Ever hit the wall or “bonked” during a long workout? You’re not alone.
The body stores limited amounts of carbohydrates (as glycogen) to support exercise. Hitting the wall or bonking occurs when energy levels are too low to meet the demand while exercising. By eating or drinking carbohydrate rich foods or beverages during a long workout, glycogen stores are spared, allowing them to last longer—ultimately leading to longer workouts and/or faster sprints at the end of a race.
For workouts lasting 1-2.5 hours, a general rule of thumb is to consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Any more than that can cause gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. This is equivalent to 1 banana, 2 gels, 6 blocks, or 16-32 ounces of sports drink per hour.
For long endurance exercise lasting 2.5-3 hours or more, 80-90 grams per hour is required. Carbohydrates can be liquid or solid, depending on personal preference. Liquids promote hydration, while solids add variety, are easy to carry, and promote satiety. Either way, choosing something with a few different types of sugars in it (e.g. glucose, fructose, sucrose, or maltodextrin) promotes increased absorption and utilization, while minimizing GI distress.
Fresh dates are an excellent, portable choice for long workouts. Each date contains just over 5 grams of carbohydrates from an even mixture of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. They can be pitted and eaten as is, blended with some honey or agave and sea salt to create a homemade sports gel, or processed with other ingredients such as nuts and dried fruit to create bars or golf ball sized bites. Look for fresh Medjool dates for their large size and small pit and try making these Blueberry Cashew Carob bites for your next long ride, run, or hike. Put a few in a plastic bag and cut off a corner large enough to pop one right into your mouth.
Blueberry Cashew Carob Bites
Makes 28-30 golf ball sized servings | Recipe by Lauren Larson
2 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons carob powder (or cocoa powder)
2 tablespoons protein powder of choice (or more carob/cocoa powder)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fresh Medjool dates, pitted and packed
½ cup dried blueberries (preferably unsweetened)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water, if necessary
1. Process whole cashews in a large food processor until coarsely chopped, but not to the point not to the point of meal or butter.
2. Add protein powder, carob (or cocoa), salt, and pulse evenly to combine.
3. Add dates, blueberries, and vanilla extract. Process until mixture starts to come together. If it isn’t coming together, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms a large ball, adding more water if necessary.
4. Shape into golf ball sized servings and/or press into a parchment lined container to cut into bars.
5. Store in the freezer to help maintain their shape and stay fresh. Allow at least 5 minutes to defrost.
Each golf ball sized serving is approximately 100 calories with a 3-4:1 carbohydrate: protein ratio, making them ideal for before, during, or after exercise. Always remember to experiment with new foods/drinks during training, not on race day
About Lauren Larson, MS RDN
Lauren Larson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a comprehensive private nutrition practice focused on sports nutrition-related diet and lifestyle modifications for active and athletic people. She is a passionate endurance athlete, avid trail runner, cyclist, and triathlete.
Reference: Rosenbloom, C., Coleman, E., & Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2012). Sports nutrition: A practice manual for professionals. Chicago: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.