So the question still remains “do I need to eat snacks?” Here’s my answer.
If you want to be a good athlete, by all means, don’t skip meals, if you want to be a great athlete learn to incorporate healthy, plant-based snacks into your already predominantly plant-based athlete meal plan.
Once I heard, “eating more plants just makes it harder to meet caloric needs amongst all the training and racing.” If you’re eating predominately plant-based and you’re still struggling with your calorie intake, you’re constantly feeling hungry during the day or at the end of the day guess what, you need snacks! All athletes and physically active people require more nutrition, more fuel, more calories.
More times than not I and others are finding that athletes are actually under eating which means they’re under fueling. This acts as a domino effect causing performance in day-to-day activities, training and even racing to suffer. When your goal is to have an edge over your competition you must have a nutrition plan that matches these types of physical demands.
Your goal; to eat before hunger sets in whether that’s before or after a workout, in-between meals or even on rest days. Once you’re hungry or even hangry, you set your body up for a whole slew of symptoms.
Five reasons athletes and active people should snack
Snacks provide fuel:
If you want to perform at a higher level, with more energy and strength you must be fueling your body with the nutrients it needs. Under-fueling leads to hunger and fatigue. Two things you want to head off before they happen. Listen to your body. What are signs of hunger? Irritability, headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and shakiness.
Snacks improve muscle recovery:
Because your body is undergoing constant stress you should be more in-tune with the foods you’re consuming. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods that contain antioxidants can help decrease inflammation and oxidation from training and racing and in turn decrease the potential for sore muscles. What does this mean for you? Improved muscle recovery and improved performance in your next training session or race.
Snacks boost mental performance:
If you’re hungry most likely your brain is in a fog, you’re feeling fatigued and your next training session will most likely be well should I say lackluster. Keeping nutrition on board keeps your brain sharp helping you not only feel healthy during your training sessions but also allows you to make smart choices while training versus silly mistakes.
Snacks stabilize blood sugar:
Life goals = stable blood sugar. Ups and downs in blood sugar can wreak havoc on your mood, energy, and performance. Using snacks to maintain your blood sugar throughout the day not only gives you a feeling of strength to power through your next workout but the strength you need to power through the workday.
Snacks increase your nutrient intake:
Every opportunity to eat is an opportunity to consume a variety of nutrients from macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat to micronutrients known as vitamins and minerals. But consider thinking past the basics, you also have the opportunity to consume more fiber and plant-rich compounds like phytochemicals, polyphenols, and antioxidants. All providing superpowers so your body can fight off chronic disease and keep it functioning in tip-top shape.
What nutrients should your snacks include?
Beware of the grab-n-go processed snacks. These are “fun” food choices that contain nothing but processed “stuff”. They’ll fuel your body but with a bunch of empty calories that contain no real nutrition. Your body can run on calories but your body will soar with nutrients.
Look for those opportunities to add nutrition. Include “functional” foods that work for your body, that power your body, moving your body in the direction of accomplishing the physical goals you’ve set for it.
Everyday snacks should include fiber-rich carbohydrates (your body’s preferred source of energy), protein (the building blocks that create muscle and help with recovery) and healthy fat (provides energy and also helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins). A balance of these macronutrients will keep your body fueled, blood sugar stable and at the same time keep you feeling satiated. The perfect balance you’re looking for.
Are you wondering what types of snacks fit into these guidelines? I’m here to share 10 plant-based snacks that you can include in your daily meal plan.
10 Plant-based snacks for your athlete diet
Did I mention they’re super simple snacks but pack a nutritional punch?
- Trail mix: mix up almonds, walnuts, pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) and toss in some unsweetened dark or tart cherries and maybe even some dark chocolate (70% cocoa or above).
- Nut butter with a banana or sliced apple (sprinkle with ground cinnamon or ginger)
- Roasted chickpeas (add turmeric or curry to your dried mixture for an anti-inflammatory punch)
- Energy bars (look for bars without added sugar) or homemade energy bites
- Homemade breakfast cookies
- Tortilla chips or crackers with hummus or another type of bean dip
- Ezekiel toast topped with avocado and hemp seeds
- Dates filled with nut butter
- Chia pudding (made with almond or coconut milk), topped with berries or even cherries
- Grab a handful of walnuts with unsweetened dried fruit
Looking for more plant-based snack ideas, check them out right here.
Every athlete has different needs. It’s not as easy as one-size-fits-all nor should it be. Every human is different. Fueling smart on a daily basis will help your overall performance, it’s not just about fueling before or after a training session or a race. You’ve got to make wise nutrition choices most days but never forget to leave room for fun days. Learn to listen to your body and learn how to respond to the cues it gives you. In the end, you will be a much more intuitive, strong and healthy athlete.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and others please come on over to our Instagram or Facebook group @eatlovetriathlon where you can hang out in a group of like-minded people while you learn more about how to properly feed and fuel your body, how you can train smarter not harder and find a balance between home life and triathlon life.
But before you go share your favorite plant-based snack with me below. I’d love to learn what works for you and what you include in your nutrition plan.
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Dietitian Kathleen and Kona-Qualifier Don Oswalt
Welcome to Eat Love Triathlon! We’re Don and Kathleen your go-to dietitian and triathlete. Together, we’re here to share our latest and greatest tips, with you, on how to be a well-balanced triathlete with nutrition, triathlon and keeping harmony in your relationships. We’re excited you’ve stopped by, happy reading and don’t be shy about reaching out. We’d love to hear from you!