My name’s Amy Stephens, team nutritionist for the HOKA NJNY Track Club, and this is my first post! Our club is coached by legendary coach Frank Gagliano, Tommy Nohilly and John Trautman, and comprises an elite group of mid-distance runners. I’ve been practicing nutrition for over 20 years in NYC, specializing in diabetes and sports nutrition. When I’m not serving the team, I’m running marathons and ultra marathons. After having four children, time for exercise became more precious.
I’ve discovered how important the right food is to: help you run fast, facilitate recovery, and move on with your day. On-point fueling for short and long runs has become my specialty. As the field of nutrition continues to evolve, I’m excited to share the latest updates and find the best strategies that work. Fortunately, I work with a great group of athletes that enjoy hearing about it! Here’s an inside peek at how our HOKA track team keeps energy levels high with great snacks tailored for athletes or simply suited for one’s everyday diet.
Snacks to up your energy levels
Whether you’re logging 60 miles a week or working long hours, the right snacks will keep your energy up and your ability to concentrate sharp. Snacks will prevent an energy crash and keep glycogen stores fully stocked. When working with the NJNY Track Club, we discuss snacks as an opportunity to eat more high quality nutrients.
Timing is key
The best time to eat snacks is in between meals when your blood sugar is dropping. Snacks give you the added boost of energy to get you through to the next meal. Our bodies are constantly using up energy even when we are sitting. Snacks are a great way to keep energy levels up.
Protein + carbs are best
The best way to keep energy levels stable is to eat foods that have a
combination of protein and carbohydrates. The best snacks are low-sugar, high in protein, with some healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are digested and converted into usable energy at a fast rate. However, protein is the key to longer lasting energy because it’s digested more slowly, allowing the release of energy to be slow over a longer period. The pick-me-up-effect of combining carbs and protein will last longer than sugary foods alone. Sugary foods and caffeine will give you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash. This is not ideal if you’re planning to work long
hours or hit the weights for a double workout.
What’s in a label
There are many snacks to choose from; what separates them is on
the label. I look at labels for grams of sugar, fiber, and protein. Sugar content needs to be low (less than 10 grams is ideal). Too much sugar can cause energy peaks and crashes. Fiber is an overlooked nutrient, though very important. Fiber in food slows down the digestion process and keeps energy levels up for longer, which keeps you going longer. Look for snacks with >3 grams fiber per serving. Fiber is mostly found in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Protein will slow digestion of carbohydrates, so choose snacks with more than 5 grams of protein per serving. Fresh foods without labels are even better!
Energy boosting vitamins and minerals
Keep up your stamina: don’t let yourself get tired! Make sure you eat a variety of food that includes these vitamins. While all vitamins and minerals are important, I’ve highlighted a few that have a big impact on energy levels.
- Iron is an element found mostly in animal proteins like beef, chicken, whole grains and fish. Low levels in your blood can leave you feeling tired all the time.
- Vitamin D can easily be obtained from the sunlight, eggs and dairy products. Low levels can cause fatigue and low energy.
- B vitamins (B-12, B-6 and folic acid) are involved in many energy producing reactions. If you’re running more than 50 miles per week, you need more! B vitamins are mostly found in fish, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry and fortified cereals. Vegans/vegetarians can use nutritional yeast to obtain B-12.
Snacking tips before you dig in:
1. Keep snacks handy – prep snacks ahead of time.
2. Portion control – if you’re afraid to overdo it on the snacks, portion out pretzels, chips, and nuts in a bowl or small plate. Don’t eat out of the bag.
3. Plan ahead and add your favorite snacks to each week’s grocery list.
Snack like the Pros!
Here’s what our HOKA NJNY pro runners choose:
Katy Kunc looks for snacks that are easy to grab, offer high nutritional value, and are low in sugar. Her favorite go-to’s are: dried mangos (unsweetened), Larabars , Greek yogurt with granola, pretzels or bell pepper with hummus, mixed nuts / nut butters, and popcorn.
Cecilia Leeper rotates different flavors of hummus like everything bagel, roasted red pepper, garlic, chocolate and classic hummus. Some of her
favorite foods to dip are: carrots, snap peas, celery, peppers, pretzels or pita chips.
Rob Napolitano loves homemade energy bars in between workouts. They provide a big boost of energy without causing an upset stomach.
Here’s a full list of snacks to kick up your energy and keep you energized. Adjust portions based on your activity level that day. Portions are particularly important!
- Celery with peanut butter (try sprinkling a few
- Apple slices + peanut butter
- No-Bake Energy Bites – click here for the recipe
- Tortilla chips with mashed avocado or salsa
- Hummus with carrots or cucumbers
- Saltines with peanut butter and jelly or tuna salad
- Hard-boiled egg and multi-grain crackers
- Banana with peanut butter
- Cottage cheese with almond butter and sliced banana, sprinkle with chia seeds for added fiber
- Yogurt with slivered almonds, berries + salted almonds
- Roasted chickpeas – paprika or cayenne pepper, or Hippeas
- Sliced fruit + almonds
- Frozen cherries + cashews
- Toast with ricotta sliced peaches
- Applesauce + handful almonds
- Pistachios + handful blueberries
- Pumpkin seeds with sea salt + sliced apple
Stay healthy and stay energized…Time to Fly!