When your schedule gets hectic, it can be hard to squeeze in enough time for exercise, especially if you're already feeling low on energy and short on time for a healthy pre-workout snack. While energy bars can seem like a simple solution, many of them are merely glorified candy bars, are packed with artificial ingredients or chemicals, or simply don't taste very good. The cost of energy bars can also really add up. I've found it more affordable--and tastier--to rely on a simple snack of "real" foods for energy before I go on my morning run or play hockey or engage in other exercise. They require little or no work to prepare, and at least for me they're easily and quickly digested, meaning that I'm ready to go within an hour or less. Here are five of my favorite go-to "fuel foods," which I usually accompany with a glass of water and cup of coffee in the mornings:
1. Banana and Dark Chocolate: Depending on how much time I have to digest before exercising, and how hard I plan on working, I'll eat either a half or whole banana along with a square of dark chocolate. If you prefer milk chocolate, or a spoonful of peanut butter, that would work, too.
2. Half an apple with peanut butter: I cut half an apple in to two quarters, remove the core and spread the middle with a little bit of natural, crunchy peanut butter. An entire apple is usually too much for me if I plan on running or skating within an hour of eating, so I wrap the uneaten half with some plastic wrap and refrigerate it to enjoy with my post-exercise meal.
3. Nonfat or low fat yogurt plus honey: For me, a half-cup of plain yogurt drizzled with a tablespoon of honey is the perfect amount.
4. Handful of nuts with dried fruit: Unsalted peanuts, walnuts, or pecans with raisins, dried blueberries or dried cranberries - I mix an equal amount of one type of nut with one type of dried fruit for a total of about 1/4 cup.
5. Almond- or pecan-stuffed dates: This one is a little "fancier" since I don't always have dried dates, but boy is it delicious, and full of energy! I cut a slit in 3 or 4 pitted dates and stuff each with a whole almond or a pecan half, and savor every bite.
By the way, if you find yourself getting the afternoon munchies or are running out of steam at work and start craving junk food or a candy bar, you might want to consider bringing one of these snacks to work to use as a healthier "pick me up," with or without a cup of coffee.
Do you have a favorite energy snack? Please leave a comment and let us know how you fuel up.
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