Today’s recipe is for Peanut Butter Energy Balls, but first a little about workout snacks. Sometimes working up the energy and willpower to go on a 5-mile run sounds much like the soundtrack to one of Rocky Balboa’s movies. I tell myself I can do it, and before you know it, I’ve at least gotten my shoes laced up and the iPod ready to go. The feeling you get when you finish that run or similar workout is again much like victory after a boxing match. Joking aside, one of the most important things in the planning of my workout is the pre and post-snacks. I don’t often exercise long enough (usually 1-2 hours max) to need a mid-exercise fuel as well, but the pre and post-snacks like our peanut butter energy balls are a must. After a few years of studying nutrition and getting some valuable experience, and after gleaning knowledge from the nutrition experts in the University of Florida’s athletic program, I’ve learned that what you eat after a workout is just as significant as what you eat before.
The before snack or meal is best taken within 1-2 hours of the workout, as it provides the energy you’ll need during exercise. The post-workout snack will repair muscle tissue and replenish glycogen stores. But the best piece of information I have to share is that those two snacks are very similar in terms of what they should contain. They both need to have some quality carbs, preferably a slow-release whole grain to fuel your entire workout, and lean protein: your muscles need amino acids for repair, and lean protein has just that.
Eating within 1 to 2 hours before starting the activity will allow your body to stock up on and utilize enough energy without compromising performance. Feeling bloated and full just before workouts is not part of the program. Most people grasp the concept of eating before exercise: it allows for a longer period of activity with better results. On the other hand, the post-workout snack is something most people have to get used to and include in their routine. But those 30 minutes post-workouts are crucial for replenishing your body; after all, there is another workout to look forward to, usually the next day!
After a run or workout, it goes without saying that you should drink water, but eating something right away is not on most people’s mind, including mine. The idea of eating a sandwich or drinking a 12 ounce protein shake just did not work for me. (Those are great options by the way, if they appeal to you!) But I found it hard to adapt to them. Hence my Energy Bites materialized. They fit the bill for a pre-workout snack, as well as the post-snack. And they are perfect small- portion- sized balls that I can eat after a long run without upsetting my stomach.
They have good quality carbohydrates derived from the oats; due to their fiber content, they provide that slow- release energy that will provide a boost for the entire duration of your exercise. Additionally, the protein from the peanut butter and chia seeds is perfect for muscle repair. Post-workout calls for some quick energy, which the honey and coconut provide. They are pretty easy to make, as you can see on the short video below, and you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Timing is more important than quantity when talking about pre and post-workout snacks. Focus on eating a snack- sized portion of quality carbohydrate and lean protein, and don’t worry so much about how many grams you’re consuming, unless you are training for a marathon or long distance challenge that will require more specific guidelines. And even in those situations, these Energy Balls are a great choice!