Healthy Snacking for Performance
Snacking can be tricky, especially for the health conscious. Most of the snack items that line the grocery store aisles are filled with artificial flavors, preservatives, and refined products. Although these ingredients are often included in snacks labeled “healthy”, they may actually cause more harm then benefit. However, there are a few bright spots in the healthy snacking universe that can help us reach out health and fitness goals.
Why We Snack?
From a physiological standpoint, we snack to help keep our blood sugar stable. Snacking for blood sugar stability keep the body and brain buzzing throughout the day. The best example of blood sugar stability gone awry may be the afternoon crash often experience during the work or school day. Right around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, a few hours after lunch, our blood sugar begins to drop below normal levels. We feel week, tired, and sometimes a little emotionally unstable. But, when we take in a healthy snack, our body converts that food into sugar, blood sugar picks back up, and we feel energized and creative and happy for the remainder of the day.
In addition to maintaining stable blood sugar, snacking may help keep our metabolism running at a high rate and reduce our likelihood of overeating at later meals. Together these two benefits of snacking may promote healthy weight or weight loss. To the first point, the body needs fuel to keep functioning, metabolizing, efficiently and when we deprive the body of fuel everything slows down. To the second, snacking between larger meals may help us keep or portion sizes in check so that we don’t consume more food than the body needs.
Finally, from a performance perspective, snacking helps prime the body for exercise and helps it recover at a faster rate. Taking in a light snack a couple hours before a workout will send sugar into the muscles and brain so we can perform at a higher level for longer periods of time. Performing at higher levels for longer periods of time is how we grow and get stronger in the world of sport. Snacking after exercise also helps the body replenish glycogen, muscle fuel, and repair damaged muscle tissue so that we can come back faster and stronger for the next effort.
I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that there are times when we snack simply out of boredom or anxiety or sadness or any other emotion that may enters our lives. Unfortunately, this tendency is beyond the scope of this piece, but it’s fairly safe to say that snacking wisely will help minimize or avoid any tendency towards emotional eating.
The healthiest snacks are the ones that are best support our health and fitness goals in a sustainable manner. Snack sustainability is dependent upon many factors that include time, energy, and economy. If we are short of time or energy, preparing homemade hummus and crackers, although healthy, may not be the most sustainable practice. Similarly, if we are athletes or are trying to be more athletic, eating a fat heavy, carb light snack such as hummus may not best support our needs.
There are many determine which snacks may best support our needs, but here are a few general guidelines that will help us get to a sustainable snacking practice more efficiently:
- Eat real food – Fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of meat are great, but for sustainability purposes might not fit the bill. With quick and easy prepackaged snacks, look for foods whose ingredients lists are short and include only ingredients that you can pronounce.
- Avoid enhanced products – Protein bars may be easy, but taking in a disproportionate amount of protein, not to mention all the other chemicals that such bars contain, may not best serve your health and wellbeing.
- Watch portion size – Any healthy food instantly becomes unhealthy when consumed in excess. If you snack up with one specific food, you may be neglecting your body some other valuable nutrients that will better serve your purposes. In other words, everything in moderation while emphasizing health and diversity.
I know. Informative, but just vague enough to be a little frustrating. No worries!
Thunderbird Real Food Bars fit nicely within all 3 of these healthy snacking criteria and are uniquely capable of helping you towards all your health and fitness goals. Thunderbird Bars are gluten free, GMO free, soy free, dairy free, vegan, and no sugar added with many paleo certified flavors. Most bars utilize dates for their base, which is a great source of instant energy, with nuts, seeds, a some grains in order to help slow the rate at which the energy burns. Plus, they are simple, easy, and magically delicious.