Whether you are omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan it is important to consider protein, especially quality protein when engaging in vigorous exercise (like CrossFit). However, protein has been given considerable attention, while the importance of carbohydrates has fallen to the wayside. Every protein supplement company will have you believe that it is imperative for you to consume a protein shake post workout to get optimal results. But, how true is this?
During exercise, you body uses glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate) for energy, and it is important to replenish these after you workout so the next time you are at the gym your body has the energy needed to push to the next level. Pre and post workout meals and snacks ideally contain both a protein and carbohydrate. If you consume only protein, you miss an important opportunity to provide your body with the energy from carbohydrates.
Protein supplements and shakes can be part of a balanced diet, but I encourage these to be used as an addition to food, and not as a meal replacement. For some competitive athletes, especially those who are vegan or vegetarian, it may be more difficult to get adequate protein from food sources (though it is possible depending on the person). For those who consume meat, it is likely you can get adequate protein from food sources.
Although carbohydrates are equally important pre and post workout, it is important to consider protein throughout the day to keep your energy up. Try to include protein in every meal and snack to keep you satiated and your metabolism going. Find yourself getting hungry often? Increase the amount of protein from different sources to see if your body responds better and stays fuller longer! I have found that two eggs with veggies in the morning keep me full until lunch compared to a bowl of oatmeal with nuts/seeds. My husband prefers the oatmeal because he gets hungry after the eggs, not one person is the same!
Below are five quick and easy ideas for pre/post workout on-the-go snacks that are a good balance of protein and carbohydrates!
1. Banana + Peanut Butter
Switch up your fruit + nut butter (almond, cashew, sunflower, etc) for many combos.
2. Hummus + Pita (or Veggies)
Explore the different flavors of hummus available, many stores carry them in small size for travel. Look for whole wheat pita bread, or pita chips. You can cut veggies at home or purchase pre-cut at the grocery store.
3. Yogurt + Granola/Fruit
Try plain yogurt or greek yogurt and add the sweetness with fresh fruit or granola. Make sure to look at the ingredient label of the yogurt and granola to make sure it doesn’t contain more than a few grams of added sugar (the less the better!).
4. Tuna/Turkey + Bread/”Green” Wrap
Choose whole wheat bread or a collard leaf/chard leaf/romaine lettuce to make a quick sandwich or wrap.
5. Homemade Trail Mix Grab a few handfuls of homemade trail mix.
Choose your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit (look for unsweetened dried fruit) from the bulk section at the grocery store for a more affordable trail mix.
Have fun finding new snacks to add to your current repertoire, and seeing how your body responds in the gym!