Healthy Snacks for Athletes
It’s 3:00 pm. Your energy is dropping, you can’t pay attention at your desk and your stomach starts to growl. It’s time for your 3:00 pm snack but you didn’t prepare anything. So the vending machine will have to do.
Your stomach keeps growling. You decide on a bar and an energy drink to keep you going throughout the afternoon. You wonder is this healthy? Is this what I should be eating before practice? Probably not. But you don’t have any other options. You drink your energy drink, eat your bar and (still hungry and tired) head out to practice.
Has this happened to you before? 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 convenience shop for some caffeine and a protein bar.
This often left me hungry, tired, and crashing half-way through my afternoon training. No wonder I was always injured and missing my performance goals on the field!
I wish someone would have told me there was a simple solution to avoid this less than ideal fueling situation. All I needed was someone to show me how to plan ahead and pack healthy snacks in my backpack.
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!). Skipping snacks (or choosing less than ideal snacks) can directly hurt performance on the field.
I recommend having about 2-3 balanced snacks a day along with your 3-4 meals to stay fueled and maximize performance. Follow the below guidelines to ensure you are getting in balanced snacks.
RBSN Guidelines for Building Healthy Snack for Athletes
You can create tons of healthy snacks for athletes 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
Here are three 3 snacks following the RBSN Snacking Guidelines
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!
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 fueling as an athlete? Apply for my on-demand nutrition coaching program, the Performance Fueling Club.