Snnnnacccks on the go
Snacks on the run can be a hard area of nutrition for riders and busy Equestrians to stay on track. Sometimes even with the best intentions at heart you just end up not quite having enough time to fully prepare or take food with you equally if you have had a good day or maybe a bad day you might fancy stopping for a Costa Coffee on the way or a brownie and a question that comes up quite often is what would be a good snack option on the go?
So as we know for most equestrians, a standard snack would most likely be a Can of Coke, a Mars bar & a packet of crisps. I think it’s fair to stay something along these lines is normally the go-to snack and nutrition for a day of competing but I’m trying to help you guys understand why this won’t cut the mustard & these choices won’t give you the energy that you need to be able to ride at your best or equally give you the performance that you want to get the most out of your competition.
Absolutely every now & again grabbing a brownie or a Mars bar is absolutely fine. I most definitely encourage a balanced approach to eating which includes these slightly less nutritious & more “treat type” foods. But if you eat these kinds of foods constantly you’re going to start to struggle with energy levels, weight management & keeping your body on the road let alone your horse!
We all know how expensive entering a show is; preparing to get there, travelling up, putting diesel in the lorry, paying a groom to stay at home or go with you or even take a holiday day from work if like me, you balance competing around your work life.
So taking some time & making a bit of effort to make sure that you’re taking your nutrition seriously on competition & training days is paramount! In my previous blog I discussed what you want to be eating on competition days and pre-and post competitions including the night before. Making sure that your muscles have readily available glycogen stored in them is important as this is your body’s primary energy source & this glycogen will come from complex carbohydrate foods such as fruits, bananas, potatoes, rice, wholemeal bread, pasta just to name a few!
You want to make sure that you fill yourself up with enough protein as well. Protein sources primarily come from animal products or plant protein variation. Protein is the most satiating macro meaning that it’s going to keep you full & satisfied after eating. Obviously, you want to make sure you’re eating protein so that your body can recover and you give your body the amino acids it needs from protein sources to recover post competing.
So let’s say we’re on the way home. We stop at the service station and we run into the garage. You’ve quickly filled up the lorry and you want to get straight back on the road. Obviously, it’s going to need to be something that is going to be easy & simple to eat whilst in the lorry on the way home so here are some good treat type options and a few simple swaps you could make.
Protein bars can be a great alternative to just your standard chocolate bar and actually give you a lot more bang for your buck! For example, a grenade protein bar (lot’s of other brands available out there!) will cost you around £2.60 so yes, a little more expensive than your standard chocolate bar that it will give you about 200 calories with around a serving of 20-25g of protein per bar so when you look at the nutritional benefits, swapping in a protein bar would be a far superior option to say a Mars bar for overall nutritional value & benefit. They can be a great replacement for a chocolate bar day to day too!
Pretty much all service stations now have a really vast range of protein bars & also fruit and nut bar options which again will give you more goodness than just going for that chocolate bar or biscuit which is just full of refined, processed sugars and is basically just going to give you that big energy spike then bang, crash!
The reason you get this fast sugar spike followed by a big crash is because when you over consume sugar your body rapidly produces insulin in an attempt to keep blood sugar levels consistent, which then causes a decrease in blood glucose levels hence the sudden energy crash & dramatic lack of energy!
Complex carbohydrates take the body longer to digest & breakdown, therefore, giving you energy for longer periods of time & hence avoiding the sugar cravings and that’s why people who have really good diets tend to not suffer with things like energy dips and sugar crashes & ups and downs like this.
Crisps are often really easy things to pick up in services and personally they’re a favourite of mine! A simple swap for a packet of crisps could be something like a packet of snack a jacks or pop chips or even just thinking about the size of the bag that you buy. Rather than going for a share bag, (I can guarantee that some of you reading this, I know I have been would’ve most definitely sat in the lorry & nailed a share size bag of crisps without even thinking about it, right?) think about maybe going for a standard serving size bag. I’ve been guilty of this for sure but especially if you’re aiming to hit a weight loss goal or equally maintain your weight, consuming food mindlessly like this can be the reason you don’t achieve the result you want!
Snack a jacks and pop chips are readily available at most service stations but you are just going to have to make a little bit of an effort to have a look at what’s about as opposed to just grabbing a bag of wotsits & thinking that’ll do.
A pack of snacks a jacks/one serving is going to give you anywhere between 80 to 100 cal so it’s a reduced-calorie option whilst giving you that bit of crunch you wanted from crisps!
Equally if you do want to have a packet of crisps then just try to look at the options, something like a packet of quavers or skips again comes in under 100 calories as opposed to going for a really salty brand or a really highly flavoured option that is going to be packed full of calories additives and processed ingredients.
Fruit is another option; this might seem a bit obvious that fruit can be a great snack but fruits are complex carbohydrates that often get forgotten. Things like bananas & berries are a really good option and obviously, you’re going to get a lot of nutrients with your food when you’re consuming your fruit hence the reason we should eat five servings of fruit and veg each day. Taking a banana or some berries with you is super minimal effort, you could put them in some yogurt to make it nice and tasty; if you like a bit of a crunch with your yogurt then add in some granola or a protein bar would be a really good option again!
Most service stations or coffee shops such as Costa now actually sell fruit at the till when you go to pay so again this is a case of just having a bit of an extra look around & seeing what’s available and then making the best choice. All about being mindful.
In the meal deal section in the lunch area you'll probably also find there are lots of options for things like small pots of yoghurt or possibly a good granola pot or a porridge pot and again these are all great choices that are both protein & carbohydrate-based options. Prioritising & basing snacks around your macronutrients will give your body far more goodness & energy than just grabbing a chocolate bar.
Drinks-wise caffeine has been shown to actually enhance performance, from both a cognitive and physical perspective in many scientific studies. Caffeine means we can be more alert, make better decisions & have quicker reactions which ultimately especially if you’re eventing is absolutely key when you’re going cross country!
So caffeine is absolutely fine to drink & having a coffee on the way home or on the way to the show could be a good idea but try not to over-consume caffeine. You should aim to consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, this is the recommended safe daily limit of caffeine. If you’re on the way home late from a competition and I get it, you’re tired, you’ve got a long drive home and you didn’t get much sleep last night but try not to rely on coffee or Redbull to get you through as you will feel worse for it. Drinking caffeine after 3 pm will really disrupt your sleep pattern & ultimately it’s going to make it much harder for you to recover post competition if your sleep is of poor quality. We’ve all been there, had the caffeine shakes when you over consume and you feel pretty rough, pretty rubbish after! Over consuming caffeine is not something you want to be doing on the regular & can negatively impact your health.
Keeping hydrated with water is key to make sure that your body is fully hydrated & you can perform to your best! Studies have shown that even just being 2% dehydrated can have a negative effect on your cognitive & physical performance & when riding requires so many fast reactions & decisions you don’t want to be feeling like this!
Again when you’re thinking about making better choices you could absolutely swap out a standard snack for something like a fizzy drink and a question I get asked quite a lot is;
“Is drinking a diet or zero fizzy drink ok especially if I’m in a calorie deficit or should they be avoided?”
When you are in a calorie deficit or you are working to maintain your bodyweight it is absolutely okay to have a diet drink & can be a really good, sensible swap out to a normal treat type food. Obviously, diet drinks aren’t the most nutritious products that you can put in your body, they obviously have artificial sweeteners, flavourings & additives in them so you need to think about how drinking them regularly could affect your health but definitely no reason to avoid them. In the grand scheme of things having a diet or zero drink that contains zero calories is a far better option than having a Mars bar, can of standard Coke and a standard packet of crisps that are going to come out at 500 calories easy for just a few snacks that aren’t going to satisfy you.
So in answer, yes swapping out diet drinks for treats or hot drinks would be a better option as opposed to just cracking on and eating your normal Mars bar. Again be aware of things like smoothies, they can be great for you but especially when shop bought they will most probably contain extremely high levels of sugars and again they’ll have extra additives & flavourings to them most probably making them higher calorie so it is important to think how that choice may impact you in the long run in terms of your weight management.
Eating well on the go and snacking on the go doesn’t actually have to be very hard and quite frankly the amount of excuses I come up with time and time again is just laziness talking.
It May sound tough but it’s true, every big supermarket & service station these days are far more health-conscious than 20 years ago & there is always a better option even if you are stuck at McDonald’s.
There’s always a better choice you can make as opposed to just going for your standard 1000 calorie meal that you always get & feeling sorry for yourself. So the next time you stop at a service station actually take some time, think about what you’ve currently eaten that day, think about your calorie allowance for that day (what would actually keep you within your calories as in your calorie budget for that day) and be a benefit and not a hindrance to your progress in terms of weight loss or management and try and focus on picking good nutritious foods that are actually going to help your bodies have the energy and sustenance that it needs to perform at its best.
Remember riding (whichever sport it is whether jumping, eventing, polo, or racing) is a highly demanding sport on the human body. You’re trying to control half a ton of fit animal around a cross country course or in the lorry park and at the end of the day if you’re feeling like crap with no energy and you get the shakes it’s not somewhere you want to be! Fuel yourself how you want to perform.
If you've got any questions on improving the quality of your diet to help your performance then feel free to drop a comment in the box or DM me HERE & I'd be more than happy to help!