If you’re looking for an “energy food” before your next hike or bike ride — but you want to bypass the processed, packaged stuff — do a double-take and peek in your kitchen. A well-stocked pantry filled with real foods is chockablock full of energizing snacks ready to be packed into your pocket. Bananas, almond butter, crackers, nuts, dried fruits and quick sandwiches can all be packed up and taken with you.
Because they aren’t packaged, they don’t contain any preservatives or additives that your body can’t recognize as fuel. Here are some delicious, nutritious and quick alternatives to boost your performance and fill your belly, naturally.
1. FRESH FRUIT
Instead of reaching for sugary blocks of “energy,” consider apples, grapes, bananas and oranges. Depending on your activity, any one of these fast fruits makes an excellent energy snack. Slice apples and stick them in your jersey pocket for a filling snack on the bike. Chilled grapes are little nibbles of freshness on a hot day. Bananas packed with almond butter make a nutrient-dense snack suitable for any time and place and oranges are a juicy way to rehydrate and fuel.
2. NUT BUTTER & JELLY SANDWICHES
The next time you’re inclined to grab an energy bar, think again! Consider a good, old-fashioned nut butter and jelly (or fresh fruit) sandwich, instead. The ingredients and caloric value in a nut butter sandwich is strikingly similar to a processed energy bar, but without the preservatives. Plus, making your own pocket sandwich means customizing your flavor. Use simple jelly or jam to add a burst of fruit flavor, or slice apples, bananas, berries or even flaked coconut to add texture to your snack.
3. HOMEMADE TRAIL MIX
For a high-protein boost, grab a handful of almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans or peanuts and take them with you as a pocket snack. Better yet, mix them together! If you’ll be sweating, choose one nut that’s roasted and salted to help replace the sodium lost in sweat. For a little added flavor — and sugar for energy — add a handful of unsweetened, dried fruits such as blueberries, cherries, mango or even coconut.
READ MORE > WHY ATHLETES NEED SALT AND SUGAR
More often than not, energy bars and drinks are sweet — and that gets old fast. When we’re working hard and sweating, a savory snack is more suitable, or enjoyable, for energy. When this is the case, try slicing salami, pepperoni or other cured meats and little chunks of cheese to put power in your pocket — and ultimately into you. Select meats that are already cured so they won’t spoil in your backpack or jersey pocket.
5. WHOLE-GRAIN CRACKERS
Unlike packaged energy bars, whole-grain crackers are low in sugar and make a great snack on the go. Try spreading them with nut butter, or sandwiching them with cheese or charcuterie to make them a super-flavorful surprise when you’re looking for a little (tasty) energy.