Why Healthy Snacks Help Athletes Maintain Weight and Perform Better
Snacking is often associated with junk food, late night eating and excessive amounts of calories. However, if you select the right foods, snacks can help keep your blood sugars stable, prevent you from overeating at your next meal and maintain your ideal playing weight. Fueling at intervals throughout the day also helps you feel satisfied and more energetic.
If you go longer than five or six hours between meals, your blood sugars drop significantly and your body can suffer the effects of starvation mode. This can cause you to crave sugar, make unhealthy choices at your next meal or overeat because you are so hungry. Consuming small snacks keeps your energy levels up and your blood sugar stable without adding extra pounds.
Snacks can also help athletes achieve proper fueling before and after workouts and events. A pre-workout snack of carbohydrates and protein will help you achieve maximum performance, and a post-workout snack can help refuel your muscles. (Read How a Mid-Game Snack Can Help Performance.)
It's important to plan your snacks as you would your meals. Portion them out, sit down and eat them slowly. Try not to graze and pick throughout the day or run to the vending machine between classes or meetings. Have balanced snacks prepared and ready to go, as you do for your meals.
Healthy snacks should include a small amount of carbohydrate (about 15 grams) plus protein or healthy fats. Examples include:
- Apple with Peanut Butter
- Yogurt with Almonds
- Nuts and Dark Chocolate Chips
- Roasted Chick Peas
- Carrots and Hummus
- Wheat Crackers and Tuna
- Cottage Cheese and Fruit
- Greek Yogurt
- Protein Bars