You’ve probably heard Djokovic would eat a date during the tennis sets. He’s not alone. A number of professional and amateur athletes advocate for dates as a part of their sports nutrition. We’ve compiled a number of reasons why dates are a great completely natural and delicious snack for those who like to burn their calories.
Dates are high in natural sugars
Dates are rich in carbohydrates, and depending on a date variety they contain between 44%-80% sugars. As carbohydrates, they have the ability to boost energy levels. Since dates only contain simple sugars, those are converted to glucose for cells to use as energy. And this is not even the best part.
Slow release energy
Dates have low GI (glycemic index), which means they will be digested slowly by our bodies, keeping energy levels even throughout the day. Slow release of energy ensures athletes have got enough strength to perform well during their activity. As Alkaabi et al (2011) explain it:
“The GI of a food depends upon the rapidity of digestion and absorption of its carbohydrates, which is determined largely by its physical and chemical properties. A particular food’s GI is determined by measuring the rise in blood glucose after ingestion of a quantity of that food containing 50 g carbohydrate equivalent compared with the same amount of carbohydrate from a reference (such as glucose or white bread) taken by the same subject. Using glucose as the reference, a GI of ≤ 5 5(i.e. ≤ 55% of the reference) is considered low, of 56-69 is considered medium, and of ≥ 70 is considered high.”
Different date varieties have been measured to have different Gis, varying from 46.3 and 55.1 in the study mentioned above. The low GI of dates can be attributed to their high fructose and high dietary fibre content. Slow release energy is of great importance for sports nutrition, and we cannot recommend dates enough.
No blood sugar spikes
Dates have also been proven by the study by Alkaabi not to influence blood sugar levels. As mentioned above, they are high in fibre, whose function is to slow down the introduction of sugar into the bloodstream. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, just one pitted date contains 1.6 g of fiber, or 6% of the recommended daily intake. With five dates a day, you’ll have reached a third of recommended fibre daily intake! Although dates have been tested not to spike up blood sugar levels by Alkaabi, they are still to be eaten in moderation and as a part of a healthy diet. We recommend increased intake before sports activity as a part of healthy sports nutrition, but especially if you suffer from diabetes please consult your doctor first.
Sports Nutrition per excellence: proteins, minerals and vitamins
Yes, you’ve read it right: dates contain protein, too. They’ve got all the right to be called superfruit. Although fruits in general are not famous for their protein content, dates are among the fruits with highest amount of protein. 100g of dates have about 2.5g of protein, which might not sound much as compared to meat, but considering you get the proteins from a fruit, dates do indeed make the case for sports nutrition.
Moreover, dates will charm you with their high minerals content, too, and potassium in particular stands out. Want to hear a fun fact? Dates contain more potassium than banana – in sports terms, the result is 656mg for dates vs. 358mg for bananas. Potassium balances the fluids and electrolyte levels in our bodies, and is crucial for hydration, especially for post-workout recovery.
Dates are also rich in vitamins, especially in Vitamin B, which assists with the formation of new blood cells. No need to say that’s crucial for active athletes, is there?
Dates: A Sports Nutrition Superfruit
To sum up, dates are a great sports snack and a post workout recovery treat since they provide your body with 100% natural sugars and hence energy, which will be released slowly due to dates’ low GI. Low GI is partly a consequence of high fibre content, which is important also because fibre will preven any blood sugar spikes and will ensure that blood sugar levels will remain even despite high sugar content of dates. To add a cherry, pardon, a date on top, dates are also rich in protein (in comparison to other fruits), minerals and vitamins, and hence crucial for maintaining healthy nutritional balance in the sporting body.
If you wish to learn more, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team will lead you through date nutrition and moreover, advise how to use dates or date ingredients (such as date paste or chopped dates) in final products such as protein and energy bars, protein balls, energy drinks, but also other foods (e.g. bakery, confectionery, cereals etc.).