Whether you are a keen solo runner or you enjoy the camaraderie of an exercise class (either online or elsewhere), it is important to think about what you eat beforehand in order to get the most out of your workout. In this latest blog, I explain my top 5 snacks for exercising and look at ways to eat them before your activity!
Failing to fuel up on the right foods before an activity can lead to poor performance and low energy levels. Also, if you don't have the right foods during a longer period of exercise, it is likely to leave you feeling fatigued. So, what are the best snacks for exercise?
Nuts and seeds
Homemade cereal bars
Let's take a closer look at how these things might help you when you are exercising.
Smoothies are the ideal snack to consume after a workout as they are absolutely packed with nutrients and electrolytes. Some of these can be lost through our sweat when we exercise, so it is a good idea to replace them quickly.
Try not to rely on shop-bought smoothies as these are known for their high sugar levels. It is super easy to mix up your own fruit smoothie using the likes of banana, apple juice and strawberries. You can get creative with whatever is in the fruit bowl, or turn to a recipe for a little guidance.
If you are doing a stint of exercise, it is a good idea to snack on a banana beforehand. Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose in the body. Glucose is the body's primary source of fuel, meaning a banana can keep you going through an activity.
Bananas are also fairly quick and easy for the body to digest. This means you'll get the benefits quickly, and won't be feeling weighed down with food before you exercise!
Another benefit of bananas is that they are rich in potassium, an important mineral for the health of the muscles and joints. Low levels of potassium have even been associated with muscle cramp so, if you want to feel on good form as you get moving, it's a good idea to get more of this mineral!
As well as all these benefits, bananas can help to refuel the body after a period of intense activity due to its nutrient content – as well as potassium, bananas contain magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. So, within sixty minutes of finishing, consume one along with plenty of plain water.
Best for: Slow-releasing energy
Best eaten: Half an hour before exercise
Best way to consume: Just as it is!
Fresh fruit can be a bit messy to eat when you are exercising, so dried fruit offers a more practical option! Dried fruit can be rich in fibre and antioxidants. They can also be a reasonably good source of nutrients – dried apricots contain vitamins A, C and E!
My Self-Care Tip: A healthy snack for running
Dried fruit makes a tasty snack but find out why it is of particular benefit to runners in my short video.
Although dried fruit tends to be high in natural sugar, keeping your portion size small will ensure you don't get too much. One heaped tablespoon generally counts as one portion of dried fruit.
Best for: Providing a natural sugar hit
Best eaten: During long runs or cycles
Best way to consume: Mix up a selection of your favourite varieties
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are best for snacking when you are exercising for long periods because they won't get spoiled in transit like some other snacks (no one likes finding a mashed banana at the bottom of their rucksack; am I right?).
Nuts and seeds also provide a good energy boost and are highly nutritious. Try making your own trail mix with a selection of your favourite nuts, including pecans, macadamia and walnuts, along with your preferred seeds, such as pumpkins seeds and sunflower seeds. This will provide nutrients such as omega-3, B vitamins and iron. This selection also provides magnesium, which is known to support our energy levels.
Best for: Eating during all-day activities like hiking
Best eaten: On-the-go
Best way to consume: Put a random mix in a re-useable container
Homemade cereal bars
Shop-bought cereal bars can be surprisingly unhealthy – they tend to contain additives and unnatural flavourings, as well as quite a bit of sugar. In some cases, the sugar content of cereal bars can match that of a chocolate bar! Making your own is a much healthier option that will leave you feeling energised for your next activity.
Also, flavouring your cereal bars with the likes of cinnamon or fresh fruit juice forgoes the need to add high quantities of sugar.
Whatever your activity, homemade cereal bars are a good option to snack on because they will release energy slowly, helping to sustain you throughout an activity (that is, of course, provided you haven't packed your cereal bar with copious amounts of caster sugar or maple syrup!). An oat-based bar, or one made up largely of nuts and seeds, is what you should be aiming for.