Time To Work Out! Healthy Pre-Exercise Snacks

By Clara Gordon, Dietetic Intern, Sargent Choice Nutrition Center

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Snacking can be an important nutrition strategy for anyone seeking to maintain adequate energy throughout their day.  In the popular press, snacking, grazing, or any other word denoting an occasion to nosh between meals has fallen in and out of vogue depending upon the latest dietary crazes.  Trends aside, mindful and planned snacking will always hold valuable potential to keep you happy, satisfied, and well-fueled for the day’s endeavors.

One of the best times to reach for a snack is prior to exercise.  Many people work out in the afternoon following class or work.  This window of time provides an excellent opportunity to commune with friends at a fitness class, stretch your muscles and blow out their proverbial “cobwebs,” or just unwind with your iPod.  Consuming a smart snack (see details below!) in the 1-2 hours prior to exercise will help you feel your best when you commence more strenuous activity.  Plus, beginning your workout with adequate energy at your immediate disposal will help you conclude your session in better shape to make food-related decisions for the rest of the day as well.

An optimal blend of pre-exercise fuel is comprised of approximately 2/3 carbohydrate to 1/3 lean protein.  All of these principles are listed here in the Nutrition and Fitness Center’s guide to Smart Snacking.  The number of calories in the snack will be dictated by your individual needs for the day as well as the anticipated duration and intensity of the exercise you will perform.  As a ballpark figure, 150-300 calories offers a strong nutritional platform for a solid workout.

Below are specific snack suggestions based upon snacks you can drop into your bag in the morning and consume later, and snacks that should be kept with an icepack or purchased at the time you wish to eat.

Backpack-Ready:

  • Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Kashi TLC granola bar and a piece of fruit
  • Nature Valley granola bar and a tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1/2 cup homemade dried fruit and nut mixture (1/4 cup each)

Store with an icepack or pick up along the way:

  • Sabra pretzel and hummus snack cup
  • Sargent Choice fruit and yogurt parfait
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Tuna fish with whole grain crackers
  • Pasta salad with vegetables and beans
  • Starbucks oatmeal with fruit and nut mixture
  • Laughing Cow cheese with whole grain crackers
  • Half a turkey sandwich on a whole wheat pita
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and pineapple or peaches in juice
  • Plain yogurt packed with frozen berries
  • Wasa Bread with low-fat cream cheese spread and thin fruit or veggie slices

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Snacking is a strategy whose rewards are immediate and sustained.  Snacking prior to workout also helps you make smarter, more sensible food choices after you are through exercising.  Have you ever shuffled out of the gym in a hungry stupor only to devour whatever brightly packaged drink or dubiously healthy granola bar you encounter first?  That’s okay: We’ve all been there.  However, there is a better way to honor your daily fitness accomplishments by concluding the day’s meals on a nutrition high note.  That path begins with strategic snacking.  Just like sports and fitness, practice makes perfect, and doing it daily can contribute to lifelong well-being.

What are your favorite pre-workout snacks?

4 Comments

Natalia Rivera Lausell posted on April 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Great choices! Very handy… Ready to fuel it up! Good work colleague!

Anne posted on April 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

An apple & small handful of raw almonds

luther posted on September 11, 2011 at 7:41 am

I like yogurt and almonds.

Monkey's Mommy posted on November 28, 2011 at 12:24 am

Couldn’t agree more, well written article.

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