Another summer season, another energy bite recipe! And why not? Energy bites are an easy no-bake option for long-lasting fuel from home. While we all need the convenience of commercially-made training fuels now and then, there are a lot of good reasons to make some of it at home, too. And, if you’re gonna take the time to make them, they might as well taste this good.
Recipe of the Week: Vanilla Energy Bites:
- 1 cup walnuts, cashews, or other nuts (cashews are my fave)
- 1 cup dates, dried figs, or dried apricots PITTED
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Process walnuts & coconut until crumbly. Add remaining ingredients and process until sticky.
Roll mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Place in the freeze on lined cookie sheet for 1 hour (wax paper or parchment paper work well). .
Enjoy immediately or store in sealed container for up to 10 days.
I’ve said it before (our Nut Butter Stuffed Dates, Cocoa Energy Balls, and so many more!) and we’ll say it again: You don’t have to go into the sports nutrition aisle of your store to find some of the best fueling options available. And, you don’t have to put much prep into it, either. In fact, our no-bake, no-fuss Vanilla Date Energy Balls are as easy to eat as they are easy on the taste buds and stomach. They make for a great fuel option on long rides, runs, & climbs. Here’s why:
The right carbs: Dates are mostly carbohydrates, with a dash of protein. The carbohydrates are both glucose and fructose (at almost 50:50), which give you the fastest available energy source (glucose) for use and replenishment of muscle glycogen, along with a slightly slower carbohydrate source in fructose. Dates do also contain fiber, and even though conventional wisdom would teach us that sports nutrition and fiber don’t mix, many athletes do fine with the digestion of dates, just like they do fine with high-fiber chia seeds and training.
A concentrated source of carbs: One of the best parts of many engineered energy fuel, and especially gels, is the amount of carbs you get in a small volume. It’s easy to pack an extra gel in case the last hours of a century call for a bit more pick-me-up. Or, it’s easy to take one on a short ride without having to figure out where to carry it. The same is true of dates. Whole or chopped, they fit easily in your jersey pocket.
The right electrolytes. Dates naturally contain a significant amount of potassium at 100 mg per day. Since I recommend 100-300 mg potassium, and 400-700 mg sodium per hour for any ride up to 3 hours, you’re covered with 100% potassium needs and 50% sodium needs (thanks to the added salt). Add in a sports drink with at least 100 mg sodium per 8 oz., and you’re all set.
Antioxidants including vitamin A (eye health from betacarotene and zeaxanthin), tannins, and flavonoids. Like other whole foods, the nutrients go beyond the carbs, proteins, and fats to offer nutrients that enhance cellular health and fight and prevent disease.
Minerals. In addition to potassium, you’ll get calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium! These minerals are especially important for bone health, muscle contractions, and energy production. Sounds like a good combo for a cyclist.
A bit of protein, fat, fiber, & satiety: Although protein and fat are not needed from a nutrition standpoint on most rides, easy-to-digest proteins (such as nut butters, nuts, chia, or ground flaxseeds) can provide great satiety on longer rides. If you use all quickly-digested carbs on a ride >3 hours, you’ll often get that hollow-stomach nausea feeling. Real foods, with real-food nutrients (as opposed to gels), can satisfy your stomach WHILE providing the nutrients your body can use.
Dietary polyphenols. These antioxidants reduce inflammation and make cells more sensitive to insulin. Both of these factors are super-important to the athlete. First, inflammation is an issue for cellular health, whole body health, and recovery. When you think of inflamed cells, think of angry, out-of-control, destructive cells that simply do not function right. When we eat foods and nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, they can calm these cells and create a balance in our bodies that responds better to all the chemical reactions and toxins we throw at it.
Next, there’s the whole insulin-sensitivity issue. The more sensitive cells are to insulin, the healthier they are and less likely to store fat. They “use” carbs better, when you need energy, and replenish glycogen stores more efficiently for that upcoming ride…yes, please. When cells are resistant to insulin, they don’t respond well to blood sugar. This promotes a whole host of problems, including out-of-control blood sugars, disease, and more insulin resistance. The nutrients in real-foods can help.
Energy balls are once again all the rage around here, and this week they are great training fuel. Just 6 ingredients for this wonderful little fuel ball, and you’re set. What’s more, they healthy whole food ingredients make a great snack and can curb a craving (my kids usually eat them before I can get out on my bike, so I have to stash some). So, use as a snack within your meal planning, or add some salt and take along for the ride. It’s a win-win.
Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.
Want the full story? Well then, you’ll love Fuel Right Race Light. It’s the Apex Nutrition ebook, and it contains everything you need to 1) eat right day to day for your weight goals, health and wellness, and ongoing recovery; 2) fuel your training with perfectly timed and portioned training fuel before, during, and after training; 3) supplement smartly with the nutrients athletes need; and 4) hydrate well. Fuel Right Race Light puts it all together for you in a very easy-to-follow plan that you can implement today! Money back guarantee!