23 High Carb Snacks for Athletes: Boost Energy and Performance

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Some of the best quick energy sources are high carb snacks for athletes. Eating a high carb snack fuels your muscles, provides your brain with energy and helps to keep you moving during games, practice and workouts.

In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of high carb snacks for athletes and provide some of our favorite high carb snacks to keep you fueled and performing at your best.

Why high carbs for athletes

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body during exercise. They are broken down into glucose, which is then used to power your muscles.

When you exercise your body burns through its carbohydrate stores, so it’s important to fuel before, during and after activity to support your optimal performance.

In addition to providing energy during games and practices, carbohydrates also play a critical role in recovery. After a workout, your body needs to replenish its muscle glycogen (energy) stores, which are used up during exercise. 

Eating high carb snacks after a workout can help speed up the recovery process, ensuring that you’re ready to go for your next training session or game.

Best high carb snack food sources

The best high carb snacks for athletes come from a variety of sources, from fruits and vegetables to grains to dairy products.

  • Grains: breads, bagels, pancakes, pasta, dry cereal, oatmeal, rice, quinoa
  • Dairy: yogurt and milk
  • Starchy vegetables: potato and sweet potatoes, corn, winter squash
  • Fruit: fresh, frozen, canned and dried
  • Legumes: beans, peas and lentils

Grains

Grains are a versatile and essential source of carbohydrates for athletes. They provide both quick and sustained energy, making them ideal for various activities. Here are some common grain-based high-carb snacks sources:

  • Breads: Whole grain breads and bagels offer complex carbohydrates, fiber, and a range of nutrients. Opt for whole wheat, multigrain, or sprouted grain options for added nutritional benefits.
  • Pasta: Whole wheat or legume-based pasta is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. Pair it with lean protein and vegetables for a balanced meal.
  • Dry Cereal: Choose whole grain or high-fiber cereals for a convenient and quick snack. Add milk or yogurt and some fruits for a complete and satisfying option.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a hearty and nutritious choice, offering complex carbohydrates and fiber. Customize it with fruits, nuts, or seeds for added texture and flavor.
  • Rice: Brown rice or wild rice provides complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Combine it with lean protein and vegetables for a well-rounded meal.
  • Quinoa: Quinoa is a complete protein and a rich source of complex carbohydrates. It’s versatile and can be used in salads, bowls, or as a side dish.

Dairy

Dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, are not only rich in carbohydrates but also provide essential nutrients like calcium and protein.

  • Yogurt: Greek yogurt is a popular choice, offering a higher protein content. Choose plain or low-sugar options and add fresh or dried fruits for natural sweetness.
  • Milk: Milk, high protein milk and plant based alternatives (make sure to read the labels) provide a good source of carbohydrates, protein and essential vitamins.
  • Chocolate Milk: Chocolate milk is a tasty and replenishing option for athletes. It provides a mix of carbohydrates and protein, making it an excellent choice for post-workout recovery.

Including chocolate milk in an athlete’s diet can be especially beneficial after intense physical activity, as it provides not only carbohydrates for energy but also protein for muscle recovery. It’s a delicious and convenient way to rehydrate and refuel.

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables are another excellent source of carbohydrates, offering vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes: These root vegetables provide a high-energy boost. Bake or roast them for a simple and nutritious snack.
  • Corn: Corn is a starchy vegetable that can be enjoyed fresh or as popcorn. It adds natural sweetness and crunch to your snacks.
  • Winter squash: Varieties like butternut or acorn squash are rich in carbohydrates and can be prepared in various ways, such as roasting or pureeing.

Fruit

Fruits provide a great source of carbohydrates , vitamins, and antioxidants. They can be enjoyed in various forms:

  • Fresh fruits: Enjoy a variety of fresh fruits like apples, bananas, berries and citrus fruits. They offer a quick source of energy and hydration.
  • Frozen fruits: Frozen fruits are convenient and retain their nutritional value. Use them in smoothies or enjoy them as a refreshing frozen treat.
  • Canned fruits: Opt for fruits canned in their juice or water to avoid added sugars. Canned fruits are convenient, packable and have a longer shelf life.
  • Dried fruits: Dried fruits, such as tart cherries, raisins, apricots or figs, are concentrated sources of carbohydrates. They are portable and make for a sweet and chewy snack on the go.

Legumes

Legumes are not only high in carbohydrates but also provide a substantial amount of protein and fiber.

  • Beans: Whether black beans, chickpeas or kidney beans, they are versatile and can be included in salads, wraps, or soups.
  • Peas: Peas are a good source of carbohydrates and can be added to various dishes, providing a burst of sweetness.
  • Lentils: Lentils are a protein powerhouse and offer a mix of complex carbohydrates. Use them in stews, curries or salads.

When it comes to high carb snacks, it’s important to choose nutrient-dense options that will provide sustained energy. (1)

Including a variety of these high-carb snacks in an athlete’s diet ensures a diverse range of nutrients, supporting energy levels, and promoting overall well-being.

picture of different types of high carbs food sources, psata, grains, beets, bananas

23 High carb snacks ideas

1. Banana with peanut butter

Slice a banana and top it with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a delicious and filling snack. Or, dip the banana slices in Greek yogurt for a creamy and sweet treat.

Additional Information: Bananas are rich in potassium, providing an essential electrolyte for muscle function. Paired with peanut butter, this snack offers a balance of fast-acting carbohydrates and healthy fats, making it a great pre or post-workout option.

2. Oatmeal with mix-ins

Mix in dried fruit, top with fresh berries, or add a spoonful of honey to add some extra flavor, fiber, and texture to your oatmeal. Pour on some milk for extra carbs.

Additional Information: Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate that provides sustained energy. Adding dried fruit enhances the natural sweetness, and the milk contributes additional carbohydrates and protein, making it a well-rounded snack.

3. Sweet potato with toppings

Top a baked sweet potato with some black beans, salsa, and shredded cheese for a filling and nutritious snack.

Additional Information: Sweet potatoes are a rich source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Topped with black beans, this snack becomes a good source of plant-based protein and a satisfying option for athletes.

4. Whole grain toast with spreads

Spread some almond butter or hummus on top of whole grain toast. Then top with sliced banana, strawberries, avocado, or tomato for a satisfying and tasty snack that can be either sweet or savory.

Additional Information: Whole grain toast provides complex carbohydrates, and almond butter or hummus adds healthy fats and protein. This combination makes for a balanced snack that can be customized.

toast with high carb toppings

5. Apple with cheese or nut butter

Pair sliced apples with some almond butter or cheddar cheese for a sweet and savory snack.

Additional Information: Apples are high in natural sugars and fiber, providing a quick energy boost. Combining them with almond butter or cheese adds protein and healthy fats, promoting a feeling of fullness.

6. Greek yogurt with granola and fruit

Add some fresh fruit or granola to your Greek yogurt for a tasty and nutritious snack.

Additional Information: Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and probiotics. Adding granola and fresh fruit provides a mix of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins, making it a well-rounded snack for recovery.

7. Homemade trail mix

Mix your favorite dried fruits, including tart cherries, cranberries, and raisins, with some nuts and seeds for a homemade trail mix that’s perfect for on-the-go snacking.

Additional Information: Trail mix offers a combination of quick and sustained energy from dried fruits and nuts. It also provides healthy fats, antioxidants, and micronutrients for overall well-being.

8. Cottage cheese and pineapple

Top cottage cheese with chunks of juicy fresh or canned pineapple for a filling and carb and protein-packed snack.

Additional Information: Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. Mixing it with pineapple adds natural sweetness and vitamin C, enhancing the nutritional profile of this snack.

9. Smoothies with fruit

Blend your favorite frozen fruits with Greek yogurt or milk for a delicious and refreshing snack that’s packed with nutrients.

Additional Information: Smoothies are a versatile way to include a variety of fruits, providing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Low fat Greek yogurt or milk adds protein, making it a suitable option for post-exercise recovery.

berry smoothies on white background, high carb snacks

10. Dried apricots with fillings

Stuff dried apricots with some almond butter or cream cheese for a sweet and creamy snack.

Additional Information: Dried apricots boosts fiber, while almond butter or cream cheese adds healthy fats and a satisfying texture. This snack is a balance of carbohydrates and fats.

11. Pretzels or pita chips with dip

Dip pretzels or pita chips in hummus, creamy bean dip, Greek yogurt-based dip, or salsa for a flavorful and satisfying snack.

Additional Information: Pretzels or pita chips provide quick-digesting carbohydrates, and dips like hummus offer protein and healthy fats. This combination makes for a tasty and balanced snack.

12. Fig bars or granola bars

Pair fig bars or granola bars with some Greek yogurt or almond milk for a satisfying and nutritious snack. Or, crumble them up and mix them with some fresh fruit for a homemade parfait.

Additional Information: Fig bars and granola bars are a quick, convenient and packable and provide a mix of carbohydrates and fiber. Pairing them with Greek yogurt or almond milk adds protein and enhances the nutritional content.

13. Chocolate pudding

Top a bowl of chocolate pudding with some fresh fruit or chopped nuts for a sweet and creamy snack.

Additional Information: While chocolate pudding satisfies sweet cravings, adding fresh fruit or nuts contributes vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, making it a more balanced indulgence.

14. Toasted bagel with toppings

Top a toasted with your favorite spreads and toppings for a light and crunchy snack. Try options like cream cheese with strawberry slices or hummus with cucumber.

Additional Information: Bagels are a versatile base for snacks. They can be customized with sweet or savory toppings, providing a quick source of carbohydrates.

15. Energy bars with fruits

Pair your favorite energy bars with fresh fruits like berries or grapes. The combination of the bar’s sustained energy and the quick carbs from fruits makes for a well-balanced snack.

Additional Information: Energy bars are convenient for on-the-go snacking, and when combined with fruits, they offer a mix of fast-acting and sustained energy, making them ideal for athletes.

16. Quinoa salad

Create a refreshing quinoa salad with colorful vegetables, herbs, and a light vinaigrette. Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate that provides sustained energy.

Additional Information: Quinoa is a complete protein, making this snack not only high in carbs but also a good source of plant-based protein. It’s an excellent option for those looking to refuel after exercise.

17. Popcorn with nutritional yeast

Air-pop some popcorn and sprinkle it with nutritional yeast for a savory and carb-rich snack. Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor without the added fat.

Additional Information: Popcorn is a whole grain, and when combined with nutritional yeast, it becomes a tasty and nutritious snack. Nutritional yeast is also a good source of B vitamins.

18. Mango slices with tajin

Cut up fresh mango into slices and sprinkle Tajin (a chili-lime seasoning) for a sweet and spicy high-carb snack.

Additional Information: Mangoes are rich in natural sugars and provide a quick energy boost. Tajin adds a zesty kick, making it a flavorful and unique snack.

19. Muffins

Muffins are a baked high carb snack that can be made with whole wheat flour, oats, bananas or other ingredients. Adding some nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruits gives extra texture and sweetness.

Additional Information: Muffins can be a convenient and customizable snack. Using whole wheat flour and incorporating nuts or fruits adds fiber, carbs and nutrients.

20. Fruit Salad

Make a refreshing fruit salad with fresh or canned fruits (in their own juices). You can also add some yogurt, honey or lemon juice for extra creaminess and tanginess. Fruit salad is also high vitamins and antioxidants.

Additional Information: Fruit salad is a nutrient-dense option, providing a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. Adding yogurt contributes protein and creaminess, making it a well-balanced and hydrating snack.

21. Crackers and cheese

Crackers and cheese make a crunchy and savory high carb snack in addition to added protein and calcium. Choose whole wheat crackers or crackers made with seeds or grains for a fiber boost.

Additional Information: It’s a convenient and satisfying option for on-the-go snacking.

22. Dry cereal

Enjoy a bowl of your favorite dry cereal for a quick and crunchy snack. Choose whole grain or high-fiber options for added nutritional benefits. You can also top it with sliced fruits or nuts for extra flavor and texture.

Additional Information: Dry cereal is a convenient and versatile snack, providing a quick source of carbohydrates. Opt for whole grain varieties to enhance fiber content, and consider adding fruits or nuts for added nutrients and crunch.

23. Banana bread slices

Enjoy slices of homemade banana bread for a delicious and satisfying treat. Make it with whole wheat flour for added fiber and nutritional benefits. Banana bread slices are perfect for on-the-go snacking or a quick energy boost.

Additional Information: Banana bread made with whole wheat flour provides a good balance of complex carbohydrates and fiber, contributing to a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. Spread with nut butter for an additional treat.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, high carb snacks are an essential component of a balanced diet for athletes. They provide quick energy, aid in muscle recovery and help to maintain performance during exercise

By incorporating high carb snacks into your daily routine, you can optimize your nutrition and fuel your performance. So go ahead and grab a banana with peanut butter or a trail mix with dried fruit – your body will thank you for it!

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