carbs, fat, protein) followed by something simple and sweet(fudge) before my runs(10-14 miles)

  3. Constance says:

    I thought fats were bad post workout. I never take them in.

  4. facelift says:

    Good advise for before and after workout because I have only heard about taking a food after exercise but not before exercise. So this will help me in my workout. Everyday at 6:00 P.M. I have stated my workout and workout I fell great.

  5. Tammy says:

    Sliced apples with peanut butter is a fave summer snack of me and the kids. Our fave apple to use for this is the Granny Smith, as it is firm and just a bit tart. YUMMY!!!!!!

  6. retrieve says:

    Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

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