Supercharge Your Workouts with these Whole Food Swaps

Now that Fall is in full swing; we’re starting to get back into a groove with our workouts. For some of us, that looks more consistent with our gym routine, increasing our strength training, or even prepping for our next 5 or 10K. One of the best ways to get the most out of our workouts is to ensure we’re starting with a full tank. That includes fueling ourselves with the right mix of plant-based carbs, proteins, and fat. 

It can be hard, though, to get in all of that goodness while we’re on the go. Sometimes the easiest option is to pick up a protein or energy bar. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea – sometimes it’s the best option – it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredient on the label. Often these bars include highly processed ingredients like chemical preservatives and added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, which can give your body a quick sugar boost but leave out the nutrients you need. Even the all-natural bars are often loaded with added sugar that, if not burned off right away, will end up doing more harm than good. 

There are a few important factors to consider when deciding how to fuel your workout, including your overall activity level, the type of workout you’re about to do, and the intensity level. For lower activity levels or just everyday snacking, it’s best to avoid energy or protein bars. While these are definitely convenient options, they may be causing unnecessary spikes in sugar or increased inflammation. Worst of all, many of the bars in the grocery store have the same nutrient profile as a chocolate bar – yikes! Instead, keep a bag of nuts on you to satisfy those snacking needs on the go. A piece of fruit or a non-dairy latte can be another satisfying choice. 

For higher activity levels like workouts, it’s important to set your body up for success. This includes keeping 3-4 hours between your last big meal and your workout to ensure you won’t feel sluggish from digestion. Instead, opt for an energy-rich snack of simple carbohydrates and a little protein about an hour before you start.  While fast-acting carbs are not usually good for our blood sugar, they can be beneficial in giving your workouts a boost if they get used by our muscles right away. The added protein can help to moderate our sugar absorption and keep us feeling energized longer. A few examples of healthy pre-workout snacks include an apple or a banana with almond butter, a handful of seeds with dried fruit, or even a granola bar or natural energy bar. 

Depending on the length and intensity of your workout, you may need to top up with another easy-to-digest snack to keep your energy levels up. This may not be necessary, though, unless you’re really pushing it. What is important is to make sure you’re replenishing your electrolytes during your workout. We lose important minerals like sodium and potassium when we sweat. It’s important to replace these to ensure we regulate our fluid balance and support nervous system function. Unfortunately, like protein bars, there are a lot of highly processed options out there. Unsweetened coconut water is a great natural alternative, or add a small pinch of Himalayan pink salt to your water with a twist of lime. 

Finally, to help recover and build muscle, it’s important to eat within an hour after a challenging workout. This is when our muscles are most primed to absorb fuel and repair. Plantable’s Chia Protein Bars are a great choice or if you’re on the run, or try a protein shake or smoothie with a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  

In summary, there are a lot of healthy, convenient ways to fuel your workouts that don’t include the need to include highly processed energy or protein bars. These whole food alternatives keep you energized, and nourished, and help to prevent sugar crashes and inflammation. 

Interested in incorporating more whole-food alternatives? 
Connect with a Plantable coach or 646-974-8200 to get more guidance on healthy, every day switches.