Athletes often think eating less and skipping snacks will leave them light on their feet and faster. However, the opposite of this is true. Properly timed healthy snacks can help athletes gain a competitive advantage. Athletes of all ages will often eat an early lunch and then head to practice hours later after work or school without eating. Some schools have lunch at 10AM and then student athletes will go straight from school to practice at 4PM without eating anything since 10. Without fuel from snacks these athletes won’t have the energy they need to perform their best.
I always recommend never going more than 3-4 hours without a meal or snack. When we go longer than this without eating we won’t have the fuel we need to perform, and we eat more than we normally would have because we get very hungry. This is also when we start to choose less healthy options.
Timing for snacks is also important. Try to consume your snack about an hour before your game or practice so that you have time to digest. This does not mean no matter what time you ate breakfast, lunch or dinner that you need to have a pre practice/game snack. If your meal was 3 hours before your practice/game then you likely will not need to have a snack. Post practice/game time it is also an important time to have a snack.Try to have a snack within 30 minutes to 1 hour of playing to help your body recover.
We also want to pay attention to the types of foods we choose as snacks. Avoid fried foods because they will sit heavily in your stomach. Choose a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel and energy for our bodies and protein supports muscle growth and recovery. Combining foods for snacks will not only help your body fuel and recover but combined food groups will also provide you with many different vitamins and minerals.
Ideas for snacks:
– Peanut or almond butter sandwich (try using a sliced banana or berries instead of jelly)
– String cheese and an apple
– Banana, apple or graham crackers with nut butter
– Hummus and crackers
– 1 ounce of Nuts with a piece of fruit
– Greek Yogurt with Fruit
– Trail mix (make your own using your favorite combination of nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, dried fruit and pretzels)
– Smoothies (include a protein such as Greek yogurt or nut butter; fruit and milk type of your choice)
– Chocolate milk
– Cereal and milk
– 1-2 Hard boiled eggs with carrots
Do you have a favorite snack? Share it with me in the comments below!