Whether you’re hitting the weights or pounding out miles, you're burning energy as you go. Prepare yourself for the action by eating often. Infrequent and improper fueling results in decreased strength and speed—and a tendency to fatigue quickly. Less energy means fewer reps.
But you can avoid that sluggish feeling by frequently feeding your body. Try the following fast and easy snacks between meals throughout the day.
Cereal With Milk
Don't just reserve cereal for the a.m.—its carb/protein combo also makes a great snack. The body breaks down the cereal into glycogen, which muscles use for energy during workouts. According to sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, research shows that perception of fatigue is directly related to glycogen stores. Simply put, if you have energy stored, you won’t fatigue as quickly.
Just watch the fiber content. San Diego Chargers nutrition consultant Karen Freeman recommends eating high-fiber cereals post-workout to allow your body time to use and lose what it needs. However, if you’re accustomed to eating fiber-full cereal on a regular basis, you should have no problem eating it before a workout. Try low-fat granola, Wheaties or Shredded Wheat. For more options, check out livestrong.com’s list of Top 10 Healthiest Cereals.
Tortillas and Refried Black Beans
This dish is a modified version of chips and dip, minus the high fat, which can weigh your body down since its takes longer to digest. Refried black beans provide potassium, one of four key minerals that help maintain fluid balance in your body. A half-cup contains about seven grams of protein and 18 grams of carbs. Jane Jakubczak, Maryland Terps coordinator of nutrition services, also notes that beans are filled with fiber, which slows the digestive process to satiate your appetite and keep your GI tract on track.
To increase your fiber intake, go for whole-wheat tortillas. Corn tortillas are another whole-grain option, which livestrong.com says are gluten-free, good if you’re battling food allergies.
Fruit is an easy way simultaneously to serve up carbs, vitamins, minerals and fluids. Combine fueling with hydration by incorporating the following into your daily diet:
• Citrus fruits [e.g., oranges, tangerines, grapefruit]
Gatorade Sports Science Institute senior scientist Dr. Kim White says that apples, cherries and oranges are excellent post-training choices, because they provide simple sugars, which muscles absorb and use as energy.
Convenient and portable, energy bars have essential nutrients, like carbs, that give your muscle cells fuel to burn. Kristine Clark, Penn State’s director of sports nutrition, recommends consuming one at least two hours before a workout (to allow digestion). Only have an hour? Just eat half. Try Powerbar Triple Threat, Clif Bar or a Gatorade Energy Bar.
For athletes who have lower caloric needs, SOYJOY’s all-natural bars are an easy go-to snack. Made with soy, a plant-based protein, they are also gluten-free. The ingredients include real fruit, too. Try SOYJOY’s new Pineapple bar, which combines real pineapple with whole soybeans.
Photo: Sarah Gearhart