As a vegetarian, I have to be a little more conscious the foods that I am eating. In order to have a successful workout that yields a healthier and stronger body, I have to eat the right type of foods. For example, I could be in the gym every day, trying to bulk up, but if I do not eat the right proportions of protein, I will not build that muscle that I want to build.
That being said, I am a big advocate of nuts. They are a great snack for pre or post workout, but not all nuts were created equal. Well, actually, almost all nuts are pretty equal in terms of calories per ounce. Some nuts are a harder to digest, or contain a lot of nutrients that you might not be looking for in a workout. Nuts are bite-sized, nutrient packed, food sources that are filled with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and protein. In addition to being great sources of energy and protein, nuts also have omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that help to speed up the the healing process of exercise-induced muscle tears. The omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber in nuts will fill you up, even to the point of ruining your appetite. They can be great for you, but once you add some salt or sugar, they might not be as effective or good for you.
The best nuts for your diet are almonds, cashews, and pistachios. These are the nuts that are low in calories and high in protein content. You should have the nuts that are raw or dry roasted, as opposed to covered in oils or flavors. The worst nuts for your diet are macadamia nuts and pecans. They have the lowest amounts of protein and highest amounts of fats.
When you are grabbing that handful of nuts, you should pay attention to what you are grabbing. Are they raw or roasted? Because they should be! It is better to choose nuts that are close to their most natural state so that your body has to do the least amount of processing as possible. Efficiency, people!
Nuts can be eaten before or after a workout, but you should think about your workout intentions before you consume a lot of nuts after a workout. Why? Well, if you are a dieter, nuts are calorie-dense, so you can gain back all of the calories that you just burned off by eating a few handfuls. As always, everything should be consumed in moderation. On the other hand, if you are trying to workout to bulk up, then perhaps nuts are a great choice for an after-workout snack. The amount of protein in nuts is fantastic, which will help you build that muscle mass you are trying to gain. In addition to proteins and calories, the carbohydrates in nuts are great for post-workout recovery. Similarly, the fiber in nuts is great because it can help to slow down the absorption of nutrients that your body needs for recovery. This will help maintain a sense of balanced blood sugar levels.
There is no need to go nuts for nuts when it comes to workouts, but a handful before and after a workout could certainly keep your body happy and healthy!
(Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero)