The Perfect Busy Athlete's Snack– What, Why and When To Eat Snacks?

If you head off to school, university or work around training times it’s important for you to plan ahead and make sure you have the right foods packed. This way the fuel needed to prepare and recover from training will be available when you need it.

A common phrase we often hear is: “I don't have time to eat breakfast, plan meals, or pack snacks for the day. It’s just impossible!” Between school, sports practices, homework, and extracurricular activities, finding time for healthy yet quick options for meals and snacks can be challenging!

It is a well-known fact that your or your child’s nutrition directly affects the performance both on and off the field. Furthermore, proper nutrition also helps prevent illness and injury. Many young athletes do not have a snack before they head out to practice after school, but snacks are an important part of an athlete’s day for various reasons.

If possible, an athlete should aim to have a snack 30 minutes to an hour before practice.

Good nutrition practices and a healthy diet are some of the main keys to success for young athletes. We make the most nutritious snacks for you and your family. Check out Ipanema Valleys healthy snacks!

Wishing everyone a happy, fueled sports season and new year!


High-level athletes ask a lot from their bodies day-to-day. Proper fueling is essential for an athlete to be able to arrive at each day's workout ready to give 100 percent. A key part of proper fueling is snacking. Read on to find out why athletes should be snacking and score a few healthy snack ideas too.

  1. Blood sugar regulation Eating only meals typically means many hours between eating sessions. Athletes should be eating every 2-3 hours to be sure to keep blood sugar stable. Spikes in blood sugar can lead to loss of focus and concentration and increased headaches as well as feeling cranky, dizzy or lightheaded. These symptoms can keep athletes from getting the most out of a training session.

  2. Metabolism regulation The body can only use so many calories and nutrients at one time. So, if an athlete eats three very large meals only, this can force the body to store instead of burn, which may lead to an increase in body fat. To help the body most efficiently use the calories being taken in, athletes should eat snacks between meals. This will naturally make meals a smaller, more efficient size and continuously feed the metabolism to help the body properly use everything coming on board.

  3. Muscle preparation Pre-workout snacks are essential to help prepare muscles for exercise. Without good pre-workout fueling, energy levels can drop too early, leading to a poor workout. A proper snack gets muscles needed fuel for that upcoming workout session.

  4. Muscle protection Muscle mass is maintained best when muscles are provided with a frequent source of energy. Athletes that get too hungry or work out with low energy stores are risking breaking down muscle for energy. Add in snacks to protect muscle.

  5. Enhanced immunity and injury protection A body that gets too hungry with sharp spikes in blood sugar is a body that is under stress. Too much stress and inflammation increases an athletes risk of injury and illness. Proper snack intake helps protect the body from insult as well as decrease stress after workouts.

What and When Should You Eat Before Practice or Competition?

Your body needs a well-balanced meal or high calorie snack 3-4 hours prior to practice or competition to allow for proper digestion. For early morning events, try to eat at least 2 hours beforehand. Since many athletes have practice after school, make sure you bring a small snack to eat 30-60 minutes beforehand for an extra boost of energy.

Some popular snack ideas we recommend for young athletes include:

  • Banana Brownies 100% organic, no sugar added, gluten free

  • Smoothie Bars from Ipanema Valley

  • Fruit (banana, apple) and nuts

  • Mix nuts and dried fruit

What Should You Eat After Practice or Competition?

After exercise, your body is like a sponge ready to absorb and replenish nutrients lost during your training session. Ideally, have a snack or meal within 15-60 minutes of completing the activity and if you only have a snack during that time, try to have a meal within 1-2 hours. This might mean a snack after late night practices and games too. If you have a long drive to and from practice, make sure you plan ahead! Make your meal well-balanced with lean protein, grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. If you are not able to eat solid food after exercising, try something liquid based like white milk, chocolate milk, or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt. Smoothies have a great balance of carbohydrates to protein, are cost efficient for teams, and portable for easy transport!

Our banana brownies and smoothie bars are a perfect snack.

Don’t Forget to Hydrate

  • Drink water, milk, and 100% fruit juice as proper hydration methods

  • Limit juice to 4-6 ounces per day

  • Have 2-3 glasses of milk per day

  • Aim for at least 64-80 ounces of water per day

Sports drinks should be used when exercising longer than 60 minutes, especially for help in fueling during back to back games.

To sum up

Young athletes train long hours for their sport. In order to optimize that training, proper nutrition needs to be a regular component of their workout plan. A car needs fuel to run properly just as people (especially young athletes) need a healthful eating plan.

Meal and snack planning takes extra time and is often pushed to the side due to hectic family schedules, but healthy eating has to be a priority.

The benefits of a healthy eating plan include:

  • Injury prevention

  • Strengthening of the immune system

  • Decreased muscle tiredness and soreness

  • Muscle healing and recovery

  • Improved energy levels

  • Increased focus and attention span

Some quick and easy performance-enhancing snacks:

  • Dried fruit and either nuts or seeds

  • Banana Brownies 100% organic, no sugar added, gluten free

  • Smoothie Bars from Ipanema Valley

  • A piece fruit with a serving of nut butter

  • Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and honey

  • No added sugar fruit strip

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