Snacking: A Successful Approach to Healthful Eating

By Ryan Henrici

As a US National swimmer and triathlete, I understand the annoyance of having to eat a lot of food—it takes a lot of time and can be costly. The fact is that both recreational and high intensity athletes often do not eat as much as they need to, and, as a result, struggle with maintaining body weight and staving off hunger pangs, both of which are an integral part of successful training.

I found out that I was eating an inadequate diet only suffering from fatigue in the training pool and weight loss. At one of the Triathlon Team meetings in October, a nutritionist came to speak. She talked about the importance of maintaining energy levels through a balanced diet in order to train at a high level. At the conclusion of her talk, she mentioned a revolutionary technology available to almost all club and varsity athletes here at Penn State: The Bod Pod. The Bod Pod is a machine that analyzes an athlete’s body and produces a report on a series biometrics including body fat percentage, metabolic rate, and caloric needs. I decided to give it a try and scheduled an appointment. Not only did the nutrition team at Rec Hall conduct the Bod Pod analysis, but they also helped me create a dietary plan to ensure I get the right amounts of the right foods.

According to the nutrition team, I need to consume between 5600-6000 calories along with 170 grams of protein a day in order to maintain my body weight. I was shocked. How can I possibly eat that much a day? Actually, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. With the help of the professionals, I was able to find the weak points in my diet and replace them with healthful, energy-packed foods. Further, they helped me start to create a plan for how to maintain my new diet when I move off campus next fall. My primary concern was how to fund eating that much a day.

The key for athletes, recreational weight lifters, and all individuals alike is to spread your eating out over the course of the entire day rather than concentrating it at two or three big meals. Not only is this unhealthy because it allows your body to store the excess glucose as fat, it can actually make you spend more money. The best way to do this is to snack healthily and often between meals. This way, at meal times you don’t need to put away four lunch trays worth of food. Additionally, by eating often during the day, you are less susceptible to succumbing to the afternoon drag because your glycogen (energy) stores are constantly being replenished. Listed below are a few cheap, healthful snacks that are easy to take on the go during the day (The bold-faced suggestions are what I consider to be power snacks and are the healthiest with the most protein):

Trail Mix (you can make your own with peanuts, almonds, raisins, m&m’s and whatever else you want!)


Granola Bars

– Yogurt (try Greek yogurt if you are looking for more protein)

– Banana Chips (not as nasty as it sounds trust me)

– Pumpkin Seeds (3/4 cup contains 19 grams of protein)

– Energy Bars (pre-workout, do not use if not working out)

Here’s a link to a very thorough snacking plan for each time during the day including pre and post workout (guys don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s from Oxygen Magazine. The advice is solid):

Interestingly, snacking works both for athletes looking to meet their caloric requirements and people trying to lose weight. This works in just the same way because it prevents the tendency to gorge at mealtime by keeping your metabolism going at a steady rate all day. High protein and calorie snacks will help the individual to sustain body weight and build muscle when consumed in conjunction with exercise. Foods rich in fiber and low in calories help in the weight loss process because fiber slows digestion promotes feeling “full.” Listed below are a few examples of low calorie, high fiber food groups that can help with losing weight:

– Raw vegetables and fruits (1 cup of grapes has 104 calories)

– Whole grains

– Lentil soup

– Whole-wheat pasta

On the economic front, these snacks are cheap. My personal favorite is the homemade trail mix with Kashi Whole Grain Cereal. This variation is full of protein from the pumpkin seeds and nuts and the whole grain is another healthful filler. If you buy in bulk and make a large ziplock bag full, it lasts for weeks and only costs me about $15.

With some careful planning and strategic snacking, getting the necessary amount of calories and protein can be accomplished without spending an exorbitant amount of money. Granted, high intensity athletes will end up spending more than the average student on food, but by following the tips above, you can beat cost of your freshman meal plan and still stay on top of your game.

NOTE: The Bod Pod is a free service available to most club and varsity athletes. To inquire further contact Dr. Kristine Clark and the Department of Kinesiology located in Rec Hall.

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