Nutrition & Health

Choosing the Best Healthy Snack for Athletes

bbq healthy athlete eating

(Flickr – Bart E)

The following is a post by Kelly Springer, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and the founder of Kelly’s Choice LLC.

Do you ever find yourself at the vending machine or grabbing a slice of pizza before practice? It is easy to reach for convenience foods when you are hungry, but these foods do not aid in performance.

In order to give 100 percent you need to supply your body with carbohydrates, protein, and fat from healthy food choices. Eating healthy when travelling can be challenging, but if you plan ahead you can find healthy snacks that fit into an athletes diet.

Pack Snacks

Buying convenience foods before working out may not only be hurting your performance, but your wallet as well. Think about it–the money spent on a single bag of chips could almost buy a box of granola bars for the week! Take the time on Sunday to pack snacks to throw in your gym bag for the week. Use snack bags to keep your portions under control.

A few snacks that pack well:

  • Trail mix- dried fruit, pretzels, sunflower seeds
  • Dry cereal
  • Whole-wheat crackers and peanut butter
  • Oatmeal- look for hot water in the cafeteria
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Granola bars

If you are forced to eat from the vending machine, avoid snacks with a lot of sugar because this will cause you to crash and burn as your blood sugar rises and falls. Look for crackers and peanut butter, Fig Newtons, baked chips, low-fat popcorn, or a granola bar.

Another option is to split an indulging snack, such as a Pop-Tart, with a friend so you eat half the calories and sugar.

Plan ahead

Research the menu options for eateries the team typically eats at when travelling. Most establishments offer healthy options due to the growing demand from health-conscious consumers. You may even be able to talk to your coach about selecting an establishment that offers more high performance foods, such as a sandwich shop, buffet, or Mexican restaurant.

Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions and specify exactly what you want- grilled chicken, whole wheat bread, or light dressing.

Look for these options:

  • Apples with peanut butter
  • Half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Hamburger with tomato and lettuce
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Oatmeal and fruit

Timing

Each athlete has to listen to their body when it comes to the timing of meals and snacks. Some athletes are too nervous to eat before a game while others rely on the energy boost from their pre-game snack.

A general guide is to eat a meal at least 3-4 hours before physical activity and choose a snack between 200-300 calories within an hour before go time.

You may need to eat less or adjust the timing if you experience GI symptoms. If you find that you are low on energy halfway through a game, consider eating more calories beforehand or having a snack on the sideline. Mini-pretzels can replenish sodium lost in sweat and supply you with carbohydrates. Always do what works best for your body!

For more information, contact us today at KellysChoice.org and follow us on Twitter @KellysChoiceLLC, Facebook @KChoiceLLC, Instagram @kellyschoicenutrition, or on YouTube — subscribe at Kelly’s Choice.


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About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.