By Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
We all get the munchies, right? During periods of intense training and strict dieting bodybuilders can be particularly susceptible to cravings. Put your hand in the cookie jar too often, though, and you’ll balloon up that hard-earned six-pack. Instead of doing without, reach for these smart snack options that can provide a developing physique with the nutrients it needs to achieve brag-worthy status.
Jerky gets a bad rap — nothing more than pieces of parched, fat-laden beef that you pick up at the gas station on a road trip to the in-laws, the naysayers will tell you. Yet with a protein-to-fat ratio that is often better than 10 to 1, gnawing on jerky can flood your body with essential amino acids necessary to build dense, freaky muscles. Beyond beef look for pork, turkey, salmon, buffalo and even venison jerky to satisfy your carnivorous side.
Yes, kale chips. Leaves of fresh-picked kale are dehydrated and mixed with seasonings to make them surprisingly addicting. Unlike their greasy, carb-heavy potato cousins, however, kale chips won’t put you into calorie overload. What’s more, kale is jam-packed with vital nutrients like vitamin C and an assortment of muscle-friendly antioxidants. Look for packages at most health-food stores.
Not just for kids, string cheese is a primo protein-rich take-and-go snack option for bodybuilders. It also supplies a hefty dose of calcium, which may help with fat burning. Stash a bag in your office fridge for when the munchies strike, but choose reduced-fat versions to keep the protein-to-fat ratio in your favor.
While movie-theater popcorn is nothing but disastrous calories in a tub, homemade ’corn can have far less impact on your waistline. Popcorn is rich in muscle-mending antioxidants and provides plenty of hunger-quelling fiber to keep cravings at bay. Three cups of air-popped popcorn has a mere 90 calories. At the supermarket look for bags of microwave popcorn at the supermarket with 5 grams or less fat per serving and no hydrogenated oils.