The best snacks to help you fuel your workouts

So many of you ask me about what I eat every day to have energy and recover from my workouts, so I'm teaming up with Mercey Livingston, a holistic nutrition + wellness coach (and wellness writer for Well+Good) who will be guest blogging here to help answer your questions! -Megan

I know that nailing the perfect workout snack can be tricky. There’s a lot of information out there about fitness and nutrition, and it can get confusing. Some people say you should have fat (hello, keto fans!), or just a protein shake, or a banana on the way to class. It’s not that any of these tips are wrong, it’s just that everyone is different, with different goals and preferences so no one thing will work for every person.

In general, eating a full meal or a snack higher in fat or fiber before a workout like Megan’s dance cardio and sculpting class is not ideal since those foods are harder to digest. With all of the jumping involved in class, the last thing you want is a stomach ache or discomfort. Your best bet is to reach for something that’s easy for you to digest, but will also give you some energy. So for some people, that could look like greek yogurt and some berries, for others (like people sensitive to dairy) that would be maybe half of a vegan protein bar or some almond yogurt. I always say, it’s important to listen to your body to find what works. And sometimes that takes trial and error, (which is totally fine!).

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If you are working out later in the morning or day, it’s a good idea to wait at least 2-3 hours to workout after eating a meal (ideally balanced and one that includes protein + healthy carbs). If you’re doing a super early workout and don’t feel like eating much but want a boost, have a coffee or almond milk latte with some cinnamon (to keep your blood sugar stable) or add a scoop of marine or bovine collagen peptides for a protein boost. You can also add a little bit of MCT oil or powder for energy (but no more than 1 tsp if you’re about to workout). If you have any type of blood sugar or hormonal issues, I would not recommend plain coffee on an empty stomach before you workout. Adding some almond milk or cream, and some collagen or fat will keep your blood sugar steady and you’ll also have steadier energy from the caffeine.

If you want a snack before a workout here are some ideas:

  • All green juice + handful of almonds

  • 1/4 apple + spoonful of almond butter

  • Coffee or matcha blended with cinnamon, almond milk/coconut creamer, 1 tsp of coconut butter, 1 scoop of collagen (Vital Proteins coffee creamer is one of my faves. They even make travel packs you can carry in your bag).

  • 1/2 smoothie (blended with spinach, almond milk, protein powder, 1/4 banana or 1/4 c. berries)

If you’re working out in the afternoon and would rather snack on something more portable like a protein bar, that’s a great option too. Half of a plant-based protein or collagen bar (my favorites are 22 days Nutrition protein bars, Bulletproof Bars, Primal Kitchen Protein Bars) should keep you feeling full and give you energy to power through class. Be careful with bars—many of them (including Lara Bars and RX bars) contain a lot of sugar and carbs (our bodies don’t know the difference in natural sugars vs. processed). Having a higher sugar snack before a workout is one way to have a quick energy boost, but you are also destabilizing your blood sugar (which is never a great idea) and if your goal is to burn fat during a workout, then you’ll simply be burning off the sugar and not tapping into fat stores. When looking at bars aim for 8 grams of sugar or less, and less than 20 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber).

Photo: Mercey Livingston Wellness/Diana Davis Creative

Photo: Mercey Livingston Wellness/Diana Davis Creative

What other nutrition related questions do you have? Let us know in the comments!

Guest blog post by Mercey Livingston