Man is making smoothie

By Carol Harrison, RD

I’ll just grab a muffin after work on the way to the gym to tide me over until supper. Seems harmless right? But that 400+ calorie muffin might just even out the calories you are about to burn off in your one-hour, low-impact fitness class. An apple and a hard-boiled egg packed from home would be a better bet. You can get speedier gains from your workout with healthier snacks that leave you feeling more physically and mentally energized.

Formula for a winning pre-exercise snack

To prevent fatigue so you can exercise longer or more intensely, you’ll need water plus fuel to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Here’s how to pull that off.

Carb-rich food   Fuel your muscles and brain with quality carbohydrates Try: ·         Fruits like apples, bananas, melon, pears, grapes ·         Starchy veggies like sweet potato, squash, green peas, plantain, corn ·         Whole grain pitas, wraps, bread, bagels, oatmeal and other whole grain cereals ·         Barley, rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous+ Protein-rich food   Curb hunger with quality protein Try: ·         Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs ·         Nuts, seeds and nut butters ·         Beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas ·         Tofu, fortified soy beverage ·         Milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese

Tips to tailor your snacks

Do you need a snack? How much and when should you eat it? It all comes down to when, how long, and how intense your exercise will be. Follow these two guidelines.

  • Aim to feel satisfied, not full, when starting your exercise. Explore when, in that 1-4 hour window before exercise, you can eat and still feel your best during your workouts.
  • Learn to listen to your body. You might prefer foods that are lower in fat because they digest quickly. If bloating before exercise is an issue for you, foods lower in fibre can be a better choice.

Three winning pre-exercise snacks

  1. Mini mason jars of strawberry-banana-walnut muesli Use fresh greenhouse or field strawberries (frozen is ok too) TIP: Make and refrigerate extra jars on the weekend for an easy grab and go.
  2. Apple and ricotta stuffed pitas Try a mini whole-wheat pita stuffed with ricotta cheese and apple slices. Dust with cinnamon. TIP: Dip apple slices in orange juice to prevent browning.
  3. Crispy oven-roasted chickpeas, bell pepper strips, pita wedges Experiment with different flavours. Try smoked paprika, chili powder, curry powder or fresh chopped rosemary or thyme. TIP: Use extra roasted chickpeas to top a salad or soup.

Carol is a registered dietitian who loves her daily workouts! She has a food nutrition communications company in Toronto. Follow Carol on Twitter and IG: @yummylunchclub