In the past, we’ve discussed the tricky relationship many active gym-goers have with sugar. Of course, refined sugar in any kind of excess is unquestionably bad for your body, but for those consuming sugar in a post-workout snack such as a protein bar, it’s crucial to understand how sugar impacts your abilities to lose or gain weight.
During a workout, your body uses glycogen to fuel your exertion. After that resource, created by carbohydrates, is depleted, the body begins to burn fat instead. This is kind of a dual-forked problem:
- If you’re trying to lose weight, limiting sugar and forcing the body to begin burning fat instead of glycogen can help you slim down. This process, known as ketosis, can also be dangerous long-term, so you must research before attempting it.
- If you’re trying to bulk up, eating small amounts of sugar after a workout is a good idea - as sugar will help rapidly refill your body’s glycogen stores. Without this, you’ll not only lack energy for future workouts, but it can impair your body’s ability to complete protein synthesis. Ultimately, this means a post-workout snack that combines a small amount of sugar and carbohydrate content with high protein can help maximise ‘gains’.
Pre-workout is a whole different ball game. Consuming sugar, in general, creates more glycogen. When not used up through exercise, this glycogen is stored as fat. For most people interested in general fitness, reducing sugar intake is therefore beneficial for weight loss, fitness and muscle development.
Sadly, many protein products are packed with sugar, and as such, finding low sugar protein snacks can be hard.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Here’s our list of some easy low sugar protein snacks so you can build muscle without excess sugar.
Nuts and seeds
Create your own combination of nuts and seeds for an on-the-go snack that’s packed with protein and virtually sugar-free. While common trail mix often includes added sugar in the form of dried fruit, creating your own bags of mixed nuts and seeds means eliminating sugar entirely.
Portion control is important here, as nuts and seeds are so nutritionally dense that they are high in calories. Still, with high protein content, they can be eaten in smaller portions to help stave off hunger and remain satiated.
Edamame (soybeans) are a traditional food in asian cuisine - especially Japan. They’re super versatile - you can eat them straight from the pod or can sprinkle them in salt and roast at home. Either way, they have 11g of protein in 120 calories and just 2.2g of sugar.
Beef or turkey jerky isn’t just for our US customers - you can either make your own at home or buy it in most UK supermarkets. Jerky offers a fast, immediate protein source with around 33g for every 100g. Try to find a brand that is lower in sugar, as some can end up with more than you’d expect thanks to processing.
For the vegans amongst you, you’re in luck: setain-based jerky is also full of protein. Make your own by buying a pack of vital wheat gluten and then following this BBC recipe: every 100g offers 20g of protein for 4g of sugar.
Whole grain sandwiches
This might seem like a strange addition to a list of bite-sized snacks, but we’re big fans of the humble sandwich. For low sugar protein, a turkey, tuna or other lean meat sandwiches in whole-grain bread offers roughly 22g of protein for every 150g sandwich and only 4g of sugar.
Tofu gets a bad reputation - but it’s an absolute powerhouse when it comes to protein. Try taking a block of pressed tofu (or pressing it yourself), then chop it into thin strips. Season those strips in a bowl with garlic powder, black pepper and a splash of soy sauce - then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200c. Less than 0.5g of sugar and 10g of protein - maybe the veggies are on to something after all.
Low sugar protein bars
Okay - this was always going to be inevitable: but hear us out. Our oat-based protein bars are designed to pack in maximum protein whilst retaining natural flavours and ‘good’ carbohydrates that can help fuel workouts without spiking your blood sugar too much.
Try our famous Oatein Millionaire Crunch for a pre-workout delight: the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Orange flavours are both vegan and have less than 0.3g of sugar in each bar but pack in 15g of protein.
Post-workout, if you want a small amount of sugar to aid glycogen restoration, the Oatein Low Sugar Flapjack is ideal - with 3.5g of sugar that is made more manageable thanks to the oaty goodness that ensures a slow release of carbs rather than a spike in blood sugar.