As a vegetarian bodybuilder (or athlete), you’re putting in serious hours at the gym and learning how to snack is important. Pre-workout snacks fuel your body while post-workout snacks aid recovery.
Snacks are the most immediate sources of fuel and recovery for your workouts, so what you choose and when you eat them makes a big difference.
Here are some guidelines and tips for snacking before and after your workouts.
The key to pre-workout snacks is complex carbohydrates, which provide the energy to lift 2-3 more reps per set or run that extra hundred yards.
Stick to light carbs so that you don’t get stomach cramps or get sluggish. Some good examples of light carbs are bananas, dates, and apples.
It’s also important to think about the amount of time between your snack and your workout. If you’re having a snack immediately before you hit the gym, stick to fruits.
But if you have more than an hour before your workout, you can choose heavier snacks like a granola bar (no added sugar, honey is okay) or a handful of nuts. They deliver a long-lasting source of energy to your hard-working body.
Many types of vegetarian sources of protein are easier to digest than animal sources, which gives vegetarians an advantage when it comes to pre-workout snacking.
Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and romaine lettuce, are easily digestible and fuel your body with clean energy. To avoid feeling weighed down, avoid high fat foods before your workout.
Another great pre-workout snack is dried tart cherries because they’re a good source of carbs for energy and antioxidants to reduce inflammation.
Bananas fight muscle fatigue and prevent soreness, while greek yogurt (made with goat or sheep milk) with berries are a great source of protein and antioxidants. If you have two or more hours before your workout, oats with nuts or chia seeds provide lots of fiber.
To drink before your workout, grab a bottle of coconut water because it hydrates with electrolytes and fights fatigue. Maybe throw in a splash of iced coffee for good measure!
There’s only 1-2 hours on each end of your workout to snack effectively, so prep snacks in advance and simply take them with you. This window of time supports energy balance, insulin regulation, and carbohydrate use in the body.
Research suggests well-timed nutrients during proper ratios can help rebuild damaged muscle and restore energy reserves to enhance performance and body composition.
Many people are hesitant to eating a post-workout meal or snack immediately after exercising because it feels counterproductive to pack on those calories right after just burning them off. However, eating within an hour after a good workout is beneficial.
The period of time right after a workout is widely thought to be the most critical part of nutrient timing because of food’s power to rebuild, restore, and rejuvenate overworked muscles in the body.
Plan to have a snack approximately 15-30 minutes after a workout to fight muscle fatigue before it sets in. The longer you wait to refuel your body, the longer it’ll take your muscles to recover.
A healthy mix of protein and carbs is perfect for getting the job done. Examples of this are carrots with hummus, roasted white beans, and a mixture of whole almonds and pumpkin seeds.
“A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein has been proven to be really efficient for replenishing amino acids and repairing the muscle that’s been broken down during strength training,” registered dietician Rachel Berman told Greatist.
Protein shakes with vegetarian protein powder are popular post-workout snacks because they’re quick and easy. If you have some time to prep, put together a cold salad with broccoli, wild rice and edamame for your post-workout snack.
Vegetarian protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan are also great to eat after the gym.
Vegetarian Snacks to Avoid
Just because a snack says “vegan” on the label doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you.
Some vegetarian foods should be avoided because they weigh you down with unwanted fat and empty calories without the protein and carbohydrate combination your body needs to thrive.
Vegetarian chips and most vegan desserts fall into this category, as well as white pasta and rice. Pretty much all frozen vegetarian meals should be avoided because they’re packed with preservatives that detoxify your system and prevent it from performing at its highest level.
Keep in mind that all of these pre- and post-workout snacking tips apply to bodybuilders in general, not just vegetarians.
About the Author
Chris Willitts is the founder of VegetarianBodybuilding.com, creator of V3 Vegetarian Bodybuilding and Mindful Strength, and a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness, Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine, and Natural Muscle Magazine. If you want an unbiased review of vegetarian protein powders on the market, check out this resource: 5 Best Vegan Protein Powders.