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Find The Power Snack Best Suited For You

4 MIN READ • 6th February 2023

Forget the chocolate and leave the crisps on the shelf – these healthy snack suggestions will get your energy levels up, no matter what you’re doing

You may have heard the phrase ‘food is fuel’, but are you eating the right things to keep yourself going? We asked experts in different fields what they eat before and after exercise to help power through and aid recovery after – and there’s not a biscuit in sight.

If you’re a cyclist…

…It’s vital to eat to help recovery

“Having food before a ride isn’t too important, but it’s essential to refuel to aid muscle repair, restore healthy blood sugar levels and ensure you get the most out of your workout after you get off the bike,” advises nutritionist and naturopath Rhian Stephenson, CEO of Psycle (psyclelondon.com). “After a hard session, it’s important to address inflammation, tissue damage, neutralising metabolic acids and insulin balance. A shake is ideal because it’s easily absorbed and you can enrich it with everything you need. Ensure you have some simple carbohydrates such as fruit to restore glycogen, some greens, a plant-based protein for muscle recovery and any other flavour booster that you like. A great combination is banana, spinach, vanilla protein powder, oat milk and cinnamon for stabilising blood sugar levels. I also love adding maca, an adaoptogenic herb that’s great for repair, endurance and hormone balance.”

If you’re a yogi…

…A healthy drink is better than food before you begin a session

“Yoga is best practised on an empty stomach, and it’s preferable not to eat at all for two hours before,” says yoga teacher Sarah Drai (yogi2me.com). “For those moments when you really feel you need to fuel your body before a class, opting for a handful of almonds or an apple is a good choice. These foods will give your body a nourishing boost without causing your digestive system to disturb your practice. You could also try a satiating drink, such as maple tree water, coconut water or a beverage packed with electrolytes. After your yoga class, it’s a great idea to combine a green juice with some energy balls or a banana to refuel.”

If you’re a swimmer…

…Make sure you eat at least 60 minutes before taking a dip

“By eating a small amount of carbohydrates before you hit the pool, you’ll benefit from a slow release of energy while you swim, helping you to keep going for longer,” explains Seyedeh Mohammadi, senior swim manager at Virgin Active (virginactive.co.uk). “Just ensure you leave plenty of time to eat (up to an hour, ideally) before you jump in the pool to avoid feeling bloated. Try pasta and wholemeal rice alongside fruit, such as bananas, which are a great source of potassium. Remember to always have a drink to hand so you can stay hydrated, and don’t forget to take on fluids, even during your swimming session. Try to avoid fatty foods, as they’re harder for your stomach to digest and can lead to indigestion and discomfort when you’re in the pool. After a swim, aim to replenish lost nutrients and refuel your body in the first 20-30 minutes after your session – this is especially important if you’re a long distance swimmer as your body needs help to recover. If you’re swimming in the morning, keep a selection of healthy snacks with you to munch on throughout the day in order to prevent energy dips. Try recovery drinks as they help replenish a mix of carbohydrates, meanwhile protein bars and fruit can keep you going before a substantial dinner. Incorporating protein into your meal will help muscle repair and replenishment – think fish, lean chicken, turkey and beef, eggs and low-fat cheese. Other healthy – and tasty – options for your main meal include wholegrain pasta, fresh fruit and low-fat yoghurt.”

If you’re a runner…

…Fuel up to smash your PB

“Before heading out the door, I’m careful about what I eat as I want to avoid anything that could ruin my run,” explains our resident runner Jenni Falconer. “I’ve over-indulged on fruit in the past and then suffered with cramps while out, meaning that I’ve had to cut my session short! The night before an event, I have a regular meal that isn’t too rich, such as chicken and rice and I try to constantly hydrate. On race day, I start the morning with a dry bagel and a cup of tea, but I continue sipping water. I also sometimes have a banana. Post-run, I crave liquid, so I have more tea to warm up as well as a recovery drink. I try to eat some protein to aid recovery as soon as possible, but that’s not easy when you’re not near home, in which case I’ll have a chocolate protein drink.”

If you’re a dancer…

…What you eat before dancing could increase the amount of calories you burn

“If you’re hungry before a dance class, I always recommend some healthy fats or protein instead of carbohydrates, such as activated nuts, an egg or spoonful of coconut oil. This is so you efficiently get the fat melting effects from the workout,” explains Niki Rein, founder of Barrecore (barrecore.co.uk). “When you have carbohydrates prior to training, you might feel you have more energy as you exercise but this is because you are burning through the glucose before you even get to your fat stores. That said, if your goal is not to lose body fat, feel free to choose healthy carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, date-based snack bars or a smoothie. Post-class is the best time to have thinskinned, high-antioxidant fruit such as berries or a green apple or your favourite grain-free snack bar. The antioxidants help to reduce inflammation from exercise and help calm cortisol levels that naturally rise during training. This combination of fat prior to training and high antioxidant carbohydrates post training is a sure way to staying lean, avoid bulking and aid faster recovery.”

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