Medjool Dates: Natures Perfect Running Fuel

sarah cuff Run Stronger 11 Comments

For many years now, medjool dates have been one of my favourite pre-run snacks. Partially because they are so easy – just toss the pit and enjoy their sweet soft texture with a swig of water before heading out the door. The Natural Delights Medjool Dates I use practically melt in my mouth (note – all dates are NOT the same and I use Natural Delights Medjool Dates because they are always soft and moist, unlike other varieties and brands). Unlike bananas, my other pre-run go-to, medjool dates are always sitting ready for me in the fridge – there’s never any worry as to if it might be under-ripe or over-ripe.

They also happen to fit the ideal “immediately pre-run” or “while running” macronutrient requirements to the letter: 66 calories and 17 grams carb with zero grams protein or fat per 1 pitted medjool date. Given that most energy gels contain approximately 100 calories, 25g carbs and zero grams fat or protein, you can see why dates make a good replacement. I’ve had many clients successfully utilize dates as their main energy source while out for long runs as well as during races, instead of using commercially prepared energy gels.

The reason medjool dates are so perfect for pre and during running, is because they are so easy for our bodies to digest. In fact, even if I eat one JUST before walking out the door there is no worry about digestive distress (and I have a sensitive digestive system!).

But to top it all off, not only are medjool dates easy to grab and digest, they are sweet little super foods. Packed full of potassium, they are also a source of calcium, iron and magnesium. Additionally, medjool dates are a rich source of phytonutrients, the bioactive compounds in food that promote health by protecting our cells from the free radical damage (meaning they not only protect us from chronic diseases, but also enhance immunity and help us to recover and heal faster post-run). Many studies have shown that the date fruit has antioxidant, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anticancer and immunostimulant activities.

Moreover, medjool dates may indeed be “sugar-packed” (which is why they are so good for us pre-run, during the run and post-run), however the sugar in dates is not something to shy away from. Studies show us many varieties including medjool are actually low on the glycemic index (meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels) due their rich phytonutrient profile. In fact, medjool dates show great potential as a medicinal food and regular consumption is encouraged for both its health and performance benefits.

While I’ve been using medjool dates as pre-run fuel, during runs, and throwing them in my post-workout smoothies forever, I was recently introduced to Natural Delights Date Rolls. Basically mashed dates rolled up with almonds (Almond Date Rolls) or with coconut (Coconut Date Rolls) or my new favourite – Pecan Pumpkin Pie Spiced Date Rolls. These rolls contain dates, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice; and 2 pieces provide 110 calories, 25g carb, 2.5g fat, and 0g protein. The fat is low enough to still make an awesome pre-run snack or to use as fuel during the run. And the spices add that extra anti-inflammatory kick and it literally makes the perfect combo. Not to mention a seriously oh-so-delicious one!!


I keep them in the fridge so they have just a bit of firmness to them and the sweetness from the dates along with the crunch of the nuts is a nice switch up from plain medjool dates (or plain dates with a bit of almond butter, which is what I’d sometimes do before the date rolls came along). Before a run, instead of popping a medjool date, I’ll pop two date rolls and off I go.

As much as I’m loving the 3 varieties of date rolls my fridge is now stocked with, I was alerted to the fact there are also Dark Chocolate Orange Date Rolls available – although I haven’t been able to find them in stores near me yet. So until I can find them (always the easier option!!), I decided to create my own homemade version of them. I’ve no idea at all what ingredients the actual Natural Delights version contains… But I do know my homemade variation tastes amazing (if I might say so myself, haha) and they make the perfect pre-run snack – I tested every last one against this claim, to nothing but great results 🙂

Eat 2 Run Dark Chocolate Orange Date Rolls

Makes 12-15 large bites or 24-30 smaller bites (or rolls)

DSC_0055 - Version 3


  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (I used 3 tangerines)
  • 1 Tbsp of orange zest (I grated most sides of the tangerines)
  • 1 cup (12-14) Natural Delights Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2-3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup almonds (or cashews or pecans)
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • additional cacao powder for rolling
  1. In a pot or pan, heat the orange juice over high heat until it boils. Stir and continue to boil until the orange juice reduces to about just less than half its original volume and looks like honey (is thick like honey too). Remove from heat.
  2. In a food processor, process the medjool dates with the orange juice reduction, orange zest and maple syrup until smooth and creamy (start with 2 Tbsp maple syrup, add more if necessary to achieve creamy texture). Remove the mixture from the food processor and set aside.
  3. In the emptied food processor all the almonds and process briefly only until roughly chopped.
  4. Add the date/orange mix back to the food processor with the chopped almonds and add the cacao powder. Process until combined.
  5. Roll into balls or rolls (will be sticky) and coat with more cacao powder (mix coconut sugar into the cacao powder for a sweeter coating).
  6. Chill before serving. Store in refrigerator.


To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,


Sarah J Cuff, RHN

Comments 11

    1. Post
  1. You answered all my questions and more about the use of medjool dates for running! I’ll be popping these babies into my mouth before running for sure!

    1. Post

      Great question! They are pure carbohydrates, just as energy gels and chews are, so you can use them similarly. So, every 35 minutes (approximately) you might have 1 large pitted medjool date (~18g carb). If using dates, I’ll pre-pit them and put them in a little ziplock snack bag and carry them with me in my hydration pack. Just wash them down with water! You might also wish to have an electrolyte drink with you if your run is longer than 2 hours and it’s hot/humid out (such as Nuun or Skratch) to replace sodium lost in sweat.

  2. Yum!! I’ll be trying these for upcoming half ironman training.
    I absolutely love orange, dates and cacao together and looking for more recipes that are high carb, sweet and delicious.

  3. Great article, just what I needed. Quick question, how do the pecan date rolls have 0g protein if there are actual pecans in them? I’m trying to decide on a snack for during long runs that include protein.

    1. Post

      Good question, we’d need to ask the company that question – my guess is they hardly contain any pecans, and pecans are a nut that doesn’t have much protein to begin with…

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