Sometimes the right snack can make all the difference. So what’s the best thing to eat after a workout? Or before a long meeting? Or a stressful family reunion? We enlisted nutrition guru Lisa R. Young, adjunct professor at NYU and author of The Portion Teller Plan, to prescribe the right foods can help get your through just about anything.
Take a bite out of an apple, a compact complex carb, about 20 minutes before you work out. The sugar is usable shortly after eating, and it has just enough fiber for satiety, but not enough to cause cramping.
Young recommends a banana with some salted peanut butter. The fruit helps prevent muscle cramping thanks to the potassium. The salt replaces that lost from sweating. The protein will give you energy, as well as helps repair the muscles and replace tissue that powered your workout.
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Nuts and salmon jerky give you a dose of the Omega-3s, which have been shown to aid in concentration. Or grab some walnuts, flax seeds, or chia seeds to get a monounsaturated boost.
A protein-rich breakfast helps you feel full. If you have a carb heavy breakfast, you can count on that food breaking down faster and being hungry sooner. Have a couple of eggs, and if you have no time, hard boil them. You can eat those almost anywhere. If you usually skip breakfast, but drink coffee, opt for a latte, which offers some protein thanks to the milk.
Any nuts will do. “At the end of the day, the ones you like and are most accessible are the best choice,” says Young, who notes that monounsaturated fats can give your mood a boost.
Before BedCherries are a great source of melatonin, which can help regulate sleep patterned. A glass of warm milk, which contains tryptophan, will also help get you to sleep.
You want protein, but not something too filling. A sexy option: Try oysters. They’re packed the energizing nutrient, as well as zinc, which helps produce testosterone leading to increases in sperm production and sex drive.
Before Heading Out for Drinks
Smoothies are full of nutrients, fiber, and protein; they also help hydrate. Avoid too much fruit or anything with lots of sugar, like beets. You’ll be getting enough sugar in the alcohol.
For an easy recipe, Young suggests blending one individual container of Greek Yogurt, one cup of kale, one cup of spinach, a ½ cup of blueberries (for added sweetness without too much sugar), a kiwi, and two tablespoons of flax or chia seeds.
During an All-Nighter
Protein, fat, and whole grains are the key to dealing with an all-nighter. Regular chips and bread break down too fast. You want to last the night, not just the next 30 minutes, so go for guacamole and whole grain chips, or cheese with whole grain crackers.
When You’re Feeling Down
Food isn’t always the answer. “Get a glass of water and head to the gym,“ Young recommends. Water adds zero calories to your day, unlike mindlessly munching, which leads to weight gain. And exercise has been shown to lift the spirits. A study of adults aged 20-45 years old found that a workout was effective relief for mild to moderate depression.
Young doesn’t think anything you can chew will help with feeling nervous, anxious, or worried. Instead, she has seen how a warm cup of chamomile or peppermint tea helps relax clients. Chamomile has properties to relax (it’s the top ingredient in Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea) and peppermint aids with digestion (in case you’re feeling a bit nausea too).
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You’ll stay patient and energized if you stay away from fatty foods and sugars, including those found in alcohol. If you are drinking, make sure you’re eating healthy snacks; it’s easy to forget to eat, and that will only sap your energy.