I exercise almost every day, whether it be a 2-3 mile run plus strength training, a hard bike ride to the beach and back, a spin class, a hike on a sunny day, or (on lucky days) a long swim in the lake or ocean. As a freelance writer, I find that the volume of work I do means that it makes sense to workout first thing in the morning.
But not only am I not hungry at that time, I don’t really have time to digest a whole breakfast (and enjoy it) between the time I get up and the time I hit the trail/bike/lake.
Similarly, if I wait until I get my typical mid-afternoon restless body (which invariably happens if I haven’t exercised that morning), it’s usually been some time since lunch, and I might even be a bit hungry.
I have learned the hard way that running, biking or hiking on an empty stomach can result in at least a crummy workout — making you feel lackadaisical, unfocused and exhausted — or more seriously, coming close to passing out due to low blood sugar. No fun either way.
So whether in the morning before I leave the house for the gym or the trail, or in the afternoon if I’m heading out and it’s been longer than two or three hours since I’ve eaten, I enjoy one of the below snacks. (Note: I’m not a nutritionist, I’ve found that this is what works for me and my regular medium-to-high intensity workouts of an hour or so).
Generally, I drink a full glass of water (along with the snacks below) about a half an hour before I know I will be getting my heart-rate up, and tend to eat a good meal about an hour or 90 minutes after I exercise.
Baby carrots are my go-to snack when I’m out of the other snacks on this list, because I always seem to have them in the fridge. They might seem an odd choice, but they are easy to transport and sweet, and have enough fiber that their natural sugars are released slowly enough to sustain me through my workout. I like six or seven of them with a little (like a teaspoonful) of raw almond butter or just a bit of hummus.
Bananas are by far the best, simplest and most satisfying pre-workout snack I eat. Potassium, fiber, sugar and carbs, a banana just keeps me going without filling me up since they are quickly digested. The only problem I’ve found with them is that they can get boring.
I’ve written about my love of Kind Bars before; for some reason their whole nuts and dried fruits satisfy my taste buds and keep me satiated better than all the other health bars out there. I usually only eat half to two-thirds of a bar before a workout — a whole bar is a bit too filling for me, and it’s nice to have the rest after I’ve done my workout, along with lots of water.
A light smoothie can break up my pre-workout snacking. While I really like a full-on "meal smoothie" packed with fruits, veggies, protein powder, greens and raw nut butter, pre-workout I need something much lighter. Blending a banana with some water, a touch of honey, a banana and a small handful of blueberries is light and delicious. Another good combo is frozen mixed berries and honey with a a couple tablespoons of vegan or dairy yogurt (not a whole container, just a bit for flavor and viscosity).
Avocado on organic Ryvita is probably the strangest combo on this list, but it works for me; Just one of the unleavened rye toasts and about 1/3 of an avocado is filling, and the good fats in the avocado are satisfying (and I can’t get tired of the taste of avocado). Ryvita (or its competitors Wasa) are high fiber, flavorful and work better for me than a bread, which tends to hang around in my stomach longer than I would like.
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