Although snacking might get a bad rap, it can be quite helpful in supporting your health and wellness goals. Whether you’re looking to improve performance at the gym, or you’re working to manage a healthy weight, snacking – if done correctly – can play an important role.
Continue reading this article to learn about the benefits of snacking, how to snack in a healthy way, as well as some snack recommendations to help you meet your goals.
Is snacking healthy?
Snacking can absolutely have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. However, when deciding if snacking is right for you, and what snacks you should reach for, it really comes down to individual goals.
Because everyone has different health goals, lifestyles, macronutrient needs, and calorie needs, snacking might not be suitable for everyone.
If you’re looking for a pre-workout snack, it’s important to choose something that has carbohydrates to ensure an adequate supply of glucose for the muscles.
If you’re looking for a snack in between meals to help curb the appetite, it’s best to reach for something high in protein to promote satiety.
While snacking can be anything from fruit with nut butter to a bag of chips, the roles these snacks play in promoting health and supporting performance goals are vastly different.
While the chips may honor a craving, they’re doing essentially nothing for health, performance, or weight loss.
On the other hand, having a nutrient-dense snack can help power a workout, satisfy an appetite, and provide important vitamins and nutrients for the body.
Top 5 benefits of snacking
1. More energy for tough workouts
Athletes burn a lot of energy, so it’s important to consume enough calories to be able to have effective workouts. Plus, additional fuel – especially carbohydrates – is important to an athlete before a workout.
Carbs are stored as glycogen, which acts as stored energy that is readily accessible and used by the body during a workout.
Athletes who consume a snack within 2 hours of working out tend to have better outcomes and improved energy levels during their exercise sessions.
Research shows that athletes benefit from snacking on training days to provide them with enough energy and fuel for effective workouts (1).
2. Quick post-workout nutrition
Snacks are not only important to fuel an athlete before a workout, but can be key for post-workout recovery as well.
After a long run or a tough resistance training session, the body is in an optimal state to build and repair muscles. This is when protein comes into play.
After a workout, it might not be realistic to consume a full-on meal, which is why a post-workout snack is a perfect reboot.
Not only does a protein and carbohydrate-rich snack help repair muscles, but the carbohydrates replenish glycogen and energy stores.
Just as it’s helpful to eat a pre-workout snack within 2 hours before exercise, it’s been suggested that it’s most effective to consume a post-workout snack within the first 2 hours after exercise as well (2).
3. Can prevent snacking on junk foods
For those looking to lose weight, a snack can help ward off cravings for junk food and help keep people on track with their daily calorie goals.
Oftentimes cravings can stem from not getting enough fuel during the day. Plus, if we go too many hours without nourishing our bodies with nutrients, it’s much more likely that we reach for simple carbohydrates and processed foods, which tend to provide excess calories.
Snacks can be a great way to maintain a healthy and balanced structure of eating, as it allows for more frequent eating times during the day. For example, if lunch is at noon, and dinner is not until 7 pm, including a mid-afternoon snack is a really helpful way to manage hunger levels.
However, it’s important to choose a healthy snack to reduce the tendency to reach for foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
4. May support a healthy metabolism
Thanks to snacking, more frequent eating may in fact help support a healthy metabolism. It’s believed that consuming a meal or a snack every few hours is helpful to increase metabolism.
While the studies are somewhat inconclusive, one study did in fact show that young male athletes who consumed protein and carbohydrate snacks experienced a significant increase in metabolic rate (3).
At the same time, other studies don’t support the notion that snacking speeds up metabolism.
While it’s possible that snacking improves metabolism, further research is needed as the current findings are somewhat inconclusive.
5. Can promote stable blood sugar levels
When done correctly, snacking can help stabilize blood sugar.
Incorporating protein-rich snacks is helpful not only to replenish muscles and boost satiety, but they can help regular blood sugar, too.
Stable blood sugar translates to improved energy levels and healthier weight management.
Because protein takes longer to digest and absorb compared to carbohydrates, blood sugar gradually rises and falls after consuming protein.
The gradual rise and fall of blood sugar keep energy levels stable, meaning athletes will have the energy to get themselves through a tough workout.
Plus, having stable blood sugar is important for weight management as it leads to reduced hunger and cravings.
What are some of the best snacks?
If you’re going to be incorporating snacks into your diet, it’s important to honor your preferences and choose things that you will actually enjoy snacking on.
Because after all, any habit that isn’t enjoyable is likely not going to be sustainable, as very few people can consistently keep eating something they hate.
Beyond taste, the best snacks should also be healthy.
The pre/post-workout snack that combines the best of both worlds when it comes to nutrition and taste is Naked Cookie.
A delectable, sweet treat that also makes for a great or a complement to that afternoon cup of coffee, instead of a coffee shop muffin.
And with only 210 calories, 10g of net carbs, and 5g of sugar, you won’t be deviating from your calorie and macro goals.
Other healthy snack options include things that have a combination of protein and high-fiber carbohydrates. Here are some examples:
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Nut butter with fresh fruit
- Hummus with vegetables
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
Snacking can be a great way to improve athletic performance and help with weight loss.
Snacking can help provide energy to athletes before a workout and can help refuel the body after exercise as well. Snacks may also help reduce cravings, boost metabolism, help stabilize blood sugar, all of which can help with weight loss.
Of course, for the best results and to make snacking worthwhile, it’s important to choose healthy snacks that are balanced with carbohydrates and fiber, such as Naked Cookie.