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Whole Food Fueling: Dates

By Dina Griffin

datesThe trends are changing for how multisport athletes are choosing to fuel themselves for training. Engineered and processed sports nutrition products still dominate the majority of athletes’ fueling plans, yet there is a growing number of triathletes who are experimenting with using whole foods as part of their training nutrition regimen.

An example of using a whole food is the use of dried dates. There are a variety of dates, but the most common types found in U.S. grocery stores are the Deglet Noor and Medjool dates. This source of fruit offers a high amount of natural carbohydrate in a small serving size. One large Medjool date or three to four Deglet Noor dates will contain approximately 18 grams of carbohydrate. They both are sweet-tasting, rich and have hints of honey flavor. A little goes a long way with these fruit nuggets as a natural energy source.

Some easy ways to use dates (note: dates should be pitted):

  • Make into a bar. You can keep it simple by merely mixing four ingredients in a food processor: protein powder, dates, nuts and water. Once you get the consistency to hold, you can form these into bars and refrigerate or freeze. To make more “loaded” bars, consider additional ingredients such as chia seeds, flax meal, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and perhaps other dried fruits.
  • Make into a bite. Combine ingredients such as dates, cocoa powder, almonds, melted coconut oil and sea salt in a food processor until well combined. Then, take small amounts of the mixture to roll into balls and place in the refrigerator or freezer to harden.
  • Roll ‘em. Pulse dates, pecans or almonds, and shredded coconut in a food processor to combine into a paste. Form the paste into small balls or rectangular shapes, then roll in more shredded coconut. Store in the freezer or refrigerator.
  • Stuff ‘em. Inside the date, place a pecan, almond or nut of your choice. You can also stuff dates with a slather of coconut oil or nut butter.
  • Use in a smoothie. Pre- or post-workout smoothies are an easy and quick way to consume quality nutrition. Dates can provide some sweetness and texture in smoothie recipes. For example, a smoothie made with milk (almond or cow), protein powder, avocado and dates will provide a creamy and sweet protein-packed beverage.

If you have never tried dates, look for them in bulk at your grocery store or health food market and get a few to try. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to process the dates into the paste or chopped form rather than eat them whole due to their fiber content. Enjoy one of nature’s whole foods!

Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD, is a sport dietitian and metabolic efficiency training specialist for Fuel4mance, a nutrition and performance consulting company based in Colorado. She is the co-author of “The Athlete’s Food Guide to Metabolic Efficiency” and the “Fuel4mance Smoothie Recipe Book” available at To contact Dina, email her at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.