The Best Times Of Day To Snack Might Surprise You

Snacking does more than just boost your energy and get you through the dreaded afternoon slump. This habit may also improve appetite control, prevent overeating, and add nutrients to your diet, says Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The key is to choose healthy foods that nourish your body and fit into your calorie budget for the day. It's one thing to snack on fresh fruits, veggie sticks, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt, and another thing to reach for a bag of chips or cookies.

Snack timing matters, too. For example, post-workout snacks can reduce fatigue and speed up muscle repair, leading to improved physical performance, explains Medical News Today. Ideally, fill up on protein and fast-digesting carbs, such as rice cakes, bananas, or dried fruit, after exercise. "If you don't eat and drink after working out, you may start to feel fatigued or even hangry," sports dietitian Kate Patton told the Cleveland Clinic. Pre-workout snacks, on the other hand, can supply the energy you need to perform at your peak.

Time your snacks strategically

A 2020 survey conducted by the International Food Information Council found that 26% of Americans snack multiple times a day. Over one-third of respondents said they occasionally replace lunch or other meals with snacks. While there are no hard and fast rules on when you should snack, it's important to consider your schedule and energy needs, among other things. Remember that even the healthiest snacks can add unnecessary calories to your diet when consumed in excess.

"I recommend snacking if you need to, meaning if you're not hungry or you know you're eating your meals every four hours, then perhaps a snack isn't necessary," said registered dietician, Melissa Rifkin, in an interview with Elite Daily. "I recommend meals every four to six hours, and snacks in between," she added. However, these guidelines are not set in stone. You may need to snack more or less often, depending on your exercise habits, overall diet, and fitness goals.

For example, registered dietician Sarah-Jane Bedwell recommends snacking after any workout over 60 minutes (via SELF). This will allow your body to replenish depleted energy stores and build lean mass, ideally with protein. Bedwell also suggests having a bedtime snack, as it may help you get more shuteye. Certain foods, such as turkey, oatmeal, yogurt, and nuts, are rich in tryptophan and can help increase melatonin which helps promote better sleep, notes Medical News Today. Another good choice is tart cherry juice, which may help you doze off faster.