Healthy Snacks for Athletes
Its 3:00 pm. You start to feel light headed, your energy is dropping and you stomach starts to growl. Its time for your 3:00 pm snack. You look at the cabinet and nothing looks good. But you are hungry. Your stomach keeps growling. You decide on a bar and a cup of coffee to keep you going throughout the afternoon. You wonder is this healthy? Are these healthy snacks for athletes? Maybe? Probably not. But you don’t really have any other options. You drink you coffee, eat your bar and (still hungry and tired) head out to practice.
Let’s be real – this occurs way too much! When I was a college soccer player, this happened too many times to me! Long away trips, lack of groceries, and not preparing ahead of time resulted in many trips to the on-campus coffee shop for a coffee and a bar.
This was definitely not the best approach for fueling and often left me hungry, tired, and crashing half-way through my afternoon training.
Planning ahead and being prepared with healthy snacks could have helped avoid this less than ideal fueling situation. Snacks are extremely important to make sure you are properly fueling your body with the energy it needs to keep going (and to play well!).
I recommend having about 2-3 snacks a day along with your 3-4 meals.
How to Build a Healthy Snack for Athletes
You can create tons of healthy snacks by focusing on these three things
- Carbohydrates, to fuel your muscles and give you energy
- Protein, to keep you full and help build muscle,
- Healthy fats, to keep you satiated.
Easily pair 1 carb, 1 protein, and 1 healthy fat in a snack to stay fueled!
Adding in color is also extra credit!
As we have talked about before, carbohydrates are a very important nutrient in an athlete’s diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and should be included in all snacks.
Favorite Carbohydrates for Snacks
- Whole wheat toast
- Cereal (Kashi, Barbara’s puffins, Chex)
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Whole wheat crackers
- Oatmeal (in my healthy cookie dough bites!)
All of your snacks (and meals..) should include PROTEIN! Why?
Protein fuels your body to build and maintain your muscle mass and helps stabilize your hormones so you don’t have an energy crash in the middle of training. Your body builds and breaks down the entire day.
Protein Ideas for Snacks
- Hard-boiled eggs
- 3 oz of beef jerky
- 3 oz of turkey meat
- Greek yogurt
- 2 cheese sticks
As an athlete, you will benefit from adding anti-inflammatory fats into your snacks. Anti-inflammatory fats will help you decrease your body’s inflammation (think stiffness/soreness after exercise) and also helps regulate your hormones/blood sugar so you don’t crash during training!
Here are some healthy anti-inflammatory fat ideas for snacks
- Nut butter
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
3 Healthy Snacks for Athletes
1. 1 cup of Plain Greek Yogurt with ½ cup frozen berries + 1/4 cup granola + 1-2 tbsp nut butter
A protein-rich snack in the afternoon prevents you from crashing and ensures you are properly fueling throughout the afternoon. When choosing yogurt, look for more with more protein than sugar in your yogurt. My go-to is plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. I love adding in frozen berries and swirling in 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter.
2. Two hard-boiled eggs + 1 cup grapes + 1/4 avocado + 1 piece of whole-wheat toast
Eggs are one of the only foods that contain all 20 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and essential in maintaining lean body mass. Proteins that have all the essential amino acids are also called complete proteins. Complete proteins are best to help build muscle and maintain it!
Try slicing up hard-boiled eggs and placing them on a piece of avocado toast with a handful of grapes!
3. Turkey lettuce wrap with avocado and cucumber slices + orange
Turn 3 oz of deli meat, a couple of lettuce leaves, a whole wheat tortilla, and some avocado into a fun snack wrap! Pair with a side of cucumber slices and an orange to turn your wrap into a delicious and balanced snack. Sub different vegetables or switch up the lean deli meat to customize it to your liking. Don’t be afraid to creative with your snacks. Snacks are mini-meals and anything goes!
Considerations for Pre-training Snacks
Common foods that can cause stomach pain or bloating include carbonated drinks, fried and fatty foods, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, beans, and even caffeine. Fat takes a little bit longer to digest compared to other nutrients so it should be avoided in the hours right before training. Everybody reacts differently to different foods, so get creative and see which foods make you feel your best and keep you full.
Remember – listen to your body. If you are hungry, fuel! It’s important to intuitively fuel to optimize how you feel during training and your overall performance.
Interested in learning more about post-workout fueling? Check out my guide here. Happy Fueling!