It turns out that moving your body around in an intentional fashion — known to jocks as "taking exercise" — is an important part of not being in pain as an adult, and it turns out that eating a portion of gyro casserole an hour before pumping a modest amount of iron is a poor plan. I, however, refuse to eat a goddamn protein bar, so I've had to get a little creative with my pre-workout snacks.
Photo by Claire Lower
In most cases, it's simply a matter of tweaking boring food to make it less boring. In the case of boring carrots and boring store-bought hummus, I added a little yogurt to the hummus (which adds protein and makes it taste creamier), spooned a little olive oil on top and sprinkled it with za'atar, a seasoning that makes everything more delicious.
According to people who put way more effort into (real) self care than I do, "easily digestible protein-rich meal within two hours" of a workout is the way to go. "Easily digestible" means different things to different stomachs, but I do pretty well with some sort of carb (usually a fruit) and a protein.
Feel free to mix and match the below to meet your protein needs. I've included some protein counts to help with that.
- Hardboiled eggs, but make them fun: An egg without salt is a dismal thing, but we can do better than salt. I'm not above devilling the damn thing, just don't overdo it on the mayo. One egg, devilled or not, eaten with a mandarin is usually enough to get me through my exercise, but if you are extra swole, you might need to double up. (Protein = 6g per egg)
- Baklava yogurt: Don't be fooled, this is still yogurt and not dessert, but I tried eating baklava before hitting the gym and I got a headache. Fortunately, whole milk yogurt with honey and pistachios tastes very good — not as good as baklava, but good — and won't give you a headache. (Protein = about 20g per 225g, depending on the brand, 6g per 28g of pistachios)
- Pears with small portions of cheese: You can pair Laughing Cow cheese wedges with apples and pears. (Protein = 2g per cheese wedge)
- Pineapple wrapped in prosciutto: It's quite lucky that one of my favourite snacks of all time also works well as pre-gym fuel. The only risk you run is eating far too much, because it's dangerously delicious. (Protein = 7g per 28g of prosciutto)
- Reluctant avocado toast: Look, I know we're all "tired of 'cado toast", but the combination of bread and fatty avocado, simply seasoned with a little salt and pepper fills me up without weighing me down. Add a slice of chicken for protein if needed. (Protein = 4g per avocado, 7g per 28g of chicken)
I've also heard some people eat rice cakes with nut butters and such, but I am pretty much philosophically opposed to rice cakes, no matter what's on them. (You do you, though.)