By Leslie J. Bonci , MPH,RD,CSSD, LDN
When you think crunch, what comes to mind? Time crunch, ab crunch or the satisfying crunch of food? We all want to do our best to be productive, fit and well-fed. So how do we find the right balance?
Keep it Simple.
As a dietitian who works with active people, I don’t want anyone to sacrifice a workout because they spend too much time meal-prepping, or miss out on good nutrition to make it to spin class. In order to have the best of both worlds, be prepared by having some easy, ready-to-go mini meals/snacks in your fridge and/or sports bag.
Personally, I am a big fan of peanuts and peanut butter. First, they are ready-to-eat foods that taste great alone or in combo with fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy foods and even meats. Second, they are portable which is great for those days when you’re in a time crunch. Third, they are nutrient-dense, meaning they pack a powerful nutrition punch in every bite. Protein, fiber, good fats, vitamins and minerals in a convenient, tasty package make peanuts a must on my list.
Timing is Everything.
Whether you hit the trails, the weights or the yoga mat, your muscles need fuel to optimize strength, speed, stamina and decrease the risk of injury. It is a balancing act to have enough fuel for basic body functions and for exercise. Even as an active individual, you may not need to add extra food to your day, but time your food appropriately by snacking pre- and post-workout.
Ideally, try to eat and hydrate about 60 minutes before exercise. However, for early morning workouts, you may need to shorten that time frame so you don’t compromise sleep. Post work-out fueling, either a snack or meal, and hydration should start within 15-30 minutes of completing a workout.
How Peanuts Fit
Muscles use carbohydrate and fat as the primary fuel sources for cardio exercise. Peanuts or peanut butter provide the fat and are deliciously combined with carbs like cereal for a tasty trail mix or bread for a delicious sandwich. And to get the most out of strength training workouts, it’s best to consume a little protein both before and after, so peanut butter on a banana or peanuts added to oatmeal can be great pre-lifting fuel.
The goal with pre-workout fuel is to have a small amount of food so your stomach doesn’t feel heavy when exercising. Post-workout fuel is also about quality, not quantity, so think more appetizer sized portion than entrée.
Here are some examples of pre and post workout/competition fueling by times of the day:
1 ounce of peanuts with 2 Tbsp. dried fruit like peanuts or cranberries
1 Tbsp. peanut butter on a slice of whole grain toast
Smoothie with 1 Tbsp peanut butter, ½ cup yogurt, ½ cup low-fat milk and a small banana
2 Tbsp peanut butter on a whole grain English muffin
¾ cup oatmeal with 2 Tbsp each of peanuts and dried blueberries
Trail mix of ½ cup dry cereal and 1 ounce of peanuts
1 Tbsp peanut butter and a small apple
Vegetable salad with 2 Tbsp peanuts
6-ounce Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp peanut butter and 1/2 cup berries
½ of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
½ ounce of peanuts with 2 cups of popcorn
2 Tbsp peanuts, 2 cups vegetables in a stir fry over 1 cup brown rice
Dessert of dark chocolate peanut butter with strawberries
By putting peanuts and peanut butter into your workout routine, you’ll have versatility, boost your ability to maximize time and optimize your workouts.
Leslie J. Bonci, MPH,RD,CSSD, LDN, is the owner of Active Eating Advice- be fit, fed, fearless- a nutrition consulting company. She is a nutrition consultant for both college and professional athletes.