When I talk about snacking, I’m really referring to the supplementary meals I eat throughout the day that fall outside the typical structure of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The foods I eat still fall within my regular diet, and I still eat at the same times every day. This way, consistency is not compromised. My “snacks” are typically mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and post-training. I may not eat a morning or afternoon snack on a training day, because my post-training protein shake fills in that spot. On rest days I tend to snack during both the morning and afternoon, because I’m generally hungry during those times.
While this may look like I’m just grazing all day, I actually keep a 3 hour gap between meals. I don’t believe there many cases where constantly stuffing your face is beneficial. By eating five healthy meals spread out over the course of the day, I am able to satisfy the nutritional goals I have laid out for myself. You might be able to do that in three or four meals, or it might require 6. The important part is having your diet synched up with what you are trying to achieve, but that is a blog for another day.
With my goals and appetite in mind, the main purpose of my snacks is ensuring adequate protein intake. Most people regardless of their goals do not eat enough protein. High protein meals (20-50g) are satiating (make you feel full), support muscle growth and retention, and boost your metabolism more than low protein meals. With this in mind, my usual snack foods are protein powder, Greek yogurt, and smaller portions of beef chicken or fish. I pair these with starch, fruit or vegetable. Because my training is largely high-intensity work (lifting heavy weights, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, interval training) I keep my carbs fairly high and eat carbs with every meal. This approach may not be appropriate for someone who trains with less frequency or at a lower intensity. Here are my three most often devoured snack-meals;
- Greek Yogurt mixed with protein powder paired with an apple.
- A protein shake paired with a serving of oatmeal.
- Steak, rice and a raw red pepper (or another serving of meals from the first two blogs)
All three of these meals travel and store easily, and they require almost no additional preparation. Having them on hand will make you far less likely to eat something that will only push your goals further away. Just like having a properly designed training program, preparation is the key to dietary success. Having healthy foods that you enjoy already prepared makes it easy to comply with your diet. Challenge yourself to prepare your food ahead of time for two weeks. It may be an exercise in discipline, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly it becomes second nature. All of my clients who have taken this approach to their nutrition were very surprised at how easy it was to stay on track. Now go buy yourself some premium food storage containers, even though it reminds you of how boring grown-up purchases can be.