As a vegan bodybuilder (or athlete), now is the time to adjust your perspective on snacks, which have gotten a bad reputation for having a low nutritional value and doing little more than satisfying food cravings.
But if you’re putting in serious hours at the gym, snacking takes on a whole new meaning, as pre-workout snacks fuel your body while post-workout snacks aid recovery.
Unlike meals, your workout snacks should be quick, easy, and portable so you can consume them at the optimal times to get the most out of your workouts.
Snacks are the most immediate sources of fuel and recovery for your workouts, so what you choose and when you eat them makes a big difference.
And if you’ve committed to a vegan diet, the snacks you choose can make a huge impact on how you perform at the gym … and how you feel the day after lifting. Here are some guidelines and tips for snacking before and after your workouts.
Pre-Workout Snacking Guidelines
The key to pre-workout snacks is complex carbohydrates, which provide the energy to run that extra mile or lift one more set.
But since carbs can be heavy, stick to light ones that don’t cause stomach cramps or make you feel sluggish. Some good examples of light carbs are bananas, dates, and apples.
It’s also important to think about the amount of time between your snack and your workout. If you’re having a snack immediately before you hit the gym, stick to fruits.
But if you have more than an hour before your workout, you can choose heavier snacks like oats and nuts deliver a long-lasting source of energy to your hard-working body.
Many types of plant-based sources of protein are easier to digest than animal sources, which gives vegans an advantage when it comes to pre-workout snacking.
Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and romaine lettuce, are easily digestible and fuel your body with clean energy. To avoid feeling weighed down, avoid high fat foods before your workout.
Another great pre-workout snack is dried tart cherries because they’re a good source of carbs for energy and antioxidants to reduce inflammation.
Bananas fight muscle fatigue and prevent soreness, while vegan yogurt with berries are a great source of protein and antioxidants. If you have two or more hours before your workout, oats with nuts or chia seeds provide lots of fiber.
To drink before your workout, grab a bottle of coconut water because it hydrates with electrolytes and fights fatigue. Maybe throw in a splash of iced coffee for good measure!
You really only have a window of one-two hours on each end of your workout to do this, so prep snacks in advance and simply take them with you. This window of time supports energy balance, insulin regulation, and carbohydrate use in the body.
Research suggests well-timed nutrients during proper ratios can help rebuild damaged muscle and restore energy reserves to enhance performance and body composition.
Post-Workout Snacking Guidelines
Many people are hesitant to eating a post-workout meal or snack immediately after exercising because it feels counterproductive to pack on those calories right after just burning them off. However, eating within an hour after a good workout is beneficial.
The period of time right after a workout is widely thought to be the most critical part of nutrient timing because of food’s power to rebuild, restore, and rejuvenate overworked muscles in the body.
Plan to have a snack approximately 15-30 minutes after a workout to fight muscle fatigue before it sets in. The longer you wait to refuel your body, the longer it’ll take your muscles to recover.
A healthy mix of protein and carbs is perfect for getting the job done. Examples of this are carrots with hummus, roasted white beans, and a mixture of whole almonds and pumpkin seeds.
“A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein has been proven to be really efficient for replenishing amino acids and repairing the muscle that’s been broken down during strength training,” registered dietician Rachel Berman told Greatist.
Protein shakes with vegan protein powder are popular post-workout snacks because they’re quick and easy. If you have some time to prep, put together a cold salad with broccoli, wild rice and edamame for your post-workout snack.
Vegan protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan are also great to eat after the gym.
Meatless Snacks to Avoid
Just because a snack is meat-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy or beneficial for your workouts. In fact, some of the unhealthiest snacks for a gym rat are vegan.
Some vegan foods should be avoided because they weigh you down with unwanted fat and empty calories without the protein and carbohydrate combination your body needs to thrive.
Vegan chips and muffins fall into this category, as well as white pasta and rice. Pretty much all frozen vegan meals should be avoided because they’re packed with preservatives that detoxify your system and prevent it from performing at its highest level.
Although they’re convenient, pre-packaged granola bars should also be avoided as snacks because they’re typically packed with sugar that’ll give you boost of energy before making you crash.
All of these pre- and post-workout snacking guidelines apply to vegans in general, but especially if you’re training and putting in grueling hours at the gym.