Is This the Perfect Power Snack?

Sure, you may not have the trainers or bank account of a pro athlete. But you just might have the NBA’s secret weapon in your very own lunch bag: the humble PB&J. Here’s what it can teach you about fueling your goals. 

About a decade ago, the Boston Celtics had a heck of a year: They won 66 games and the NBA title. The secret sauce fueling their victories? Stacks and stacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As legend has it, a teammate mentioned a pregame craving for the popular sammy, and star player Kevin Garnett requested a few. The team played so well that day, it became a pregame ritual—which eventually spread to other NBA teams too. 

Sure, the PB&J has a lot going for it, like carbs for energy and protein to repair muscles. But the real lesson here is this: Everything you eat and drink has an impact on your performance, whether you’re trying out for a team or cramming for an exam. So turn the page to learn how to eat your way to NBA levels of greatness this school year! 

PB&J in the NBA

KEVIN GARNETT:

Kicked off the NBA craze by declaring, “We’re going to need PB&J in here every game now.”

KRISTAPS PORZIŅGIS

Growing up in Latvia, he’d never heard of a PB&J until he joined the NBA, but quickly “fell in love.”

KEVIN DURANT: 

Loves the sandwich so much that he worked with Nike to create a PB&J-colored sneaker!

ACING THE TEST

OVERNIGHT APPLE PIE OATS

Place 1/2 cup uncooked oats, 1/2 cup milk, and a dollop of plain yogurt in a jar. Top with 1/2 medium apple (chopped), 2 shakes of cinnamon, 1 tbsp. of chopped nuts, and a drizzle of honey. Cover and refrigerate. In the morning, mix and eat cold (or warm it up in the microwave!). 

Why it works:

It’s a scientific fact that students who eat breakfast tend to achieve better grades at school than those who don’t. But quality is key: Oats are packed with fiber, which slows down digestion and helps keep you full all morning. Plus the protein in milk and yogurt will prevent your stomach from rumbling, so you can stay focused! (Don’t like oatmeal? A bowl of fiber-rich cereal, such as shredded wheat with milk and berries, will do the trick too.) 

Stay away from:

Donuts and pastries. They’re filled with added sugar, so they’ll give you an instant energy surge—followed by a blood sugar crash that will leave you sluggish. 

Bonus Bite!

Sleep is just as important to test success. So knock yourself out the night before with a slice of deli ham and a few whole-grain crackers. Ham’s rich in tryptophan, a protein building block that naturally makes you drowsy.

 I TRIED IT!   

“Success! I ate every bite and then licked the jar clean.” —Sophie Bernstein, 17, Missouri 

SURVIVING A STUDY SESSION

DIY POPCORN TRAIL MIX 

Place 1/4 cup popcorn kernels and 1 tsp. oil in a paper bag. Fold the top a few times to seal, then microwave on HIGH for 1-2 minutes, or until kernels stop popping. Pour into a bowl and let cool, then toss with 1 tbsp. each dried cranberries and mini chocolate chips. 

Why it works:

Carbohydrates are your brain’s main source of fuel, but you’ve got to pick the right kind. Popcorn is a carb that’s also a natural whole grain, so it will keep your blood sugar (and focus) steadier while you cram than potato chips or candy ever could. 

Stay away from:

Coffee drinks. Caffeine can stay in your system for six hours—you may be up all night! 

Bonus Bite!

Thirsty? Staying hydrated will keep you alert, so pour a can of carbonated water over ice and sweeten it with a citrus slice. Much better than a frappuccino or soda! 

 I TRIED IT!   

“It's a tasty treat. I would definitely recommend it to others!”—Matt Nakamura, 17, California 

CRUSHING IT ON THE FIELD

STRAWBERRY ROLL-UP

Spread 2 tbsp. peanut butter on a whole-wheat wrap, then top with slices of fresh strawberries. Roll it up and slice into four sections. 

Why it works:

What your body needs most before exercise is carbs—both simple carbs (like berries) for quick bursts of energy and complex carbs (the whole-grain wrap) for endurance. You also need something easy to digest, since your body shifts some blood flow to your muscles—and away from your stomach—during exercise. (Psst. Snack about an hour before practice so the carbs are ready to do their magic!) 

Stay away from:

Burgers and ice cream. They’re high in fat and protein, two nutrients that take a long time to digest. You’ll end up feeling super-queasy on the field. 

Bonus Bite!

Post-game is prime time for protein, which repairs and rebuilds your muscles after exercise. Blend a cup of chocolate milk with a frozen banana. Chocolate milk is high in protein, and bananas are rich in carbs. Blended together, they also help restock potassium and sodium—electrolytes you may have lost through sweating. 

 I TRIED IT!   

“I'm a lazy eater, but this was easy to make and tasted great.”Tanner Hirten, 13, Florida 

 

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