May 4, 2018
Between Meals
Ingrid Skoog

Snacks can help or hinder athletes. They help by spreading energy and nutrient intake throughout the day and providing fuel that is appropriate for pre-training and recovery needs. They hinder if an athlete chooses high-fat, sugary foods offering empty calories and not much else. Another problem is that too much snacking can interfere with hunger at mealtimes.

The options in the list below shouldn’t serve as meal substitutes, but they are an excellent way for athletes to give themselves a quick energy boost and add more calories, healthy fats, and protein to their daily intake if desired. Fruit and vegetable snacks are also a great way to boost fluid intake to help with hydration.

Energy bars are generally healthy, very convenient, and an easy way to get some extra carbs before or even during a workout. But many times, athletes who can’t find time for lunch in their busy schedule will snack on an energy bar as a substitute to satisfy their hunger. Once a workout begins, the roughly 200 calories in that bar will be burned off in the first half hour and the athlete will experience a “crash.” It’s critical to stress that snacks are a supplement to, not replacement for, complete meals.

For athletes who do not want to gain weight:

• Low-fat popcorn with seasoning salt

• Whole fruit

• Sugar-free hot chocolate

• Low-fat pudding or fruit cup

• Whole-grain pretzels

• Baked chips and bean dip

• Veggies dipped in ranch seasoning mixed with low-fat cottage cheese

• Low-fat plain yogurt mixed with cut fruit

For athletes who DO need to gain weight:

• PB and J or tuna sandwich

• Fruit and nut trail mix

• Fruit smoothie with added yogurt, peanut butter, or protein powder

• Handful of dry roasted almonds, hazelnuts, or soy nuts

• Lean meat sandwich

Image by Tiia Monto

Ingrid Skoog, MS, RD, CSSD, is a sports dietitian specializing in performance nutrition for collegiate and elite athletes in Eugene, Ore.

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