This past August, I hosted an Essex Running Club Run. Over the past two years, I haven't run too many local races, and have only supported the club on a peripheral level. So, by hosting a run, I really wanted to show support for the runners that make this club so great.
My theme was "Pegan". What is Pegan??? It's part Paleo, part Vegan. A Pegan diet is low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, but high in vegetables and fruits; it includes adequate protein for muscle synthesis, repair, and appetite control; it's full of heathy fats (like Omega-3's) from quality nuts, seeds, and fatty fish; and it supports sustainable, grass-fed animal products and organic, local produce; while avoiding all GMO foods, such as food additives, dyes, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, and MSG.
Everyone loved the organic grilled chicken, organic cauliflower rice and peppers, organic green salad, organic string beans with sliced almonds, and watermelon for desert. I was so grateful for all the compliments. Thank you, everyone! There was one item that the runners absolutely loved - and I promised I'd share the recipe (sorry that it took so long). So, here it is, my recipe for my B3yond Nutrition Date Protein Energy Balls:
First, Mise en place:
I use my Heavy Duty Kitchen Aid with the Grinder Attachment, and Cookie Dough Hook. I used to use my Cuisinart Food Processor, but it put a lot of pressure on the motor, and I was afraid I was going to burn it out.
Next, I get all my ingredients lined up.
Ingredients: Don't you hate when you have to scroll through blogpost pictures just to get a recipe? Still, I'm providing pics (see below) to give you an idea of the whole process, and guidance when you make these on your own.
- 1 cup Almond Butter (you can use any nut butter)
- 1.5 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut
- 24 pitted, dried dates (stems removed)
- 1/2 Cup of Dark Chocolate Chips (Look for at least 70% Dark Chocolate)
- 1/4 Cup Flax Seeds
- 1/4 Cup Flax Meal
- 1/4 Cup Raw Honey
- 1/4 Cup Protein Powder (I use Pure Encapsulations Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Powder). Whatever protein powder you use, go for an unsweetened, unflavored powder - it should simply be only protein)
- 1 Tablespoon Raw Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 Teaspoon Himalayan Salt
- Option: 1/2 Cup Hemp Seeds for Rolling
- Process the dates using the Kitchen Aid Grinder Small Blade Attachment as shown below (or by using the blade of a food processor)
- Next, add all ingredients to the ground, processed dates
- Mix all ingredients using the Kitchen Aid Cookie Dough Hook as shown below (or by using the blade of a food processor) Helpful Hint: If you are using a food processor, add your chips in by hand after mixing and processing all your ingredients. You don't want to chop up your chips!
- Shape mixture into bite sized balls. Helpful Hint: I use plastic gloves because the mixture is quite sticky!
- Optional: Roll balls in more raw cocoa powder or flax seeds, finely processed walnuts, hemp (as shown below), or chia seeds.
- Place balls in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and store in refrigerator.
Yield: About 75 delicious B3yond Nutrition Protein Energy Balls!
First, I grind the dates. Helpful Hint: To clean your grinder after grinding the last date, add a slice of bread (Gluten Free if sensitive) to push out remaining dates. Of course, stop as soon as you see the bread poke past through the blade opening.
Next, add in all your ingredients, consecutively as noted above.
Then, mix using the Cookie Dough Blade.
Continue to scrape the sides as you go:
Once throughly mixed, shape into bite sized balls. The gloves truly help - otherwise, the mixture tends to stick to your hands and makes the rolling process quite cumbersome!
Next, roll the balls in Hemp Seeds. Other options, as mentioned above include more raw cocoa powder or flax seeds, finely processed walnuts, or even some chia seeds. Helpful Hint: If you roll them in more flax seeds, or in chia seeds - Check Mirror Before Smiling! LOL!
As you roll your balls, place them in a container with a tight fitting lid.
Depending on the size of each ball, the recipe should yield about 75 delicious protein, energy balls. Yummmm!
Keep these precious balls refrigerated!
The Science Behind Each Ingredient:
I developed these balls, and tweaked the recipe over time, to provide an immediate post-workout food to eat after my workouts that involved pre-run strength training, a tempo run, followed by 4-6 strides. I needed to be able to grab something quick, before I had to get ready, and leave for work. Of course - within the next 2-hour window, I ate a delicious and balanced breakfast because even though it's important to replenish your body with carbohydrate and protein immediately after exercise, it's also important to eat regularly throughout the day to continue to replenish muscle glycogen and protein stores.
Most all my clients who are training for an important athletic event(s) will ask me, "When, what, and how much should I eat and drink after I exercise?" Post-exercise nutrition is a very important part of a good recovery plan, and each recovery plan should be individualized - especially the nutrition aspect. The "what" and "how much" to eat really depends on the sport, the training program, environmental factors, the athlete’s health history, body composition and size, age, performance goals, and physical conditioning.
Generally speaking, though, endurance and intense exercise will sensitize muscle tissue to certain hormones and nutrients. As a result, muscle is going to be the most responsive to nutrient intake during the first 30 minutes post-exercise. Since muscle glycogen (muscle sugar) is the predominant fuel source used during endurance and intense exercise, it makes sense that a high-glycemic carbohydrate food, such as the B3yond Nutrition Protein Energy Balls, will replenish glycogen and protein stores when consumed immediately following workouts. In other words, your muscles will soak up the glucose from the dates, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and honey like a sponge - and love you for it!
In addition to losing fluids and electrolytes, exercise increases catabolic hormones that help to breakdown glycogen and fat, to provide your body with energy. These hormones remain high after exercise and can also break down muscle tissue. Without proper post-exercise nutrition, this catabolic action will continue for hours post-exercise setting you up for poor muscle adaptations/recovery, muscle soreness, and could even effect your future athletic training and performance.
Immediately following exercise (especially after long endurance runs and strength training), you must refuel not only with carbohydrate, as mentioned above, but also with protein to repair and build muscles, attenuate muscle soreness, reduce potential for injury, and maximize future athletic training and performance.
Whey protein has been shown to be a great post-exercise protein because it contains certain amino acids that are readily absorbed into the bloodstream. One important amino acid found in whey is called, leucine. Leucine greatly impacts protein synthesis, and positively affects muscle development and growth. Leucine is a Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA), which is one reason why I use the Pure Encapsulations BCAA powder in my protein energy balls. Purposeful recovery is a good thing!
BCAA’s also have the greatest metabolic potential for energy use in muscles - in other words, muscles are designed to burn BCAA amino acids for energy. Research has shown positive effects when using BCAA’s immediately before events and during an event, such as improvements in mental performance, reduction in times, as well as the reduction of lactic acid levels. Muscle mass loss has also been shown to be reduced when BCAA's are added to a pre-exercise meal. And remember our good friend leucine? Well leucine is one of the major ‘foods’ for muscle energy during workouts. So, if you are using a Protein Powder containing Whey, or BCAA's, feel free to eat the B3yond Nutrition Protein Energy Balls not only as a post recovery fuel option - but also as a pre-work out food! Just make sure you give yourself enough time to digest, as they are high in fiber!
Proper nutrition post-exercise does not only help stop muscle tissues from further breakdown, stimulate muscle growth and repair, replenish muscle glycogen, but it can also help reduce muscle soreness by curbing excessive inflammation, while strengthening our immune system.
Of course, you need to eat foods high in protein in order to make protein. So it should come to no surprise that proteins and their building blocks (amino acids) are required for optimal synthesis of a variety of immune related proteins (including cytokines and antibodies). In fact, certain amino acids can positively impact and strengthen our immune cells and our immune system. In particular, the BCAA's can help to modify inflammatory responses (cytokine production), while strengthening our immune system.
Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids (from flax, walnuts, and fatty fish) can also help to decrease muscle soreness after exercise. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids can provide a variety of anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects. This is why the B3yond Nutrition Protein Energy Balls are made with flax meal, as well as flax seeds.
Last, why add the raw cacao and very dark chocolate chips? Cocoa is a food rich in polyphenols and flavanoids, both of which positively influences the immune system, activating our innate and adaptive immune responses. This is why the raw cacao and dark chocolate chips provide a rich source of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and ant-carcinogenic properties.
Aww heck, bottom line:
B3yond Nutrition Protein Energy Balls just taste good!
To learn more about how to build and maintain a healthy body, increase your athletic performance, or to simply sustain a lifestyle of healthy eating, contact me at 973.852.3335