Dates, a good food option for athletes

Dates are a high source of energy and rich in nutrients, and can therefore easily be a valuable ally for athletes. Here’s why!

When taking part in a sports activity, our body needs fuel to power our muscles and help sustain our energy levels. In this regard, carbohydrates are the body’s fuel of choice, especially during moderate to high intensity exercise. Opting for carbohydrate-rich foods before physical activity helps optimize performance by providing muscles with all the fuel they need.

Interestingly, one of the primary nutritional properties of dates is that they contain virtually only carbohydrates in terms of their macronutrient composition. In fact, carbohydrates account for approximately 75% of their weight. This is because dates are a fruit and fruits naturally contain sugar and fibre, two types of carbohydrates. When fresh dates are dried, their carbohydrate content becomes more concentrated. As a result, dates are high in natural sugar, while still retaining a significant fibre content.

Dates are therefore a particularly valuable food to integrate into your diet before physical activity because they are a high source of energy.

During prolonged effort, it is also essential to restore energy levels along the way! For example, after approximately 90 minutes of sustained activity, the glycogen levels supplying muscles are usually very low. It is therefore necessary to ensure a regular intake of energy in order to maintain the same constant intensity. In this regard, there is a wide variety of products for athletes available on the market, including drinks, bars, gels, candies, and so forth. Although these products have a reason for being and their specific uses, in many cases they are not indispensable. We can easily find more natural alternatives from among everyday foods. In fact, some athletes now seek to maintain their performance levels by opting for a “natural” nutritional strategy instead of resorting to the wide range of commercial products. The types of food they look for are ones that are naturally high in simple carbohydrates which will provide a rapid source of energy. These include dried fruit such as dates and are particularly advantageous during activities such as hiking, trail running and biking. Date puree offers an interesting alternative to energy gels, all the more so during more strenuous activities where simply having to chew food is awkward.

Lastly, after a sports activity, it is also recommended that we eat a snack or meal to ensure optimal recovery. This energy intake should ideally be made up of carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates consumed after a workout will allow muscles to replenish their glycogen reserves, that is to say the glycogen levels that muscles can normally rely on during physical exercise. If the body doesn’t receive an adequate supply of carbohydrates, it won’t be able to rapidly restore these reserves. A subsequent physical effort made within a short period of time after the first one could prove to be a lot harder than expected if the muscles lack sufficient fuel reserves. A cookie or muffin sweetened with date puree along with a Greek yogurt is a winning solution for ensuring optimal recovery. Another great idea would be to add a little date puree to your recovery smoothie. It’s an excellent way to add carbohydrates as well as flavour!

Dates therefore provide the body with quality fuel before, during and after sport. What more could you ask for? There is more! In addition to the significant carbohydrate content, dates also have other nutritional benefits for athletes. For example, a 100g serving of dates, that is to say approximately 12 dates, is a good source of magnesium and potassium for the body. Among other things, these two minerals play a role in the proper function of the muscular system. A regular and adequate intake of these nutrients is therefore vital for athletes who train on a regular basis, which is yet another positive factor in favour of dates!

This sun-drenched fruit can therefore take pride of place on your menu if you regularly take part in sports activities, be it recreationally or competitively.


Isabelle Morin, PDt., MSc.
Nutritionist on the Madame Labriski team
Diploma in Sports Nutrition awarded by the International Olympic Committee

You may also like

You want to stay in touch?

Keep up to date on all of Madame’s inspiring adventures and her latest culinary creations.