By Holley Samuel MEd, RD, LD, CPT
Holley Samuel is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and CEO of her virtual private practice, Fit Cookie Nutrition. She specializes in helping runners find food freedom, learn how to fuel to improve performance, and train to prevent injuries through her Runner Roadmap Course and 1:1 Coaching programs. Holley enjoys endurance sports and distance running, stand up paddle boarding, and yoga and her favorite food is a tie between peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. To learn more about Holley, visit www.fitcookienutrition.com and follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/fitcookienutrition.
Many athletes spend a lot of time and energy focusing on improving their nutrition in order to perform and recover well from their training, and adequate nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated in order to get the job done! Athletes tend to have higher energy needs than those who are more sedentary and are also typically at higher risk for developing micronutrient deficiencies.6 Because athletes need more, the focus of their nutrition is often on energy and nutrient dense foods to meet their needs.
One of my favorite strategies to incorporate foods that have a nutrient packed punch is using peanuts and peanut butter as part of my fueling plan. Peanuts contain essential nutrients that athletes need more of than the general population, like:
- Magnesium, which is essential for proper muscle contraction
- Manganese, to aid in efficiently processing and absorbing other nutrients like protein and carbohydrates
- B Vitamins like folic acid, thiamin, and niacin which aid in energy metabolism and production of new cell
- Phosphorus, which is a key nutrient in supporting healthy bones
- Vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cells from stress, like that caused in training or the aging process
- Copper, which is essential for a well-functioning nervous system and red blood cell health
Peanuts, which are actually a legume and not a nut, also contain unsaturated fatty acids and at 7 g of protein per 1 oz serving, more protein than any other nut to support maintenance of lean body mass, support a healthy cardiovascular system and contribute to satiety.1
When training load increases, some athletes may experience an increase in appetite.2,3 Peanuts and peanut butter can be used to satisfy that hunger due to their energy density while providing key vitamins and minerals to support the nutrition needs of athletes of all levels. When training load increases, some athletes may also experience decreased hunger due to the increased stress of training, in which case energy and nutrient dense foods like peanuts and peanut butter would also provide what these athletes need at a lower volume serving that’s easy to consume when compared to other foods.5
While many athletes rely on taking supplements to help prevent deficiencies of nutrients, studies show that supplementation is actually not the most effective way to correct nutrient imbalances in most cases.4 If you want your body to get what it actually needs… adequate amounts of whole foods are best, and peanuts are one tasty, nutrient dense ingredient to include in your fueling plan.7
When training load increases, I often struggle to consume enough food to meet my increased energy needs, and this is when I personally turn to peanut butter for extra help. I love the way it tastes and am therefore always excited to eat it either plain or paired with other nutrient dense foods. Peanut butter has powered many of my personal best races, and I always eat it as an essential part of my race day breakfast.
Here are some of my favorite quick ways to incorporate peanuts and peanut butter into the fueling plan:
- Add 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter to:
- Your favorite fruit, like bananas, apples, or strawberries
- Veggies to snack on, like celery and carrots
- A smoothie with 1 frozen banana, 1 handful spinach, 1 cup strawberries or blueberries, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 2 cups milk of choice
- The top of your morning oatmeal
- Your favorite energy bite recipe with oats, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and honey
- Top whole grain toast or rice cakes for a balanced pre or post workout snack and pair with sliced banana, apples, or strawberries on top or folded in half into a PB sandwich
- Add 1/3 cup peanuts to:
- A Thai quinoa salad with chives, cilantro, mint, red cabbage, carrots, quinoa, lime juice, and soy sauce
- The top of your morning oatmeal
- Mixed with raisins, chocolate chips, and other trail mix ingredients of choice
- To top your yogurt parfait with ½ cup fruit
- Your favorite energy bite recipe by blending into a food processor
- Stuff dates with peanuts or peanut butter to fuel your workout with whole foods
- Crust your favorite chicken or fish recipe for extra flavor and crunch
- Arya SS, Salve AR, Chauhan S. Peanuts as functional food: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(1):31-41. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-2007-9
- Howe SM, Hand TM, Larson-Meyer DE, Austin KJ, Alexander BM, Manore MM. No Effect of Exercise Intensity on Appetite in Highly-Trained Endurance Women. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):223. Published 2016 Apr 18. doi:10.3390/nu8040223
- Kojima C, Ishibashi A, Ebi K, Goto K. The Effect of a 20 km Run on Appetite Regulation in Long Distance Runners. Nutrients. 2016 Oct 26;8(11):672. doi: 10.3390/nu8110672. PMID: 27792164; PMCID: PMC5133060.
- Larson-Meyer, D. E., Woolf, K., & Burke, L. (2018). Assessment of Nutrient Status in Athletes and the Need for Supplementation, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 139-158. Retrieved Mar 5, 2021, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/28/2/article-p139.xml
- Oshima S, Takehata C, Sasahara I, Lee E, Akama T, Taguchi M. Changes in Stress and Appetite Responses in Male Power-Trained Athletes during Intensive Training Camp. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):912. Published 2017 Aug 21. doi:10.3390/nu9080912
- Volpe SL. Micronutrient requirements for athletes. Clin Sports Med. 2007 Jan;26(1):119-30. doi: 10.1016/j.csm.2006.11.009. PMID: 17241918.
- Wardenaar F, Brinkmans N, Ceelen I, et al. Micronutrient Intakes in 553 Dutch Elite and Sub-Elite Athletes: Prevalence of Low and High Intakes in Users and Non-Users of Nutritional Supplements. Nutrients. 2017;9(2):142. Published 2017 Feb 15. doi:10.3390/nu9020142