When I was a teenager, I never stopped snacking. In fact, I think I ate more snacks than meals in a day. Now that I’m older, and more knowledgeable about nutrition and my body’s needs, my snacking habits have changed somewhat. Gone are the days of chips and candy bars between classes, and giant bowls of cereal before bed. But what does snacking look like nowadays?
It’s one of the most common nutrition questions I get: to snack, or not to snack? It’s a tricky one. A 2010 study found that nearly ¼ of the calories we eat come from snacking. Is that a problem? There are a few factors to, well, factor in.
What are my caloric needs?
For a lot of athletes, we have to eat a LOT of food in a day to meet our caloric and macronutrient needs. When Hugh Jackman was training to play Wolverine, for example, he had to eat nearly 4500 calories, 50% of which came from protein. If he had to get all that in only 3 meals, his meals would have been MASSIVE. Eating that much in a sitting would have taken forever to digest, meaning he couldn’t get the most out of his training sessions. I mean, would you be at your peak performance if you’d just eaten a whole chicken?
Incorporating snacks into your diet means you can spread your calories out more throughout the day, and lessen the load on your digestive tract. Remember: it’s not just what you eat in a day, but what you digest.
What kinds of snacks am I having?
This is a big one. Most of us, when we think of snacking, think of high-carb foods: cookies, pastries, etc. But our bodies digest these foods quickly, leaving us hungrier sooner, and more likely to eat again before the next meal.
Choosing high-protein snacks instead can keep us energized, satisfy our hunger, and help our muscles recover. Good protein-rich snack examples include: Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, beef jerky, or even those new Starbucks egg bites, if you’re on the run.
When am I snacking?
Surprisingly, this doesn’t have as much of a bearing on overall health as we once believed. Obviously, you don’t want to snack too often, but the timing of the snacks is really up to you.
The best time to snack is mid-afternoon, as it tends to be when our energy naturally slumps, but a morning or evening snack isn’t the end of the world. What you eat, it turns out, is more important than when you eat it. Stick to the high-protein snack rule, and you should be good to go!
Are you hungry?
It seems like such a simple thing, yet most of us have learned to ignore our hunger cues over the years. Our bodies are pretty good at giving us signals. If you’re hungrier today than you were yesterday, it doesn’t mean your body is trying to trick you. It probably just means that you worked out extra hard, or it’s doing some internal repair that you’re not consciously aware of.
Snacking when you’re hungry is an important way of building trust with your most powerful teammate: your body.
The best thing about snacking, is that it can help give you the energetic boost you need to get to the gym! If you’re ready to book your FREE trial session, click here, and we can get started! Happy snacking!