New year, new you: you have taken this to heart and have designed the perfect workout plan. Your gym bag is packed and ready, your mind is made up, and you are going tomorrow. One small problem: you neglected to take nutrition into consideration, and when you wake up in the morning your ‘fridge has just one carton of weeks-old OJ and a candy bar. Not to worry. There are plenty of quick and easy pre- and post-workout snacks that will get you fueled and help you recover.
Instead of: Sugary protein bar
Try: Egg-white quiches
Protein bars do offer the blast of protein necessary for building muscle, but they can also come with tons of artificial ingredients and sugar. Try crustless egg-white quiches baked in muffin tins instead. They freeze well, heat up in seconds, and are not heavy in the stomach. Add chopped frozen spinach for iron, folic acid, and calcium.
Directions: For six quiche muffins, spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use six egg whites, one eight-oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained, ¼ cup chopped onion, one clove of minced garlic, ¼ cup of milk, 1/3 cup cheese of your choice (colby-jack or cheddar both work well). In a splash of olive oil, sauté onions until translucent; add spinach and garlic and warm. Whisk all other ingredients into a large mixing bowl, then add spinach mixture. Pour into muffin tins and bake until just set, about 20 minutes.
Options: For more protein, line each muffin tin with a slice of ham after spraying with cooking spray. You can also add jalapeños for a little kick, or use whole eggs instead of just egg whites (only use five eggs if you do that).
If you must grab a protein bar, control the sugar and make your own.
Instead of: Toasted bagel with cream cheese
Try: Overnight oatmeal
Bagels give you a quick burst of energy that quickly dissipates, especially when working out. Instead of loading up on simple carbohydrates, take two minutes before bed to put together some overnight oatmeal. Pop it in the microwave in the morning for a hot, satisfying breakfast that will keep you fueled throughout your workout.
Directions: Make oatmeal in Mason jars for easy, on-the-go eating. Each jar needs 2/3 cup of oats, 2/3 cup of milk of your choice (coconut milk is delicious in these!), and toppings of your choice. Nuts are a great option for pre-workout energy, as is fruit (fresh or frozen). Maple syrup or honey is a good sweetening option as well, or use jam if you prefer. Place all ingredients in a jar (except fruit, if using) and shake to combine. Place the jar in the ‘fridge overnight, then pop it in the microwave for a minute or two to warm before you eat. You can make several of these at once.
Instead of: Frozen breakfast waffles (or worse, breakfast pastry)
Try: Rice cakes with nut butter and bananas
This simple snack contains complex carbohydrates, potassium to help avoid cramps, and protein to keep you going. Keep an eye on the sugar content of your nut butter. It’s best to look for nut butters with no added sugar, but if you need a little more sweetness in your life (and your breakfast), sprinkle a few mini dark chocolate chips on your rice cake. Dark chocolate contains healthy antioxidants, so it’s okay to indulge in moderation.
Before you reach for food, drink at least 16 ounces of plain, room-temperature water. Chances are good that your body needs water more than anything else directly after your workout. Unless directed by a physician or under intense training, there is no need to spend money on hydrating beverages. Plain water does the trick.
You will need food pretty quickly after your workout. If there will be time between working out and a real meal, snack on a handful of almonds or cherries. Almonds reduce stress and provide quick protein, while cherries contain anti-inflammatory properties to soothe muscles and joints.
Instead of: PB&J
Try: Avocado whole-grain toast with lean roast beef
Peanut butter and jelly is not a bad way to end a workout, but that tried-and-true combo can get a little boring. Change it up a little with avocado toast. Avocadoes offer healthy fats with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, and lean roast beef is packed with protein. Delivered on perfectly toasted whole-grain bread, this post-workout snack is quick and satisfying. Devour with a glass of orange juice to help your body absorb the iron from the roast beef. A solid vegetarian option is adding a scrambled egg or slathering on some refried beans for your protein.
Instead of: Smoothies
Try: Hummus in a jar
Smoothies are delicious, but after a workout, your body may need more solid food. Pack a scoop of hummus in a Mason jar and fill with cut veggies like carrot and celery sticks. Bag up some pita or whole-grain bread and use the veggie sticks to spread the hummus. Watch fat and sodium content in store-bought hummus, or go one better and make your own.
Instead of: Plain green salad
Try: Multi-grain salad
Salad greens and vegetables are healthy and filled with nutrition, but after a workout, you need something more substantial. Try a delicious grain salad that utilizes quinoa, faro, or even brown rice for a filling and delicious post-workout option. Combine grains and greens into a kale and quinoa salad with feta (and blueberries or cherries if you like) for a superfood meal that will keep you energized without weighing you down. Most grain salads are highly portable and can be served at room temperature, which makes them perfect for mid-day workouts. Make several salad varieties ahead of time in Mason jars for a quick grab-and-go meal. Mix up the grains, the dressing, and the veggies for variety.
Pre- and post-workout snacks needn’t be boring, tasteless, or filled with sugar and preservatives. With a little planning, your workout fuel can be quick, easy, and delicious.
What are your favorite workout snacks?
Image by Maria Ly via Flickr