Nutrition’s Elite 8: #2 – Snacking Stay Power
This is the second installment of my Elite 8 tips for nutrition. As a complete picture, my hope is that these 8 tips will help guide you in improving your nutrition game plan.
Our second tip is to snack with power that will stay with you. These first three tips work hand in hand (in hand). You are trying to eat smaller meals more often so now we have to choose what to fill our days with. This post will dial in on your carbohydrate snacking techniques.
So there are two different areas that we need to evaluate when we look at carbohydrate snacks. The first is fiber and the second is glycemic index. One you should always plan on utilizing in any snack but the other can be modified and wielded as a tool depending on the needs of your day.
Fiber is interesting. You have heard a lot about it but most people either forget or write off the benefits of dietary fiber. It’s the portion of a plant cell wall that can’t be absorbed by the body; it can be broken down into soluble and insoluble portions. Soluble helps act as a prebiotic and insoluble aids your digestive tract motility. Fun stuff.
However, here’s the part about fiber that you probably didn’t know. Fiber contributes to satiety, or the feeling of fullness. The biological mechanism of this is somewhat disputed but it is an area of active investigation. Researchers are proposing that the primary reason is that fiber slows down your digestive system which helps send hormonal signals to the brain communicating fullness.
Mixing in fiber, therefore, can give you some staying power with your snacks. Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar off the gas station counter, pack something high fiber that will give you a 2-hour fix and not just a 20 min fix.
Another method of increasing the power of your snacking is to look into the glycemic index of said snack. One moment: glycemic index is the rate at which a carbohydrate snack enters the blood stream as blood sugar. If I have you drink straight glucose, its index is 100 whereas a low glycemic index food would rank 55 or lower.
Most people are looking for that 2-5pm source of energy and some might turn to coffee or soda drinks. I’d like to offer an alternative, especially if you’re trying to follow tip #1. Spiked blood sugar can lead to a crash depending on the person or their individual body type. One of the best ways I have found to give that immediate burst of energy and prolong it is to mix low and high GI foods or combine a high GI food with some good fats (tip #3).
Conventionally, you may believe that oatmeal before a workout is a great way to fuel up. It is, don’t get me wrong, but you might not want to use that depending on your specific goal. Low GI foods actually help you burn more fat than carbs during a workout! That’s right, you can fine tune your body to use fat as a fuel over carbs in steady state, moderate intensity exercise.
Side note: in the study that evaluated high vs low GI snacks, they found that blood lactate was lower in the low GI group. This reinforces fat as the primary fuel.
Back to business, for you parents out there, here’s another interesting point to consider. After a low GI breakfast and 10 minutes’ exercise, cognitive function was improved in 12 yr old children. I’d like to believe there is some carry-over for us adults from my personal opinion but that’s your personal call.
Lets go over our categories:
High GI Foods: Gatorade, instant oatmeal, branflakes, white rice, rice cakes, watermelon, fruit roll ups, pretzels, baked potato, bagels.
Low GI Foods: Rolled oats, yogurt, wheat tortilla, apple, orange, mango, peach, black beans, carrots, brown rice, sweet potato.
High Fiber Foods: raspberries, apple, pear, whole wheat spaghetti, oat bran muffin, split peas, black beans, lima beans, almonds, green peas, broccoli.
You will want to mix and match your snacks to cater to your needs throughout the day. Need an afternoon blast? Perhaps steal away to slab some peanut butter onto a rice cake (peanut butter has a GI of 14 along with good fats and protein, while rice cakes have a GI of 82). Trying to trim? Maybe now you go for some steel cut oats with banana cut into it (low GI foods with good fiber content to make sure you stay satisfied).
This definitely takes practice and a personal touch but after a while, you can build custom snacks for every situation. Figure out what works for you, look up foods before you plan and you’ll have the hang of it in no time.
Questions? Email Alex at [email protected]
- Eat Less, More Often.
- Snacking Stay Power.
- Swap Fat for Fat.
- Water, Drink It.
- Activate Once Every Hour.
- Meal Prep, A Plan for Every Day.
- Sleep, an Underrated Rockstar.
- Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283.
- Cooper SB, Bandelow S, Nute ML, Morris JG, Nevill ME. Breakfast glycaemic index and exercise: combined effects on adolescents’ cognition. Physiol Behav. 2015;139:104-111.
- Rebello CJ, O’Neil CE, Greenway FL. Dietary fiber and satiety: the effects of oats on satiety. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(2):131-147.
- Sun FH, O’Reilly J, Li L, Wong SH. Effect of the glycemic index of pre-exercise snack bars on substrate utilization during subsequent exercise. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013;64(8):1001-1006.