Wellness Wednesday: The Rise of the Peanut Butter & Jelly in Sports

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Loudoun County, Va. — Two pieces of sandwich bread, a smear of creamy peanut butter and a spoonful of homemade strawberry jam. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It’s a cheap, simple and classic sandwich that dates all the way back to 1901 when Julia Davis Chandler suggested pairing peanut butter and jelly in the Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics.

Peanuts

Peanuts can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions as well as fuel your body before competition.

The PB&J rose in popularity over the next 100 years. However, at least in my house, I feel like a peanut butter and jelly often went overlooked as boring while I was growing up. But the classic PB&J is once again gaining major momentum, thanks in part to athletic nutritionists, trainers and the NBA.

“We think PB&Js are great,” said Brittany Browder, ATC, Loudoun Sports Therapy Center. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a great source of protein and have just the right amount of carbohydrates needed before competition or workouts.”

PB&Js pack a tremendous amount of protein – roughly 15 grams per sandwich – perfect for a pre-competition snack. There are also additional health benefits of eating the salty spread.

Browder recommends an all-natural peanut butter and pairs hers with grape jelly and toasted whole wheat bread to make a melty, grilled-cheese style PB&J.

“Research shows that eating peanuts can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions as well as fuel your body before competition,” Browder said.

PB&J in the NBA

In an article published in March 2017 by ESPN Magazine, Baxter Holmes told the tale of the extreme popularity of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the NBA.

Holmes made it clear that the PB&J obsession has become so powerful that then-Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton boycotted post-game airplane meals in 2015 when he and his team were refused PB&Js by the team’s new nutritionist. In 2016, the Lakers’ dismissed that same nutritionist.

That’s right: not serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to NBA stars will earn you a pink slip.

PB&J in LCPS

It’s not just the NBA that is buying into the traditional, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Student-athletes all across Loudoun eat the nutritious and convenient snack to fuel up and replenish both before and after practices and games.

PBJ Graphic with TitleIn fact, LoCoSports conducted an extremely scientific survey on the PB&J debate in Loudoun, concluding that 70 percent of locals enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as pre- and post-workout snacks.

“They pack a good amount of calories and provide protein for after games,” Potomac Falls High School senior football and basketball player Alex Nemer said.

Like Browder, Nemer — who’s a fan of grape jelly and creamy peanut butter on sourdough — also emphasized the PB&J’s pregame nutrition value.

“They’re a good source of sustainable energy,” Nemer said.

But Freedom High School senior lacrosse and cross country athlete Rachel Osborne — who sits on the crunchy peanut butter side of the fence — warrants that the ingredients inside of the peanut butter and jelly can dramatically affect its healthfulness.

“If people have organic peanut and organic jelly, with no harsh ingredients, then it’s a great sandwich to eat, if it satisfies the athlete,” Osborne said.

Pre-workout sugar? Yes, please

While PB&Js do provide an excellent source of pre- and post-game calories, carbohydrates and protein, they can certainly pack in a lot of refined sugar. And while Browder recommends 40-50 grams of sugar before a high-intensity workout, it’s important to choose more natural sugars.

“Sugar in a PB&J sandwich – depending on the type of bread and jelly, jam, or spreads used – can vary from sandwich to sandwich,” Browder said.

Peanut Butter

As long as the peanut butter and jelly you are eating is not packed with refined sugars, the PB&J sandwich is a good way for student-athletes to fuel their bodies before competition. Photo by PiccoloNamek.

However, there are similarly convenient and less-refined alternative snacks for student-athletes, who are not fans of PB&Js, like Stone Bridge High School senior soccer player Maggie Swain, who prefers a plain peanut butter sandwich over its more sugary compadre.

“I prefer granola bars and bananas because I don’t like jelly,” Swain said. “Granola bars and bananas are also easy to take on the go.”

While Browder is a fan of peanut butter and jelly, she also recommends snacks like whole grain cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits and vegetables to student-athletes.

“Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-wheat toast, whole-grain pasta or brown rice before competition will help to fuel your body during competition,” Browder said.

Team creamy or team crunchy?

Whether you’re team grape or team strawberry, team creamy or team crunchy, one decree remains true: the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is here to stay, because it offers high school and college student-athletes the fuel they need to compete at a high level.

What’s my favorite combination, you ask? For me, it’s creamy JIF peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam on diagonally cut multigrain bread. What’s your favorite PB&J combo? Drop us a comment below.

Until more peanut butter news consumes the sports world, Big O Blabs.

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About Author

Owen Gotimer has a passion for helping people grow and self-educate through new media. Owen spent his college years at Syracuse University, where he studied broadcast and digital journalism in the renowned Newhouse School of Public Communications. In his "free time", Owen volunteers as a varsity baseball coach at John Champe and is the president of the Jeffrey C. Fowler Memorial Scholarship.

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