Snacks have a bad reputation – they are considered to have low nutritional value and only slightly satisfy food cravings. However, if you spend many hours in the gym, snacking becomes a necessary part of your diet as it fuels your body before a workout and aids recovery after.
Snacks are the fastest source of fuel for your body during workouts, so what and when you snack matters a lot. And if you’re on a vegan diet, the snacks you choose can have a huge impact on how you perform in the gym…and how you feel the day after your workout.
Here are three tips for vegan athletes on how to snack before and after exercise.
Snack before workout
The foundation of your pre-workout snack should be complex carbohydrates that will give you the energy to run the extra mile or take another set. But carbs can be heavy, and athletes are encouraged to opt for light carbs that don’t cause stomach cramps and lethargy. Good examples of light carbohydrates are bananas, dates, and apples.
It is important to think about the time between a snack and a workout. If you’re snacking right before heading to the gym, opt for fruit instead. And if you have more than an hour before your workout, opt for more filling snacks like oats and nuts that will provide a long-term source of energy for your industrious body.
The good news, by the way, is that many types of plant protein are easier to digest than animal protein, giving vegans an advantage when it comes to pre-workout snacking. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and romaine lettuce are easy to digest and provide clean energy to your body. And to avoid feeling heavy, avoid high-fat foods before your workout.
Another great pre-workout snack is dried cherries, as they are a good source of energy-boosting carbohydrates and inflammation-reducing antioxidants. Bananas help avoid muscle fatigue and pain, while vegan yogurt with berries is a great source of protein and antioxidants.
To quench your thirst before your workout, take a bottle of coconut water with you to help your body stay hydrated, maintain electrolyte levels, and combat fatigue.
You only have an hour or two before and after your workout, so prepare your snacks ahead of time and take them with you. This time should be used to restore energy balance, regulate insulin and replenish carbohydrates in the body. Research shows that consuming the right amounts of nutrients at the right time can help repair damaged muscles and replenish energy reserves, which will have a positive impact on performance and body composition.
Snack after workout
Many people are hesitant to eat right after a workout because consuming calories right after they’ve been dumped seems counterproductive. However, eating within an hour of a good workout is beneficial. It is believed that immediately after a workout, you should replenish the supply of nutrients in the body, which will help restore and rejuvenate overworked muscles. To avoid muscle fatigue, have a snack 15-30 minutes after your workout. The longer you delay replenishing your body’s nutrient stores, the longer it will take for your muscles to recover.
A healthy mix of proteins and carbohydrates is ideal here, such as carrots with hummus, roasted white beans, a mixture of whole almonds and pumpkin seeds. A quick and easy snack option is a protein shake with vegan protein powder. And if you have time to cook, make a cold salad with broccoli, wild rice and edamame for a post-workout snack. Vegan protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan are also great for a post-workout snack.
Snacks to Avoid
Meat-free food is not necessarily healthy or good for the body. In fact, some plant foods should be avoided because they weigh you down with unwanted fat and empty calories without the protein and carbohydrates your body needs. Vegan chips and muffins fall into this category, as do white pasta and rice. In addition, almost all frozen vegan foods should be avoided as they contain harmful preservatives that make it difficult for the body to function. You should also avoid packaged granola bars, which, although convenient to eat, tend to contain sugar, which will only provide a short-term boost of energy.
These nutritional tips can be helpful for all vegans, but especially for those who play sports and spend a lot of time working out hard in the gym.