Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout

by | Nov 5, 2012
Delicious Nuts

Delicious Nuts

“When I work out at the gym, I am there for a couple of hours and by the end of the first hour, I am still energized but start getting hungry. I read your article on packing food for lunch but wanted to specifically ask if you recommend any specific store bought bars.”

I frequently get questions about different nutrition and energy bars. Generally I think they are a bad idea, since they are usually just processed food with added vitamins and/or other trendy diet ingredients—a hallmark of food from the Matrix.

Energy and meal replacement bars serve only one purpose: convenience. Some may be better than others (check the ingredients to be sure), but don’t fool yourself into thinking these are health foods.

That said, I understand that quick calories can be incredibly useful, particularly when intense workouts are a regular part of your day. If you get hungry and don’t have anything around to eat, the chances of you breaking down and eating something you’ll really regret increase substantially. But I think there are better things to carry around than energy bars.

My quick snack of choice is nuts or trail mix. I always have a small stash of nuts hidden somewhere in my gym bag (which comes with me everywhere). My personal favorites are almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. When I’m feeling ambitious I’ll combine a few different kinds together in a plastic zipper bag along with some dried fruit, just to mix things up.

One of the only drawbacks of snacking on nuts is if you are really hungry it is easy to eat too many and ruin your appetite for dinner. Too many nuts can also be difficult to digest. To avoid this I recommend getting into the habit of counting the nuts you eat, drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before eating more. The protein and fat in nuts can be very satisfying, but it takes awhile for the satiety signals to reach your brain.

For almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts 10 is a good number to start with. For shelled pistachios and peanuts, 15-20 nuts is more realistic. You are aiming for a single serving size of 1/4 cup. After some practice, eating the proper amount will come naturally to you. But at the beginning you should either count the nuts or measure them out in advance so it is easier to make good decisions.

There are a few other easily transportable foods that can serve as good substitutes for energy bars. Fruit is a great option, particularly filling fruits with lots of fiber like apples and oranges. Be careful with soft fruits, however, or you may end up with a gym bag filled with goo. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

(Read: How to transport soft fruits and vegetables)

Another option that I don’t often use but am not opposed to is jerky. Beef and turkey jerky are generally high in protein and very satisfying. Just be careful about the teriyaki flavor that is often high in added sugar.

As a final thought, I wonder if you are maybe spending too much time in the gym? For weight loss and fat burning, more than an hour is really overkill and may actually work against you. If you are training for a specific athletic event, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do. But for the rest of us mortals one hour in the gym is more than enough to accomplish our goals. Maybe your hunger is a signal to you that it’s time to shower up and head home?

One of the most essential aspects of a great healthstyle is planning for moments of hunger throughout your day, but processed foods are hardly ever the answer, no matter how convenient.

What are your favorite post-workout snacks?

Originally published November 16, 2009.

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33 Responses to “Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout”

  1. MenoRikey says:

    Couple hours in the gym?!? I’m thinking he/she is working out their jaw more than their muscles.

  2. bosie says:

    hm, why not cheese?

    and why would i want to eat nuts in the first place, if the goal is to get protein in the system? 10 nuts will basically not give you protein at all but the amount of fat is off the hook.

    and since you mentioned it, you are mixing the nuts together. is it a problem to carry the nuts mixed together in a single bag for a few days?

    Thank you very much

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Bosie,

      I didn’t say the goal was to get protein, but to stop hunger. Protein and fat are fantastic hunger stoppers, so that is why nuts are good. Cheese is fine except, as you point out, I like to carry something I can throw in my bag and forget about for weeks. Try that with cheese and the smell might get you banned from the gym! If you pack snacks for individual days, cheese is fine.

      Thanks for the tips!

      :)

  3. Janet says:

    I admit to succumbing to the occasional convenient bar (like a Zbar), but I totally agree – not only are the ingredients not ideal, there’s also all that extra packaging!

    Homemade granola/energy bars are a great option if you have time to cook and individually portion them. I can’t wait until I can just bring an apple I don’t have to slice (braces).

  4. Matt Shook says:

    One of the best on-the-run energy snacks I use are organic medjool dates. They’re high in potassium and fiber, easy to carry around in a bag or backpack, and taste wonderful. They’re one of, if not the, oldest cultivated fruits in the world…and the vast majority of U.S. dates come from the Coachella Valley, which is great news for Californians who try to buy local.

  5. Kate says:

    I just found your blog through Obesity Panacea, and it’s awesome. Thank you!

    But I did want to point out that, although that most commercial energy bars etc. are essentially sugar, salt, and processed junk, that’s not true of all energy bars. For example, pretty much the only “energy bars” I eat are Larabars. The ingredients in this one I had this afternoon are: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. It’s basically smooshed-up trail mix, but easier to eat (for example, I don’t like to touch my food if I haven’t washed my hands, and it’s a lot easier to eat a wrapped bar without touching it than to eat nuts and dried fruit the same way, at least for me).

    Just pointing out that not all bars = junk.

  6. julie says:

    Why do you say that more than an hour in the gym is no good, and may even do harm? I go 3x week, each with 1 hr cardio, 1 hr weights, and on Saturday, I also add one hour yoga. I can’t imagine what the problem here would be.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Julie,

      If you’re only working out 3x week, it doesn’t really matter how long your workouts are. But overtraining is an issue for many people who think they just need to keep working out more to get results. They will workout several hours a day 6-7 days/wk. Some rest is necessary for muscle rebuilding. That’s all I meant, and your workout regimen sounds fine.

      Cheers,
      Darya

    • Jacob says:

      Also I believe once you get over the hour mark if you haven’t refueled with food then your body will actually start burning muscle for fuel. That probably the complete opposite of what you want.

      • julie says:

        I would love to know why you think that working out for more than an hour will start burning muscle. What kind of workout causes this? Certainly not yoga, not hiking. Cardio? Strength training? I’m curious to read the studies that lead you and Darya to believe that more than an hour gets counterproductive.

      • Jacob says:

        I think it depends on alot of factors such as how strenuous your workout is and what you ate before hand. Here is one quote from one of my muscle and fitness magazines that suggest my claim:

        “If you weight train and do cardio in the same session, don’t do it on an empty stomach. Within 30 minutes preworkout, take in 20-40 grams of slow digesting carbohydrates and 20 grams of a fast absorbing protein. Providing your body with nutrients that’ll stay in the system throughout most of your gym session will help you perform at optimal levels and won’t require your body to dig into muscle mass.”

      • Mika says:

        Thought I’d share a link to an article that talks a bit more about counterproductive exercising and how detrimental it can be to your weight loss goals.

        http://www.shapefit.com/overtraining-exercising-too-much.html

  7. Julie says:

    Hi Darya!

    Love, love, love Summer Tomato! Was searching for an article on almonds (I’m snacking on them at work as we speak) and wanted your take on them and came across this wonderful article. Is a 1/4 cup serving our aim when trying to stop hunger? I live in Canada, and our Food Guide says that 1/4 cup of nuts is equal to a serving of meat and substitutes. I’m a bit afraid of nuts, having been on Weight Watchers (recently quit WW after reading an article you posted at some point about WW). I know they are good for me. Thanks!

    • Darya Pino says:

      1/4 cup is good or you could count out 10-12 almonds. You only need to fear mindless eating. If you still feel hungry after eating them, drink a cup of water and distract yourself for 20 min, it will go away.

  8. PatK says:

    Thanks for the info on the healthy snacks after workouts. I find that a variety of nuts or some fresh fruit usually hits the spot for me and gives me the energy boost I need after a workout. Anything else makes me feel sluggish later on, so I just rather keep it simple

  9. Couldn’t agree more on the meal replacement and energy bars–just more processed food to avoid. Too sweet for me. For snacks I make my own trial mix with raw nuts and dried fruit. Yum!

  10. Carrie says:

    Hi Darya,
    Sometimes I think you can read my mind. :o) I was thinking about an earlier article or tidbit you gave about almonds and nuts. I am a college student and I am on campus more than I am at home, or any other place for that matter, the issue with this is that the choices of food are not always the best. To combat this, I often carry my own food with me. I was curious to know how you felt about the pre-packaged 100 calorie packs of nuts such as the ones made by Emerald? Next Tuesday in my Writing for PR class we are going to be presenting our favorite blogs. I have selected Summer Tomato. As an ending for my presentation I am going to hand out almonds to the class. I was going to use the prepacked ones as a convience factor but I want to be true to your opinions. My main point for chosing your blog is the way you make eating actual food simple,fast, and tasty. Thank you for helping me learn to eat better.

    Carrie Stocks

  11. Jacob says:

    I think it depends on alot of factors such as how strenuous your workout is and what you ate before hand. Here is one quote from one of my muscle and fitness magazines that suggest my claim:

    “If you weight train and do cardio in the same session, don’t do it on an empty stomach. Within 30 minutes preworkout, take in 20-40 grams of slow digesting carbohydrates and 20 grams of a fast absorbing protein. Providing your body with nutrients that’ll stay in the system throughout most of your gym session will help you perform at optimal levels and won’t require your body to dig into muscle mass.”

  12. Cafeej says:

    Thanks for distributing this again. A few weeks ago, I started mixing a batch of almonds, peanuts, raisins, store-brand mueslix, and Fiber One (yes, I know it is processed content but has some good stuff) every Sunday morning, and consume it after my workouts during the week. If it is already prepared then it is quick and easy to eat.

  13. Patrick says:

    Personally, I am a fan of taking a can of tuna or salmon to the gym for a snack during my workout. Just don’t forget your can opener… Also, if you’re not a fan of canned fish, a protein shake without a ton of fillers is a quick and easy option when you need something to help push through the one-hour barrier.

  14. Jill says:

    The jerky you can buy here http://www.gourmetgrassfedmeat.com/ is incredible and good for you. They are donating 100% of their profit to “Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. If you enter the code “SandyAidFund” you’ll get 15% off and help Sandy relief efforts.

  15. Nkei says:

    If you have the time and interest, it’s kinda cool to make your own energy bars, and you can control ingredients and flavors. Also a good opportunity to focus on ingredients that have nutrients that you may be lacking at any time, or physical conditions you may have (i.e. anemia, high blood-pressure, constipation etc). You can put in combos of nuts/seed, fruits & grains to make delicious snacks.

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and really dig it because I feel like you touch on a lot of things that I have been passionate about for a while now. Cooking, and making things easier for all types of people to eat healthy. I just decided to start a new blog about food, and it will be cool to connect folks to your blog for an even wider range of food exploration.

    • tjd says:

      Try Dale’s raw protein bars….only 10-12 ingredients per bar, hand made, vegan, gluten free and dairy free with 22g of protein and between 240-280 calories per bar…very good quality/taste/price

  16. Dee says:

    Good tips tho on how much nuts to eat!

    My strategy is that i try not to snack! What works for me is that my eating meals revolve around my workouts. I walk with both my lunch bag and gym bag, on errands days and workdays. If I do a morning workout at 4am i have breakfast of yogurt whey walnuts almonds cranberries dried, blueberries ad strawberries at 6am. At least 4 days I workout at midday so I eat a salad, probably with a boiled egg or sardines , some prunes and coffee at 10am So that I won’t get hungry during my workout. I have my main meal-”lunch” at 2pm so if I workout at 4 I won’t be hungry, after that workout probably I’ll have a fruit or some beans/lentils…

  17. Caroline says:

    I think you’re a little full of yourself. I don’t use energy bars because they are only a way to spend extra money. But, I think that you think calling something “trail mix” gives it super properties. If you would sort the ingredients into separate piles, most of you and your ilk wouldn’t touch it — TOO FAT! You’re also overboard on the “I must have special food” because I am such a work-out-aholic!… Give us a break.

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