You have 5-10 minutes to prepare a snack at your home or office kitchen and are able to eat it 1.5-2 hours before exercise.
SNACK: Banana with Peanut Butter and Granola
Experts agree that bananas are one of the best sources of fuel for exercise. They contain natural sugars, fiber, and vitamins such as potassium which help your body stay hydrated and fight muscle fatigue. The peanut butter provides protein and fat for sustained energy and blood sugar stability, and the sprinkling of granola adds a crunchy kick that makes this snack practically irresistible. (Note: Any nut butter can be used in place of peanut butter. Try to find one without added sugar!)
Slice the banana lengthwise. Spread one tbsp of peanut butter on each half, and sprinkle with granola and spices, if using.
SNACK: Pina Colada Smoothie
This smoothie tastes like a treat, but is packed with nutrition and fitness fuel! Coconut provides beneficial fats, and pineapple provides natural sugars for energy, and an enzyme called Bromelain which aids in digestion.
1 scoop unsweetened protein powder of choice
8 oz coconut water
2 Tbsp raw shredded coconut
1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
Optional: 3-4 ice cubes (for a thicker texture- if using frozen pineapple, probably no need)
You’re running around and your options are limited to vending machines or convenience shops, but you still have the ability to eat at least 60 minutes before your workout.
Opt for raw nuts when possible, and avoid sweetened nuts such as those that say “honey roasted.” Grab an apple, banana, or orange to go with it, which you can find at most shops. If you’re at a vending machine, look for dried fruit, or a trail mix containing raisins or dried cranberries.
Plain yogurt actually still has some natural sugar in it (in the form of lactose), but if you’re going to be working out for more than an hour, pair it with a piece of fruit as well. If flavored yogurt is the only option, try to choose the flavor with the least amount of added sugar (look at the labels!)
A piece of cheese and some dried fruit.
While fresh fruit is better than dried when possible, sometimes packaged food is your only option. If that’s the case, be on the lookout for dried or freeze-dried fruit, which is increasingly being sold in convenience stores and at chain coffee shops. Sometimes, you can also find packets of applesauce or fruit puree marketed as a healthy kids’ snack. String cheese or packaged 1-oz cheese sticks are pretty common to come across as well, and are a decent source of protein and fat.
You have no choice but to fuel up en route to your workout with 30 minutes or less to spare.
In this case, simple carbs are your best friend. Skip the protein, and ditch solid food in favor of liquids. Carbs are your muscles’ main source of fuel, and protein delays emptying of the stomach, which is a good thing if you’re eating that combination an hour or more before your workout. The protein ensures that the sugars get released to your muscles at a slow and steady pace.
However, if you have 30 minutes or less before your activity, eating protein will be counter-productive (save the protein for your post-workout snack). In a last-minute scenario, you WANT the carbs to be released to your muscles as quickly as possible, with no delay. Also, solid food is digested more slowly than liquids and can give you cramps and indigestion if eaten too soon before a workout. So if you’re very short on time but still need to fuel up, a small drink with some natural sugar in it is your best bet.
Note that for lighter workouts, such as a medium-paced Yoga class or a leisurely walk, you probably don’t need additional fuel, especially if the last time you ate something was less than 3 hours ago. But if it’s been 3 hours or longer since you’ve had any source of calories, a small nutritional boost can give you the push you need to get through your activity.
Here’s what to look for when choosing a drink:
Seek out beverages with no added sugar.
An example would be a fresh beverage from a juice or smoothie shop. This does not include “smoothies” made with flavored syrups that you find at some coffee shops- those are full of added liquid sugars and contain little or no real fruit. There are also some brands of bottled juice that make certain products without added sugar, such as Jus, Evolution, and Suja.
Remember, solid nutrition is a very important part of attaining your fitness goals. Planning your pre- and post-workout snacks is definitely ideal, as proper nutrition helps ensure that you can perform your best during the workout and recover effectively.
But, we all find ourselves in a pinch sometimes, so keep these tips on hand the next time you’re in a mad dash for workout fuel!