How Peanuts Can Help Athletes Level Up Their Performance

By: Stevie Smith MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN

It’s no secret that an athlete's approach to nutrition can help enhance their athletic performance, post-workout recovery, and overall health. While each individual will have different nutrition needs, having a balanced diet that provides adequate energy, macronutrients, and micronutrients should be prioritized to support their activity (1).

Peanuts have more than 30 vitamins and minerals, 7 grams of protein per ounce, more than any other nut, for lasting energy, and contain good fats which is important for heart health. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, including peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Peanuts and peanut butter are excellent choices for athletes to include to fuel their active lifestyle. Just simply adding a scoop or two of peanut butter to my oatmeal every morning not only helps me meet my nutrition needs as an athlete, business owner and dog mom — it's a tasty and satisfying way to start my busy days.

Powerful Nutrition from Peanuts:

Finding quick and convenient ways to boost the nutritional value of any meal or snack is an important part of an athlete’s routine and peanuts are a great option. Consuming enough protein is key to making sure your body is getting the essential amino acids it needs to help your muscles grow and repair after a workout or training session (2). Just one serving of peanuts provides 7 grams of plant-based protein, more than any other nut (3). Vegetarian athletes may be at risk for low intakes of overall calories, protein, and fat (1). This makes peanuts a great option for athletes who follow a vegetarian diet or for those who are just looking to include more plant-based foods in their diet.

Many athletes focus on loading up on carbohydrates and protein, leading them to fall short on fat in their diet. Most of the fat in peanuts is good fat – 12 grams of the 14 grams total fat are unsaturated – the kind that we should eat more often.  While dietary fat has a tendency to be feared, it plays a beneficial role in an athletes diet. Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy, essential fatty-acids, and fat-soluble vitamins (1). Since fat provides 9 calories per gram, it also helps to meet the overall calories needs of an athlete, which are higher than non-athletes.

Beyond providing plant-based protein and healthy fats, peanuts also provide a number of different vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for athletes. They are a good source of vitamin E which is an antioxidant that is protective against oxidative stress, magnesium which plays an important role in muscle function and enzyme production, and fiber which adds bulk to your diet and aids in digestion (3). Peanuts also provide an excellent source of the B vitamin, niacin which helps your body convert food to energy (3).

How to fit peanuts into your post-workout snack

Every meal and snack is important to meet an athlete's increased energy and nutrient needs, but eating post-workout should be a regular practice for every athlete. Eating post-exercise gives your body the nutrients it needs to begin muscle recovery and repair in order to get ready for the next training session or competition (2,4). The size and timing of this post-exercise snack will vary based on each individual and their training schedule (1). In general, this snack should be focused around refueling with carbohydrates, repairing with protein, and rehydrating with fluids and electrolytes.

Because of their nutrient profile, peanuts and peanut butter provide a quick, shelf-stable and convenient option for an athlete to get protein and calories in post-exercise. Having peanut butter on a rice cake with sliced fruit is my quick and easy ‘go-to’ post-workout snack.

Not sure how to incorporate peanuts into your post-exercise snack? Here are some tasty and easy ways to work them in!

  • Peanuts mixed with dried fruit (put these in snack size ziploc bags for an easy grab and go snack!)
  • Peanut butter on a rice cake with banana or apple slices
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Smoothie with peanut butter and fruit
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Peanut butter and fruit mixed into yogurt

Stevie Lyn Smith is a Registered Dietitian and avid endurance athlete. Her mission is to help educate and coach athletes on how to fuel their goals while not sacrificing their health.

As a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition, Stevie Lyn has helped hundreds of athletes and active individuals fuel to improve their performance, energy levels, and recovery without feelings of guilt or restriction. Drawing from her experiences growing up as a team-sport athlete to completing ten full ironman distance triathlons and countless other endurance and ultra-distance races, she knows firsthand how important nutrition is to be a healthy athlete.

She has contributed to Runner's World Magazine, Outside Magazine, Bicycling Magazine, Triathlete Magazine and the InsideTracker blog. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering to help empower others through organizations such as Girls on The Run, We Finish Together, and Back on My Feet. When she’s not swimming, biking, or running you can find her outside exploring new trails with her dog. Visit to learn more about how she can help you reach your health and performance goals.

  1. Nutrition and Athletic Performance, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 3 - p 709-731 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86
  2.  Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:83. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
  4. Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:33. Published 2017 Aug 29. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4

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