Snacking seems to be a huge problem for almost everybody trying to keep a stable weight. It becomes fairly easy to gain control over our main meals and track down the macros once you get used to it, of course, but what about the "between meals" time? Though some people feel totally fine with 3 or 4 meals a day, avoid snacking doesn't sound easy or appealing to most people.
The answer to most of our daily problems is very often quite simple. And this is no exception. So what should you snack on between meals? - whole foods. Everyone should feel encouraged to snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds, but when it comes to athletes, specific needs require specific macros. If you're training hard, you will need more energy, therefore more calories, that's for sure. But, though calories are calories in the end of the day, some people may feel better on a diet with more or less protein, more or less fat and so on. Plus, some people rather snack on a larger amount of food and have that "full belly" feeling, other people prefer to snack on more nutrient dense foods. Remember that 1/4 cup of mixed nuts equals over 160 kcal and to match the same number you could have 3 cups of steamed broccoli or 6 cups of cherry tomatoes. It all depends on your personal needs and preference.
For most athletes there is just one nutrient haunting their minds every day - protein. Now, most likely you are getting enough of it and this "problem" is mainly due to how formated are we and how proteinaholic our society is, but let's just assume that you're having a hard time reaching your daily protein needs. Everybody knows about protein powder shakes, store bought protein bars and so on, but though it is a convenient way of helping to reach your goals, it is still a highly processed food, most of it packed with several artificial sweetners and flavors, besides all the heavily processed protein powder. Once again, this all comes to your own personal preference, but our job, besides promoting martial arts, is promoting health.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the legume. Legumes are plants or fruits/seeds in the family fabaceae. Well-known members of this family are beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and peanuts (yes, peanuts are legumes, not nuts).
After meat, poultry and fish, legumes provide more protein per serving than other types of food. Besides, it is a very good source of dietary fiber and minerals and, like most plant-based foods, no cholesterol. Every cup of chickpeas, for example, contains 15 gr. of protein (29% DV), 4.7 mg of iron (26% DV), 80.4 mg of calcium (8% DV), 78.7 mg of magnesium (20% DV), 2.5 mg of zinc (17% DV), 12.5 g of fiber (50% DV) and the list goes on. Keep in mind that the Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2000 kcal diet for sedentary people, so, like already mentioned, your needs may be different.
If you're still not convinced with this numbers, let's drop some science here. The most comprehensive analysis of diet and cancer ever performed was published in 2007 by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Filtering through more than half a million studies, nine independent research teams from different countries created a landmark scientific consensus report reviewed by twenty on of the top cancer researchers in the world. One of their summary cancer-prevention recommendations was to eat whole grains and/or legumes with every meal. Not every week or every day - every single meal!
Other reason to consume legumes is the prebiotics found in it. Lentils for example are so rich in prebiotics that they create a feast for your gut flora, releasing for example propionate, that relax your stomach and slow the rate at which sugars are absorbed into your system. In other words, lentils can boost your metabolism by lowerering the sugar spike of foods consumed hours later.
Pinto beans may help you with your blood pressure. One study found that eating a half cup of cooked pinto beans a day for two months may drop your cholesterol by nineteen points.
Researchers even found that by eating just two tablespoons a day of legumes you may even reduce the risk of premature death by 8%!
Now that you have plenty of reasons to include legumes in your diet, why not snacking on it?
1.5 Cup of Coocked Chickpeas (~1 can)
1 TSP of Smoked Paprika
1 TSP of Grounded Mustard Seeds
1/2 TSP of Garlic Powder
1/2 TSP of Onion Powder
1/2 TSP of Turmeric Powder
1 TSP of Brown Sugar
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Pinch of Salt
1 TBSP of Balsamic Vinegar
Evenly coat the chickpeas with the balsamic vinegar;
Season it with the spices;
Spread the chickpeas over a baking sheet;
Bake it in the oven on 200ºC for about 45 minutes;
Make sure to turn them every 10 minutes or so;
Allow it to completely cool down before storing in a covered jar;
(1 Service = 100 gr.)
Blue – 68% Carbs
Red – 14% Fats
Green – 18% Proteins