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Nut Butter, Oat & Date Energy Balls

These little balls are the perfect training fuel! They're everything you need, all in one bite - carbs, a bit of sodium, and healthy fats for slow-release energy. The ultimate whole food pick-me-up.

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These are healthy snacking perfection! I have a bag in my freezer all the time. The trick is getting Ryan to save them for during or post training fuel, or even dessert at night, and not just reaching for one 24/7... they can disappear quite fast ;) They're made with only a few healthy ingredients - dates, nuts and nut butter, oats, and a bit of sea salt. Then I throw in a few additions, like pumpkin pie spice, cocoa powder, dried fruit or coconut flakes, just to up the deliciousness level. I love that these are naturally sweetened just with the dates. I tried a version where I added maple syrup or honey, but actually found it too sweet.

These are a daily training rendition of Ryan and I's pre-race breakfast. A sports nutrition expert we sometimes work with, Kevin Jardine, put us on to our pre-race breakfast. It's white rice, combined with a bit of salt, coconut oil and nut butter. He explained that it's everything your body needs to fuel you for a great race performance; white rice for easy, fast release carbs to burn, sodium from the salt to replenish what you're sweating out and prevent cramping, and the nut butter and coconut oil give your body healthy fats to burn once it's burned through the carbs. The body will burn carbs first, and quickly, and then it switches to burning fats, which happens a bit more slowly, but it's important to provide it with some fat stores to access.

In these energy balls, I swapped the rice for oats to provide a bit more fibre. Oats can be hard for the body to digest if you're doing a really hard 100% race effort, and it takes energy for your body to break down the fibre in them. However, if I'm doing a 100% race effort, I'll just eat really fast, easy carbs, like gels, honey, maple syrup, or white rice. In the case of these energy balls, I use them in my day-to-day training, like during a really long bike ride. If I had a hard interval session, I'd have one of these immediately after I was finished to aid recovery. If I had a double-day planned I'd eat one in between training sessions, or half an hour before I started my second session of the day to give my body good fuel for it. In that case, I prefer a bit of fibre and something that won't spike my glucose as much, hence the oats instead of white rice! As with our pre-race breakfast, a bit of sea salt in these will help replenish depleted sodium stores, and the nut butter and coconut oil give your body healthy fats to burn through slowly.

Here's how to make it

I start by chopping the dates. I have tried putting the dates in my food processor, but even with a powerful food processor I find they just churn around in one big lump, overheat my blender, and generally just annoy us both (the blender and I!). So, I chop them! This does take a bit of time, but stick on a podcast and trust me when I say it's worth it ;)

Then, I stick the oats, nuts, chocolate chips, spices (like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice), and sea salt in the food processor or Nutribullet. I give them a quick few pulses - enough to break down the oats a bit, so they hold together better as balls, but not enough so that it becomes a powder. Of course, you don't have to blend them at all if you like them chunky, or you can blend it tons if you don't want chunks at all! This is just the way I prefer it.

I pour the oat mixture, chopped dates, and remaining ingredients (nut butter and coconut oil or water) in to a big bowl, and then thoroughly mix it all together. Once it's mixed, it should easily stick together as a clump. If it doesn't, add some more nut butter, coconut oil or water. Give it a taste! If you want it sweeter, add some maple syrup or honey. Personally, I love that this is naturally sweetened just with the dates, and it's sweet enough for me as-is. If you want to add any dried fruit, mix it in now.

Finally, roll these in to 2 tbsp balls! I place the balls on a cookie sheet as I'm rolling them. Sometimes, I'll drizzle melted chocolate on top, or roll them in coconut flakes. Then I stick the whole cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they're frozen a few hours later, I'll transfer them to a ziplock bag so they can continue living in my freezer, and we can grab them on an as-needs (or just wants) basis!


The variations are endless! I've included three different recipes below - chocolate peanut butter (obviously!), coconut cashew (to die for), and pumpkin pie spice with pecans.

You could do a dark chocolate cherry, by adding dried cherries, Almond Joy by using almond butter and coconut flakes, a lemon and coconut version, pina colada by adding dried pineapple, PB&J by using peanut butter and dried cranberries or strawberries... get creative subbing ingredients! The base is always the same - nut butter, dates, oats, and then whatever else you please.


Nut Butter, Oat & Date Energy Balls

Servings: 20 balls

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes


Chocolate Peanut Butter

1 cup oats

1 cup dates

½ cup peanut butter

1 tbsp maple syrup

¼ cup coconut oil or water

3 tbsp cocoa powder

¾ tbsp cinnamon

1.5 Tsp sea salt

½ cup chocolate chips

¼ cup peanuts

Coconut Cashew

1 cup oats

1 cup dates

½ cup cashew butter

¼ cup coconut oil or water

½ cup shredded coconut

1.5 tsp sea salt

1 tsp coconut extract

¼ cup cashews or almonds

Optional - More shredded coconut for rolling the balls in

Pumpkin Pie Spice with Pecans

1 cup oats

1 cup dates

½ cup almond butter

¼ cup coconut oil or water

1.5 Tsp sea salt

1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla or maple extract

½ cup walnuts or pecans

½ cup chocolate chips


Chop dates by hand in to small chunks. You can try your food processor, but read about my woes with it above.

Pour your oats and nuts in to a food processor, Nutribullet, or blender, and give them one or two pulses to coarsely chop the nuts. Add your chocolate chips (unless you prefer them whole in your energy balls... I do find chopping them just a bit helps the final product to hold together). Also add your spices (cocoa powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or whatever you're using) and sea salt. Give this one or two more quick pulses, just to break the chocolate chips in half.

Pour the oat mixture, and dates in to a big bowl. Add whatever nut butter you're using, extract, and coconut oil or water. You can also add any other additional ingredients you're using, like coconut flakes, dried fruit, or chia seeds (great, but Ryan doesn't like how they get stuck in his teeth while exercising). Mix until everything is combined evenly. Give them a taste! If you'd like them sweeter, add 1 tbsp or two of honey or maple syrup.

These should easily hold together in a clump when you squeeze the mixture in your hand. If you find it a bit crumbly, add more nut butter, coconut oil or water.

Finally, roll these in to 2 tbsp balls. I place the balls on a cookie sheet as I'm rolling them. To finish them, you can drizzle melted chocolate on top, roll them in coconut flakes, or just leave them as-is. Put the whole cookie sheet in the freezer for about two hours. Once frozen, transfer them to a ziplock bag and return them to the freezer. You can eat them on an as-needs basis! They'll easily keep for one month.

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