Here are a few ideas for nutritious snacks before a workout
With a smear
Take some hearts of celery and fill in the groove with some organic almond butter or peanut butter. This snack really travels well in Tupperware and makes a terrific pre-workout snack. Why? The celery has fiber and nutrients (including calcium and vitamin A) and a ridiculously low 6 calories per medium stalk. The nut butter has protein and fat. The overall calories are low, and this really fills you up without slowing you down, providing great "slow-release" energy for a terrific workout.
The double A
Simply put, an apple with almonds. The apple is the perfect food for a pre-exercise snack. The sugar load is moderate, it contains valuable pectin fiber which slows the entrance of that sugar into the bloodstream, and it's a nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Combine it with about a dozen almonds, which add some fat and protein. They'll further slow the entrance of the sugar into the bloodstream for sustained energy and keep hunger away.
Whey to go
Whey protein is not only an extremely high-quality, bioavailable protein; it also supports the immune system by providing the building blocks for glutathione, arguably the body's most important antioxidant. And studies indicate that whey protein may boost weight loss efforts. According to one French study, eating whey before exercise supports fat burning and may help with gaining or maintaining lean body mass. I suggest a whey protein shake made with either water alone or with frozen berries. The berries add fiber, nutrients and some extra carbohydrates, and make for a more delicious drink. Research has indicated that users of whey protein prior to training will illicit better results than those using other protein sources (or none at all). This is most likely due to the anti-catabolic and anabolic signaling effects of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) present in whey protein—particularly leucine. Whey has a considerably higher concentration of BCAAs than other proteins.
There are many other benefits, as well. Studies have shown that pre-workout protein intake will increase resting energy expenditure by an average of 6-6.5% for up to 48 hours1. Pre-workout protein will also blunt cortisol through the day. Protein and amino acids also spare carbs. People often assume that when the body runs out of carbohydrate fuel, it switches to fatty acids for fuel. That process is typically too slow for high-intensity training. To provide fuel more quickly, amino acids are rapidly broken down and converted to sugar in a process known as gluconeogenesis. If those amino acids aren't in the blood supply, guess where they come from? Yep, your 18-inch biceps. For those of us who are dieting, some extra aminos in our bloodstream may help preserve our lean mass.
Berries are loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and are low in sugar. Mix a bowl of berries with a piece of string cheese for the perfect pre-workout snack. The string cheese has 8 grams of protein, some fat to keep hunger at bay and only about 80 calories. And it's an excellent source of calcium. Just be careful not to injest too much fiber before a workout as it may leave you a little bloated, especially if you have not had enough water
TG: too good
The initials of this snack stand for turkey and grapes. It's a perfect match of protein, carbs and low calories to take the edge off your hunger and prime your exercise pump. Four small slices of deli-packaged turkey contain only 87 calories but give you more than 14 grams of protein, plus some of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium to boot. A cup of grapes adds some carbs to the mix together with phytochemicals. Go for fresh turkey whenever possible as the packaged kind is high in sodium, and choose red or purple grapes because they have more antioxidants.
Obviously there are other choices besides these. In a pinch, use a protein bar, though you'll want to watch the sugar content and look out for the presence of trans-fatty acids. Hard-boiled eggs are another secret weapon in the search for portable protein that combines nicely with a little fruit (such as an apple).
What you eat after the workout is even more important than what you eat before it. That's when your muscles are hungry and your depleted glycogen (muscle sugar) stores need replacing. The "golden hour" after the workout is the time when those muscles soak up nutrients most effectively. Choose what you eat after the workout with just as much care as you choose that pre-workout snack.
After a tough workout, your fuel of blood sugar and glycogen should be low. You may have even tapped into reserves to complete your training, especially if you are dieting. Most of us understand the need for protein after training, but many overlook the benefits of fast-acting carbohydrates.
From a physiological perspective, your body's first priority is correcting blood sugar balance and replenishing glycogen, not making your biceps pop. Consume fast-digesting carbohydrates in order to spare protein, replenish glycogen, spike insulin, and speed recovery. Dose recommendations differ, but to maximize recovery, ingest 50-75 grams of high-glycemic carbs after exercise. Hmmm..., does that include chocolate?? :D