A lot of people assume snacking is an unhealthy habit, but many athletes require daily snacks to reach their nutrition goals. Yes, mindless snacking on chips and ice cream while watching netflix may undermine your progress if your goal is to lose weight, but for athletes, snacking is an essential component of a balanced diet when you are trying to fuel your workouts, increased athletic performance, and gain healthy weight. Whether you work out in the morning or afternoon, fueling your body with healthy snacks every few hours is critical for recovery and satiety. However, mindlessly snacking on things like chips, cookies, and ice cream will not quite get you to where you want to be as an athlete. Here are a few tips on HOW to snack and which foods will keep you full and satisfied.
Am I Hungry or Just Bored?
How many of you are guilty of staring aimlessly into the pantry an hour after dinner? The night time munchies are such a common problem among my clients, and the first thing I tell them is to ask themselves: do I need to eat this right now or am I just bored? Rather than mindlessly snacking right after a meal or while you are watching Netflix, try to make the conscious decision to snack when your hunger and fullness cues are telling you to. Your body’s hunger hormone, ghrelin, will remind you when it’s time to eat! As you snack and reach satiety, your leptin levels (hormone that senses fullness) will increase and ghrelin will decrease.
How to Build a Healthy Snack
If you are trying to maintain or lose weight as an athlete, it is still important to incorporate snacks into your daily routine. If you do not eat for multiple hours in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you are missing out on easy opportunities to promote recovery and build your hard-earned muscle. If you are trying to maintain your weight, aim for 1-2 light snacks during the day, such as a midmorning snack between breakfast and lunch and either a pre-dinner snack or post-dinner snack. Some easy, on-the-go snacks that you could try are string cheese and fruit, carrots and hummus, Greek yogurt, or a handful of nuts with a clementine.
If you are trying to gain weight, try adding 2-3 snacks and slightly increasing portion sizes of your main meals. This doesn’t mean that you should be adding on calories just to reach your calorie goals. Focus on what KIND of calories these meals are adding. Are they coming from adding more whole grains and increasing portion sizes of meat, fruits, and veggies? Or are you snacking on empty calories like chips, cookies, and ice cream?
5 Dietitian-Approved Snacks
Greek Yogurt Bowl
On the days that I don’t have yogurt for breakfast, one of my go-to snacks is Greek yogurt. Not only is it high in protein and makes a great alternative for ice cream at night, but it is a versatile base that can be customized to your tastes. I always add some source of fruit like berries, a banana, or pomegranate seeds, then something crunchy like granola or pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I’ll add a few chocolate chips if I’m craving a sweet treat. Everything in moderation!
These are a great way to get some fruit in while also getting healthy fats and protein from the peanut butter. You can add toppings like granola, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, or chia seeds for an extra crunch. I find that these apple “donuts” satisfy my sweet tooth late at night!
Cottage Cheese with Fruit
This makes a great late-night snack and it’s packed with protein. Add blueberries, pineapple chunks, or peaches for a great sweet and salty snack! You don’t need a large portion of cottage cheese to add a lot of additional protein to your day, and this is an easy snack to pack in small containers and bring in your lunchbox to work or school.
Whole Grain Toast with Yogurt
Have you ever tried putting yogurt on toast? The creamy texture with some berries on top makes a normally plain breakfast turn into a tasty and creative snack. Berries are packed with antioxidants that can help with inflammation and wound healing, and Greek yogurt has protein and calcium.
This snack is satisfying, will keep you full, and is easy to meal prep ahead of time. I will sometimes add a ½ scoop of protein powder if I don’t think I’ve had enough protein throughout the day!
-2 Tbsp chia seeds
-1/2 cup milk
-1 Tbsp peanut butter or PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
-1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
Mix it all together in a glass or bowl and let it thicken in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Add whatever toppings you would like!
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