We sometimes forget the heart is a muscle, and muscles need to be trained. Are you making sure you’re getting enough cardio in your workout routine? Running, swimming, and biking are all ways to build your endurance, get your heart pumping and oxygen flowing.
Endurance training is the act of building up your endurance through aerobic activity. A focus on this type of exercise has several benefits to your health.
First out of the many perks of endurance training is that you will feel much better mentally. You can achieve a better self-image and with a sufficient amount of oxygen pumping to the brain, you’ll start thinking more clearly. It can have a positive effect on your sleeping habits and energy levels resulting in overall better peace of mind.
Working on your endurance also strengthens your heart and lungs, which boosts your overall health. It’s a step in the right direction in preventing future heart and lung related diseases.
However, for all of that good stuff to happen, it is important to be fueled up with the right nutrients that give you the energy you need, so your body can handle the intensity of an endurance building workout.
All endurance athletes know how crucial it is to keep your energy levels high by consuming the proper pre-workout snacks. The right foods can get you off to the right start, feeling energized. They keep your body fueled so you can stick it out to the end. They can also improve your recovery process when it’s all said and done.
In the following list, you will learn about the top ten best snacks for endurance training.
#1 MEDJOOL DATES
Juicy and full of nutrients, medjool dates are a fantastic choice for sweetening things up. These delicious treats are heavy in the good kind of carbohydrates that rev up your engines.
Despite their sweet, caramel-like taste and texture, medjool dates have a low glycemic index. These types of carbs are slowly digested and absorbed, and they lead to a much slower rise in blood glucose levels.
For every 100g of Medjool dates, there can be roughly around 77g of these slow-burning carbs. This means a small amount is more than enough to fill you with the long-lasting energy needed for endurance training.
Great news for vegans and everyone who is looking for a new sweetener alternative. Medjool dates are not just an excellent workout fuel, but they can also be used as sweeteners instead of refined white sugar or honey. You get an awesome source of nutrients and satisfy your sweet tooth all in one!
Enjoy medjool dates as they are or use them in a smoothie or oatmeal. Another fun idea to enjoy these special kinds of dates is to make Medjool paste and syrup. Spread that on toast or pour over pancakes and you have a new healthy way to enjoy your favorite breakfast!
Apart from being a healthy carbohydrate to boost energy, the potassium found in Medjool dates is also of use for endurance athletes. As an essential electrolyte to the body, potassium can help prevent post-exercise muscle cramps.
And always, always, always choose organic! It may seem like an exaggeration or personal preference, but shopping organic for your vitamin-heavy foods is extremely important to ensure you’re really getting and absorbing all of the nutrients they provide.
An oldie but a goodie, oatmeal is packed full of nutrients and an awesome snack before or after any form of endurance training. This is one of the good old classics that will “never go out of style” and a lot of endurance athletes swear by it.
Oatmeal is packed full of fiber and low glycemic carbs that will make sure you have long-lasting energy, feel full for longer periods of time and maintain a healthy digestive tract. It is also rich in manganese, iron and B vitamins which all play a role in energy production and may help you feel a lot more energized.
Oats by themselves can keep you feeling strong and stimulated, but you can “power them up” and make them more colorful, fun and nutrient-dense by adding some frozen, fresh or dried fruits, and nuts. You can also try mixing in some nut butter like peanut and almond, or seeds like chia seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Packed by nature in a “little yellow bag”, bananas are an easy grab-and-go fruit and full of nutritional goodness. For a long time, they have been a favorite energy source for cyclists, runners and several other types of endurance training athletes.
Research has shown that bananas are extremely beneficial to our overall health. In fact, in a study that compared bananas to sports drinks, they showed the exact same effect on performance. However, they proved to have a few advantages over these artificial drinks.
Bananas are a great source of carbs, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin B, manganese and potassium. They contain healthy sugars, unlike sports drinks.
As aforementioned, potassium lends a helping hand in preventing post-workout muscle cramps and vitamin B, while manganese can play a major role in energy production. One medium banana contains almost 30g of carbs needed for an energy push and better endurance.
If you’re running behind, a banana is the perfect snack to throw in your bag to make sure you’re ready when it’s time to get your cardio on.
#4 NUTS AND NUT BUTTERS
Another kind of nutritious and delicious snack that gives you that extra push you need when engaging in endurance driven activity is the versatile family of nuts. You can enjoy nuts on their own or dip your favorite fruit or vegetable in a nut butter. There is a wide variety to choose from!
The most popular nut in this group is the peanut. Runners have always fueled up with peanuts and peanut butter. It has become a tradition in a sense.
These little superfoods provide vitamin E, folate, manganese, magnesium, and niacin. They are also high in protein and fiber.
When you exercise, you’re bound to make little micro-tears in your muscles, so by snacking on a high protein food like peanuts, you can help your muscles repair the damage. Your body breaks down proteins and uses amino acids to “stitch-up” muscle tears.
The magnesium in peanuts helps with the prevention of post-exercise muscle cramps and maintenance of muscle health, while manganese can help with energy production.
Peanut butter will give you an extra nudge because it's not only rich in protein, but also contains carbohydrates. Those carbs are converted into energy, so a little bit of peanut butter can go a long way and keep your body on the move.
Nutrient-dense almonds are a great source of magnesium, manganese, riboflavin, dietary fiber, proteins, copper and phosphorus. They are an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants which may help enhance or maintain exercise performance.
One study showed that the consumption of almonds can improve the way your body performs while enduring long spouts of aerobic activity. According to this study, almonds keep you feeling full and provide your body with the proper ratio of carb to protein to keep you going.
A perfect balance of nutrients, healthy fats and protein, pistachios have a similar nutritional value as peanuts or almonds with a little extra bang for your buck. They are rich in nutrients, especially potassium as well as Vitamin B1 and B6, manganese, and copper.
They make great fuel for endurance athletes because of their high potassium and protein content which are great for muscle recovery and prevention of muscle cramps.
Athletes lose a lot of minerals through sweat, and minerals are crucial for muscle function, so minerals found in pistachios can help replenish these necessary elements in your system.
Pistachios are also packed with zeaxanthin, which is shown to reduce muscle degeneration and a good source of vegetable protein. They also have an essential amino acid ratio higher than most other nuts.
#5 CHIA SEEDS
Chia is an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber. You may remember the commercial with the catchy jingle “ch-ch-ch-chia” for those cute little plant pets for your garden. The same beneficial nutrients that turn that stone porcupine into a shrub are super useful for your muscles as well.
The dietary fiber in chia may help slow down the digestion of carbs and therefore provide energy for a longer period of time, which is key for endurance athletes. The seeds and their fibers can also absorb a substantial amount of water and that can help with another vital component for athletes, hydration.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids which can assist the body in energy production. They are also abundant in minerals like iron, copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. And again, most of these minerals can ease the frequency of muscle cramping.
Blueberries are jam packed with water and nutrients and act as another common superfood for endurance athletes.
These little blue marbles of pop-in-your-mouth sweetness are a great way to hydrate the body. And when talking about minerals, blueberries contain potassium and manganese, both beneficial for athletes.
Manganese is a helpful aid in the metabolism of carbs and is a major part of energy production. This powerful mineral combined with potassium can prevent post-workout muscle cramps and replenish your minerals lost during exercise.
Blueberries also contain quercetin, a dietary flavonoid claimed to improve endurance exercise capacity. They are also believed to contain the highest antioxidant capacities.
This can be quite important for athletes, their endurance and their recovery. Micro-tears that can result in soreness, inflammation and even oxidative stress can be kept under control by enjoying a bowl of blueberries as a snack.
#7 RICE CAKES
Popular amongst cyclists, rice cakes are another option when you’re in need of an endurance-friendly snack. They’re easy to digest and pair with other variations of protein and carbohydrates to light a fire under your booty.
It’s best to pair your rice cake with something high in fiber and protein to balance. And these simple carbohydrate treats can be complicated to make, so be sure to find the right recipe before you give it a go.
Another alternative food that lifts your energy levels and offers your body the right amounts of protein and carbs is hummus. Made from chickpeas, hummus has a low glycemic index and high fiber count, which helps with digestion and keeps your body feeling full for quite a while after you indulge.
Hummus goes along well with vegetable slices, or on a rice cake! However you choose to enjoy this mediterranean delight, your body will feel strong, fueled up and ready to run.
#9 COTTAGE CHEESE
Cottage cheese is a wonderful option for endurance athletes to choose. Not only is it high in protein, but the type of protein it contains, casein, is slow-digesting and aids in building leaner muscle.
The best time for endurance athletes to consume cottage cheese is actually right before bed. The reason for this is that it limits the amount of muscle breakdown while you sleep. After an intense run, bike ride, or swim, you’re going to want to get the most out of your resting time and cottage cheese can help your body do just that.
This next snack option is incredibly runner-friendly due to its composition of essential nutrients, such as vitamin E, potassium, vitamin K, B-vitamins, fiber, and folic acid. Avocados paired with other nutrient-dense foods assist the body in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
The healthy fats in avocados help lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol levels in the body and prevent disease. Heavy in antioxidants that cancel out the free radicals that are produced when running, avocados are a popular choice amongst long-distance runners.
Final Thoughts and Ideas
With all of these examples of healthy snacks to boost your energy levels and keep you pumped up throughout your endurance training, it's hard to go wrong. There are so many delicious recipes and ways to indulge in them.
Energy bars, fruit smoothies, peanut butter and banana sandwiches... oh my! A snack bag full of almonds and pistachios with a side of blueberries...yes please. Medjool dates with some greek yogurt to go...hallelujah! Keep your kitchen stocked with these nutrient-rich and colorful snacks to please your taste buds and appease your fitness goals!
When you're working hard to make strides in your health, it's so important to keep your body strong and properly nourished. The road to a happy heart, fit body and long, fulfilling life starts from the inside.