Why Snack? Why ReForm? Richard Chessor - Elite Athlete Nutritionist
Richard Chessor is the Lead Nutritionist For Scottish Rugby, and he gives his thoughts on snacking, its importance in a daily routine, and why he has specifically designed our Nature Evolved Range with particular emphasis of ReForm, the first product to be released. To read more about Richard, as well as a quick interview click here and then click on the "Architect" Tab.
The ReForm™ Snack Bag is built for everything. The idea behind ReForm™ was to build a product that was so versatile that it could be used in virtually any situation yet always provide functional nutrients. Whether used to graze, fuel, recover or replace it can be eaten alone or paired with other foods and fluids to meet your exact needs. Each ingredient has been carefully chosen to achieve the 1:2:2 balance of Carbohydrate:Protein:Fats meaning all you need to do is decide when to use it!
The ReForm™ Snack bag was built because snacking is an often under prioritised, yet key part of any nutritional plan. To me, it plays two main roles:
When using a snack as a fuel source, you will have to select the appropriate nutrient balance to meet your needs. If the snack is to be eaten before an exercise session then it is likely that you will want carbohydrate to be involved as it will increase glycogen stores and ensure blood sugar levels don’t drop during your session. Exercising with reduced glycogen stores is generally not recommended as it can lead to decreased exercise intensity and places unnecessary strain on your body. However, with a busy schedule it’s not often possible to eat a full meal 2-3 hours before exercise; this is where snacking comes in. A ‘top-up’ snack 45-60mins before exercise is often recommended to ensure glycogen stores are sufficient for your session and to prevent hunger.
However, after exercise, the importance of protein increases as it supplies amino acids to your muscles to repair and regenerate muscle tissue. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and your body is constantly breaking down old proteins and building new ones. During exercise (particularly resistance exercise) we cause damage to our muscle fibres which requires repairing and it’s the amino acids that we receive in our diet that are used to repair the damaged tissue. Therefore, by ensuring there is a good supply of amino acids to the damaged muscle we can support the repair process and build new stronger muscle fibres. In this role, the snack is fuelling the recovery and adaptation process from exercise.
The second major role of snacking is to balance the rest of your days eating. We have all found ourselves in the situation where we get home from work in the evening and end up raiding through the fridge and cupboards for something to eat before we start making dinner. Quite often we end up going for high carbohydrate, low quality options such as crisps or sweets as we look to satisfy our hunger and taste buds. One of the reasons for this may be that you haven’t had a decent meal or snack since lunch-time which was probably 5-6 hours ago and as a result your blood sugar levels are dropping and your body is desperate for a quick fix before dinner. If you do manage to hold off the temptation of biscuits we can quite often overload the dinner plate with carbohydrate dense foods in an attempt to increase or hasten satiety (this is frequently the case with pasta, rice, potatoes and bread). The solution, of course, is a well timed snack. By putting in a small snack half-way between lunch and dinner we prevent that horrible late-afternoon slump in blood sugar levels and keep our digestive system working and satisfied. The energy from this snack should keep us comfortable until dinner and shun the temptation of low-nutrient quick-fixes or overeating at our main meal. So the snack has been used to balance the content and quantity of your main meal.
So the snack has some pretty different but important roles then, but what makes a good snack? Well, that all depends on its purpose but there area few things that I think are key to a good snack. The first is its frequency. I always recommend that we eat every 2-4 hours so if you are awake for 15 hours per day that means on average you should have 5 feeds per day. On a non-training day this would mean breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks (probably mid-morning and late-afternoon) but one additional snack is probably needed on a training day (either 45-60min before or immediately after exercise). This means we need to be snacking 2-3 times per day.
The second key to a good snack is that it should contain both carbohydrate and protein. Solo carbohydrate snacks often only do one thing – increase blood sugar levels or provide carbohydrate for building or restoring glycogen. The absence of protein means they do nothing to support protein synthesis (building of new muscle) and also means they are likely to be medium-high glycemic index. Furthermore, solo carbohydrate snacks are often difficult to portion control and can therefore easily be overeaten (think about how difficult it is only to eat one biscuit out of the packet). The presence of protein increases satiety and also supplies your amino acid pool and so supports protein synthesis (this means that your muscles are never lacking the amino acids they need to build new tissue and repair damaged tissue). The presence of protein also means that you will likely benefit from other micronutrients. For example, milk contains both carbohydrate and protein but also calcium and B Vitamins whereas a jam sandwich is packed with carbohydrate but contains virtually no protein and few vitamins and minerals (depending on the bread and jam of course).
This leads us to the third rule of snacks, they should positively contribute towards your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs. This means that our jam sandwich snack is binned in favour for fruit and nuts or oatcakes with cottage cheese and tomatoes. Wherever possible (and it should always be possible) your snack should provide at least one portion of fruit and vegetables.
Finally, a snack has to be convenient and great tasting. Ideally, snacks should be able to travel and eaten on the go, so anything that requires cooking or heating probably isn’t as convenient as it could be. There is certainly no problem with snacks that require a bit more preparation but just be sure that you can access it when you need it and over the long-term the snack that requires no extra work will win when your time and facilities are put under pressure.
Once you have the basic formula right then all you have to do is pick the snack to meet your needs. Need fuel? Then add some more carbs. Need something after an intense resistance session, then protein is your focus.
With these ideas in mind it leads me nicely to the Athleat ReForm™ snack. Great tasting, convenient, and flexible whilst containing carbohydrate, protein and micronutrients – it has it all. Each ingredient has been chosen to complement each other and reach that 1:2:2 ratio of carbohydrate:fat:protein. The main carbohydrate sources are the edamame beans and coconut flakes whilst the protein comes from the biltong, nuts and seeds. The ingredients were also chosen for their healthy fats and the biltong, walnuts, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds all contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats play an important role in inflammation and by consuming a higher ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats we can reduce the inflammation we experience from exercise and general daily living. This is particularly evident in joint and muscle soreness. In addition, omega-3 fats also have a role in protecting against heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Use the ReForm™ bag as a top-up or recovery snack or use it to graze throughout the day (great for competition or travel days). Eat it on its own or pair it with other foods such as fruit or a sports drink. Whatever way you use it, you can be guaranteed that you are getting the best quality ingredients and nutrients to keep your body reforming!