Don't Waste Your Money on These 6 Workout Snacks

The fitness industry tends to insist that you need all kinds of "fuel" in order to build muscle and get through your workouts. But a lot of workout snacks on the market are processed, pricey, and totally unnecessary. So rather than wasting your money on expensive workout snacks, know which ones to skip, and how to make quality versions at home using real ingredients.

1. Protein Powder Shakes

For the average joe, protein supplements — most often sold as powders that consumers can add to smoothies and shakes — are a royal waste of money. There's mounting evidence that you don't need protein supplementation unless you are a professional-level athlete, or suffering from starvation. All told, these powders offer the average person's body very little benefit.

You do need protein when you exercise, especially if you're trying to build muscle, but the average diet provides all the protein you need. If you're looking for a little extra fuel, try edamame. This soybean is packed with protein, magnesium, fiber, and B vitamins that help the body power up to its full potential.

2. Boxed Coconut Water

Despite claims of "100% coconut water" or "all natural," even the best of boxed coconut water is made from a reconstituted concentrate. To make the product shelf-stable, boxed coconut water makers heat up fresh, raw coconut water and reduce it to a syrup, which they later add water to before packaging. The heating process denatures the beneficial enzymes, stripping not only the beverage's nutritional content, but also much of the flavor.

Instead of the boxed brands, drink real raw coconut water straight from the nut. Low in calories and high in electrolytes, coconut water — the real stuff — is nature's sports drink. It will keep you hydrated and fueled during and after your workout.

3. Individually Packaged Snacks

One-serving snacks, such as pre-packaged health bars, mixed nut assortments, and dried fruit, will often cost you double for the convenient size. Is it really worth paying twice as much money for a bunch of nuts just to get the tidy, but environmentally wasteful packaging? Energy bars in particular are rife with calories — as many as some candy bars. And you can make your own trail mix for far cheaper than the pre-made varieties.

Instead, buy in bulk and use reusable tupperware to cart around one serving at a time.

4. Peanut Butter

Even the "natural" stuff contains add-ins such as glycerin to keep the oil from pooling at the top of the jar, hydrogenated oil for creaminess, or sugar for taste. Very rarely are you getting pure peanut butter — just nuts with, perhaps, a touch of salt — no matter what the label tells you.

Instead of betting on the jarred stuff for your dose of good fats and protein, stick with raw nuts. This way, you know for sure what you're getting. Nuts are high in calories that can help you rev up your energy level when you don't have time for a more substantial meal. A cup of almonds, for example, contains enough fuel to power your body through a five-mile run. It's also a power snack with presidential approval. President Barack Obama reportedly eats exactly seven almonds each night.

5. Gel Packs

Unless you're putting in more than 90 minutes of cardiovascular training each day, you don't need to be slurping up those tiny energy gel packets while you bench press or jog an eight-miler. These sugar-saturated snacks are made to restore depleted glycogen stores. But your glycogen stores aren't actually getting depleted unless you're very athletic.

Instead, go for a fistful of raisins. Research shows that this dried fruit is just as effective at enhancing athletic performance. But, unlike the numerous brands of energy gel packets on the market, they don't run the risk of throwing your blood sugar levels off-balance.

6. Store-Bought Fruit Smoothies

Don't get me wrong, smoothies can be the ultimate workout snack. Just not the kind that's made to be shelf-stable at your local market. These pre-made smoothies are often chock full of added sugars, fats, and preservatives, which means you're getting much less nutritional content as you would if the smoothie were freshly made.

Instead, opt for a homemade fruit smoothie, or simply grab a piece or two of fresh, whole fruit. Citrus fruits such as oranges are chock full of natural sugars capable of boosting your energy to keep you moving. And bananas will give you energy as well as endurance. Studies show that eating a banana before and during prolonged periods of exercise will help your body maintain its peak performance level throughout the workout. This potassium-rich fruit also prevents bone density loss, fights off cramping, and helps keep your muscles functioning normally. And it makes for a great base ingredient in any smoothie.

Any other workout snacks that are a total waste of money? Share with us!

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Don't Waste Your Money on These 6 Workout Snacks

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