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Snack vs meal

1. Is Snacking Good or Bad for You?


During the nutritional interview, I always ask the participants to remember what they ate during the last 24 hours. It turns out that usually people remember only breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The answer to the question about second breakfast and afternoon tea is usually “I do not have such meals planned during the day, but between breakfast and lunch I ate a handful of nuts, which I drank with a glass of orange juice and still ate a piece of cake because a colleague at work had his birthday. Everything they ate between the main meals is not important to them. You were wondering why this is so? There might be a few explanations:

• Eating a snack during another activity that absorbs all our attention, e.g. during work, watching a movie or a TV series,
• No ritual accompanying a meal, i.e. no free time, no preparation of a meal (cutting, cooking, etc.) or ordering it, use of cutlery, washing and cleaning after preparation,
• Small volume and type of snack – it’s just a handful, a glass, coffee, one drink in the evening etc..,
• Circumstances that caused the consumption of snacks, e.g. the above mentioned piece of cake on the occasion of a colleague’s birthday.

For most of us, the brain will register the fact that the colleague had a birthday. There was a small break at work, you made him wishes and the cake is a small, unimportant element in all of this. Only after more detailed questions we will remember about this piece.

Counting the main meals and snacks gives us the exact value of the energy that we provide during the day. Even if our main meals are well composed, rich in protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and rich in fiber, adding energy consumed from snacks can give us a decent excess of calories.

A handful of peanuts – 30g – 185kcal,
a glass of orange juice – 240g – 98kcal,
a glass of coca-cola – 240g – 101kcal,
a piece of chocolate cake – 170g – 650kcal,
a cup of coffee with milk and sugar – 165g – 94kcal,
a drink cuba libre – 200ml – 200kcal.

In the course of the day described above we deliver an additional 1328kcal. Usually you hear the question: “I can’t lose weight. Why is this so? I eat healthy food, eat porridge in the morning, grilled chicken and vegetables for dinner and hummus sandwiches for dinner”. The answer to that question is “1328 kcal”.

2. Should We Give Up Snacks?


No. The most important prerequisite for weight reduction is an energy deficit. It doesn’t matter if you eat 2,3,5,7 or 9 meals a day. If you calculate the daily energy balance of all meals you will be in deficit, it will burn fat anyway.

Then why eat snacks?

A balanced snack will allow you to postpone the feeling of hunger to the main meal, e.g. dinner. If you do not feel hungry between breakfast and dinner, you do not need to eat your second breakfast by force.

If 3 meals a day is enough for you and you do not feel hungry between them – ok, balance main meals, skip snacks. If the situation is the opposite and you have developed habits, and during the day you cannot imagine anything to eat until afternoon coffee, your main meals will change, change and will be less energetic.

The key in this case will be to choose the right snack that is volumetric satisfactory and delays the feeling of hunger for dinner.

Now let’s explain the meaning of using snacks in a cyclist’s diet. The energy balance in cycling is very important, because long-term failure to provide enough energy manifests itself in a disorder called “Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)”. This topic will be discussed in another article, because of its complexity and significance of health consequences.

The correct amount of energy that needs to be provided in the diet is much higher than the value of people who do not have to deal with physical activity or recreational exercise in the gym. When choosing the value of energy in a cyclist’s diet, one should take into account the goal – whether it is body weight reduction, building muscle mass, current level of training intensity to take care of regeneration and sports performance. In such cases, snacks are inevitable and even their quality will differ from the person who wants to lose weight. Meals will be less voluminous, but rich in energy, and energy snacks and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal disorders resulting from the feeling of excessive satiety. Despite permissions for more recreational products, the main principles of the diet must be based on healthy products that provide an adequate balance of micro and macro-elements.

3. How Should The Appropriate Snack be Composed?


As mentioned above, the way a snack should look depends on the nutritional purpose. I will describe three variants :

3.1 The aim is to reduce body weight


The snack should be planned in such a way as to satisfy the rider in terms of volume. It should be a full meal with an emphasis on protein and fiber, which cause the feeling of satiety. However, its form depends on how long it takes to eat and how long it takes to train. So that it does not cause problems and does not affect the quality of training.

Example :

• Salad with chicken, rocket, vegetables and toast – for training at least 2-3 hours.
• Country cheese with nuts, protein conditioner, dried fruit – for training at least 2-3 hours.
• Protein conditioner with fruit for 1-2 hours training.

3.2 The aim is to compensate for deficiencies in micronutrients, e.g. iron.


In addition to taking care of the correct level of micronutrients throughout the day, it is necessary to apply a procedure where we introduce a food product rich in a given micronutrient in every meal. In this way, it is easier to take care of the daily balance and an even supply of products, so as not to cause aversion.

Example :

• salad with beef, beetroot and parsley – for training 2-3h

3.2 The aim is to take care of regeneration and sports performance during an intensive training cycle.


In this case, we must ensure the correct supply of energy, the value of which will be much higher due to the training cycle. It is possible to introduce more recreational products such as peanut butter, energy bars, maple syrup, chocolate milk. However, it is necessary to make sure that the snack is not too sweet and difficult to eat.

Example :

• Shake with protein, peanut butter, chocolate milk and crushed nuts – for a 3h training session.

Woman considering snack vs meal

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