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While getting a healthy array of body-friendly food at crucial mealtimes – breakfast, lunch and dinner – should be the cornerstone of your overall nutritional approach, it is the in-between times that can often make or break your physique. If you’re chained to a desk all day, for example, you may find it difficult to keep on track with your food intake. As a result, your energy and metabolism come to a screeching halt, leaving you staring blankly at a computer screen and slowly widening at the hips. Getting the right snacks at the right times could make all the difference in how much progress you’re able to make. Follow these guidelines for healthier snacking during the day.
When: This is a meal that’s not tied to a particular activity (for instance, working out) or time. It can be eaten whenever you’re not noshing on one of the other, more specific snacks. And on nonworkout days when you won’t be burning as many calories, eat one anytime snack and cut the pre- and postworkout snacks.
What: It provides sufficient protein, slow-digesting carbs and healthy fats to keep your metabolism humming and your insulin levels and attention span steady.
How much: Eat 20-30 grams of protein, 20-30 grams of slow-digesting carbs and about 10 grams of healthy fats.
Combine the raisins and seeds to make a trail mix; chop the jerky and add it for a salty kick or eat it separately.
Nutrition Facts: 293 calories, 19 g protein, 30 g carbs, 13 g fat
How you eat this snack is up to you: Make mini-sandwiches, peel the cheese apart and roll it up in the turkey slices, or eat all three components separately.
Nutrition Facts: 228 calories, 22 g protein, 21 g carbs, 4.5 g fat
Edamame is super-simple: Boil unshelled edamame in salted or unsalted water for 10 minutes, then cool and peel away the shell before eating or bagging for later.
Nutrition Facts: 254 calories, 22 g protein, 20 g carbs, 12 g fat
SEE ALSO: 5 Nutritious Ways to Eat Leftovers
When: Within one hour before training.
What: Our dietary rules are pretty specific when it comes to what you should eat preworkout. You need a good source of protein to get your muscles growing and some slow-digesting carbs to give you energy as you train, but very little fat, which would just slow the digestion of the other two macronutrients. While whey is one of the fastest-digesting proteins around and is therefore often our choice for both pre- and postworkout nutrition, soy protein digests equally fast. Various research, including a 2007 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, has also shown that soy protein is just as effective as whey at influencing muscle growth.
How much: 20-30 grams of protein, 30-40 grams of slow-digesting carbs and very little fat (fewer than 5 grams).
Add the protein powders to water and shake. Either top with fruit or eat separately.
Nutrition Facts: 272 calories, 35 g protein, 33 g carbs, 2 g fat
Shake the protein with the milk and pour over the cereal. Or, for a meal that doesn’t require utensils, top the shake with the cereal or just eat it separately.
Nutrition Facts: 248 calories, 32 g protein, 36 g carbs, 1 g fat
Add the protein powders to yogurt; stir to combine. Top with honey.
Nutrition Facts: 306 calories, 32 g protein, 41 g carbs, 4 g fat
When: Immediately after workouts.
What: Just as there are hard-and-fast rules about preworkout nutrition, similarly firm edicts exist about what you eat after training. Postworkout meals must include two things: fast-digesting protein and fast-digesting carbs. The former powers its way to your muscles to aid in the process of building them up, and the latter boosts insulin levels to help that protein get into muscle cells. As with the preworkout snacks, we recommend whey protein after training because it digests quickly and is speedily sent to muscle cells. However, we’ve added soy protein to the mix, primarily because a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2005 showed that subjects who consumed soy protein suffered less muscle damage after working out than those who consumed whey. In short, soy’s antioxidants appear to improve recovery postworkout.
How much: 40 grams of fast-digesting protein, 30-40 grams of fast-digesting carbs and very little fat (no more than 5 grams) so as not to slow protein and carb digestion.
There’s no fancy cooking here: Mix the protein powders with the water to make a shake, and put the jelly on the bread.
Nutrition Facts: 267 calories, 35 g protein, 29 g carbs, 2 g fat
Add protein powders to water; mix to combine. Eat popcorn separately.
Nutrition Facts: 265 calories, 37 g protein, 27 g carbs, 3 g fat
Mix protein powder with water; mix cereal with marshmallows and eat separately or sprinkle on top of shake.
Nutrition Facts: 279 calories, 35 g protein, 34 g carbs, 1 g fat
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When: Before bed to provide lasting protein to reduce overnight catabolism (muscle breakdown); also, anytime you’re on a low-carb day.
What: Unless you do some serious sleep aerobics (that’s a joke), any carbs you eat before bedtime don’t get burned in the middle of the night. That means they’re more likely to be converted to fat, so go light on carbs for this snack. Instead, focus on slow-digesting protein, which fights catabolism through the wee hours. Healthy fats are also a boon at night because they help fill you up and further slow the digestion of the protein you’re eating. Traditionally, we recommend consuming higher amounts of casein protein in the evening. Because casein forms a gel in your stomach, it digests much more slowly than whey.
How much: 20 grams of slow-digesting protein, low carbs (fewer than 10 grams) and about 15 grams of healthy fats.
Sprinkle seeds on top of cottage cheese.
Nutrition Facts: 253 calories, 31 g protein, 10 g carbs, 9 g fat
Mash eggs with canola mayonnaise. (Made from canola oil, canola mayo is chock-full of healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.)
Nutrition Facts: 239 calories, 16 g protein, 2 g carbs, 17 g fat