As an athlete, your time is not your own. You are often running from a morning lift session, to practice, to class, and back to team meetings before you get a moment to yourself. You may not always have the time to fit in, let alone prepare, full meals. Yet, it’s important to consume enough carbohydrates and protein throughout the day in order to maintain your energy needs and allow your muscles to repair, amongst many other factors. This is where snacking comes in handy. We know living in shared spaces such as a dorm or apartment doesn’t leave much room for storage, but there are still plenty of healthy dorm snack options for student-athletes. Below, we’ll provide you with easy, shelf-stable, and fridge-friendly snack ideas, including suggestions for pre-and post-workout snack pairings, so you stay fueled and energized during your busy days.
10 Must-Have Healthy Dorm Snacks for Athletes
1. Energy Bars
Energy bars make a great healthy dorm snack option for fueling in between workouts. The ratio of carbohydrates to protein matters depending on whether you’re consuming them before or after your training session. Eat the higher carbohydrate bars pre-workout and save the higher protein bars post-workout or throughout the remainder of the day. You can read more about pre and post-workout nutrition here. We often recommend Clif Bar, RxBar, Perfect Bar, and granola bars (pre-workout) and options such as Clif Builder, PRO bar protein, or Honey Stinger Nut and Seed Bars (post-workout). Explore store brand options that compare to many of these, too, at Target, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi, for example.
2. Oatmeal Cups
Oatmeal cups provide a quick and easy way to make oatmeal without the stove. You’ll get benefits of whole grain oats, such as improving gut health with both quick and slow-acting carbohydrates which makes this a great foundation for a meal or snack pre-training. Due to the fiber content, it may be best to consume oats 1-2 hours before training to give your body time for digestion. You can prepare with milk instead of water and top with nuts or seeds and fruit for added protein and nutrients.
3. Fresh Fruit
Fruit is a great source of carbohydrates and fiber which make them a perfect pre-training snack. They also provide vitamins and minerals which aid your body in many processes that allow you to perform and antioxidants to help your muscles repair during recovery periods. Switching up the type of fruit you eat allows you to gain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some suggestions include grapes, apples, bananas, citrus, and kiwis. If you have freezer space, grab frozen berries and cherries too to save money versus fresh. When you’re on the way out of the dining hall, grab pieces of fresh fruit to have later in the day between meals. Just don’t forget about it and let it get moldy!
4. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a perfect pre-workout snack for athletes because of its packed nutrition per ounce and also because it is shelf-stable (i.e. will last you a long time) and easy to travel with. It is equivalent in nutrition content to fresh fruit but the smaller volume allows you to gain more nutrients without getting overly full. In addition to raisins, some of the most popular dried fruits include dried bananas, pineapple, and mango. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try dried kiwi, apricots, or figs, too. Prunes may also help keep your bowel function regular while traveling! You’ll gain a mix of vitamins and minerals as mentioned above.
5. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and calcium. On top of bone health, calcium is essential in muscle contractions i.e. getting your body to move and compete. Greek yogurt is also a good source of the mineral phosphorus and B vitamins. These support energy metabolism. Greek yogurt serves as a beneficial bacteria making it a great source of probiotics to add to your daily meal plan.
6. Cheese Sticks
Whether you call them cheese sticks or string cheese, these are an ideal snack amongst the student-athletes we work with. They provide a good source of calcium and protein. They pack anywhere from 5-8 grams of protein per stick making them a great post-workout snack. Try some Babybels or any other string cheese options you can find at your local store.
7. Protein Rich Milk or Chocolate Milk
The next time you do your grocery shopping, whether it’s on campus, at the grocery store, or online, stock up on milk or chocolate milk for an easy and healthy dorm snack. Milk is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamins and minerals. Athletes require more of all of these nutrients when compared to the average person. Be aware that milk alternatives such as almond, oat, or cashew milk may not be a good protein source. Look for 7-8 grams of protein or more per 240 mL/8 oz single serving. Ideal times to consume milk are after training or as an evening snack.
Jerky is an ideal post-training snack as it’s a great source of high-quality protein to promote recovery. Jerky contains sodium which can help you replenish the sodium you lost through sweating as a student-athlete. We recommend options such as Epic, Chomps, and Field Trip.
9. Sports Drinks
Proper hydration is crucial in order to maximize performance both on and off the field. As little as 1% dehydration can be noticeable in performance. It’s important to stay hydrated with not only water but by replacing electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride via liquids. This is where sports drinks come into play. They offer the components mentioned above to stay properly hydrated. Options include classics like Gatorade or Powerade, but we often recommend Skratch and Liquid IV due to their higher, more appropriate sodium content. You can always just add extra salt to standard sports drinks, though!
10. Starchy Packaged Snacks
Starch is simply energy from carbohydrates, so starchy snacks provide the energy your brain and muscles need to perform optimally. Athletes use more energy than the average person and therefore need more carbohydrates. Some starchy snacks include pretzels, crackers, goldfish, popcorn, and bread. Stock up on these snacks in your dorm room so you can grab and take them on the go, consuming them 15-60 minutes prior to a training session.
Healthy Dorm Snacks for Pre- & Post-Workout
While we consider these to be healthy dorm snacks for most student-athletes, know that what’s healthy for one athlete can be very different for another athlete! And what’s healthy or appropriate can vary based on when you’re eating it, too. For example, something we’d recommend 10 minutes pre-workout wouldn’t be adequate 60 minutes pre-workout or after training either.
Pre-Workout Dorm Snacks
- 5-15 minutes prior
- half – full ripe banana
- dried fruit
- sports drink
- 30-60 minutes prior
- Oatmeal cup
- Banana with nut butter
- Pretzels and dried fruit
- Clif Z bar or chewy granola bar
- 1-2 hours prior
- Clif bar, RxBar
- Whole fruit, nuts and crackers
- Oatmeal cup with fruit and nuts
Post-Workout Dorm Snacks
- Protein bar with fruit or starchy snack
- Milk or chocolate milk
- Jerky + popcorn and dried fruit
- Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
- Cheese sticks and crackers
Healthy Dorm Snacks Vary Person to Person
Remember, what works for one athlete may not work for another. It’s important that you actually enjoy the snacks you eat in order to maintain a healthy relationship with food and build a consistent eating pattern. Stock up on a couple of your favorites from this list to start and then slowly add more as time goes on. If you want more tips about snacking for athletes, check out our performance snacking guide.