Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Energy Balls

Made with only 4 ingredients and filled with antioxidants, healthy fat, and energy-boosting carbohydrates, these chocolate peanut butter energy balls are perfect for a quick pre-workout snack, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or even as a post-workout recovery bite. 

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Chocolate and peanut butter: Is there any better combination? If there were ever two flavors meant for each other, these are them. These energy balls are reminiscent of a Reese's peanut butter cup and could totally pass for dessert in my opinion, yet they are filled with nutritious whole food ingredients.

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Let's talk carbohydrates for a minute and clear a few things up. We need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for both our muscles and our brain. Have you ever noticed when you're really hungry, it's hard to focus? And you crave sugar? That's because your brain is saying: I need carbs. And Fast.

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If you're very active, you need more carbohydrates than a non-active person -- especially before a workout. Whether you're fueling up for a spin class, a long run, or a power yoga class, your muscles need carbs. If you're a morning exerciser, eating a little something before you head out the door will make your workout more productive; otherwise, you're running on empty. You'll feel better later in the day too because you won't have depleted your body of everything it had. The same goes for evening exercisers if it's been more than a few hours since lunch. While a few small studies have suggested you can train your body to burn more fat by depleting carbohydrate stores before exercise, it's difficult to achieve, not well proven, and in the cases it may work it appears to be most useful for serious endurance athletes. The bottom line is that you will get more out of your workout (meaning you can workout harder and for longer) if you give our muscles the fuel they need. And that fuel is carbohydrates. 

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After your workout, your body needs a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Unless you're training for a multi sport race like a triathlon and doing double workout sessions in one day, you don't need to worry so much about the protein to carbohydrate ratio or the exact timing -- you'll get what you need over the next 24 hours if you eat a balanced diet. But if you have more than an hour before your next meal, it is helpful to grab a quick snack like these energy balls to start the recovery process. (If you are training for a big race and want a personalized fueling plan, let's talk).

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The carbohydrate in theses energy balls primarily comes from the dates, which are also a good dose of potassium -- a key nutrient for workout recovery and an important nutrient to help regulate blood pressure (one that most of us don't get enough of). Healthy fats from the peanuts and peanut butter plus antioxidants in the cacao powder make these a great snack to keep you satiated between meals or to help you fuel up or recover from a workout. As a note,  pre-workout nutrition is all about trial and error (and learning what your stomach can handle), especially if your exercise of choice is running, so if you think you can't eat before a workout, you probably just haven't found the right food choice yet. 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Energy Balls
Ingredients
  • 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter*
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder (such as Navitas) + more for coating (optional)
Instructions
Place all ingredients in a food process and blend on high until peanuts are chopped and you have a smooth paste that will stick together. Scrape down sides as needed. Scoop out rounded tablespoon-sized balls of the mixture and form balls with your hands. If you would like to coat in in cacao powder, place powder in a bowl and roll each ball in powder. If not, you can skip this step. Place balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put in refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (But I promise you, they won't last that long ;)). ------------------------------------------*Use all natural peanut butter. Ingredients should just be peanuts (and salt, if you like salted). It should need to be stirred The drippier, the better. Note: If your dates are not very soft, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes before blending with other ingredients.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 balls