Power foods for a workout weekend

The whirlwind weekend I’ve been planning for weeks starts tomorrow. And, just like when I went camping, I find myself the day before planning every detail of what I will eat.

Tomorrow I ship out on a half-day boat trip with a handful of chefs from DC (and our fearless leader from the Department of Natural Resources, Steve Vilnit) for a closer look at local seafood sources. It’s a BYO lunch and snacks sort of affair that will undoubtedly involve freshly harvested oysters and other of-the-sea goodies. And maybe the chefs will have extras from their immaculate lunches? I plan to bring a little PB&honey just in case, but I can’t say I don’t have my hopes up. (You’ll be able to read about it later on in the story I’ll write for Flavor Magazine.)

And then I will completely switch gears for two full days of BODYCOMBAT training by Les Mills. Yep, two days of cardio kickboxing and doing it full out so I will pass the training with flying colors.

Let’s just say I’m prepared to need a lot of food. And not just any food. The trick is to find food that will keep me fueled up without weighing me down. One of the main reasons I now prefer morning workouts is because there are very few things I can eat right before a workout. I get all squiggly-stomached, as I like to call it. I have an intense fear of cramping up (I ate just one slice of turkey before my first ever Body Combat class, and could barely stand up straight from the cramps). But I get very dizzy if I don’t eat enough… and if I don’t eat practically all the time. I am very jealous of my husband, who can — literally — eat an entire Chipotle burrito and then go for a run. The other day he told me he found his perfect energy food in the form of Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate chip ice cream. Really?

A power drink I picked up at my local health food store. Someone doing athletic things on the label, no sugar added, sounds good!

Thankfully I have found my own solutions, and they typically involve one of my favorite food groups: nut butters. Peanut butter with flax seeds is at the top of that list, but almond and sunflower butters will also do. I like to change of my brand of near-constant (healthy) fat intake. I have a few standby power snacks, like protein-powder cookies (with peanut butter), bananas and peanut butter, Ezekiel Break raisin toast with… peanut butter. But I wanted to change things up for the big workout weekend.

Before I even hit the Internet, I stumbled upon the perfect little snack recipe in the Local Living section of today’s Washington Post! Never mind that the headline was “Underweight child? Here’s how to put on a few pounds.” My eyes zeroed in on the recipe for Energy Balls. Sounds like the perfect snack for a weekend of exhaustion. And no-bake to boot!

I tweaked the recipe by Casey Seidenberg a bit so that it’s intended more for energy and less for “putting on a few pounds.” I cut most of the honey and subbed some with agave nectar. And I used chocolate protein powder instead of chocolate chips.

ENERGY BALLS are for grown-ups, too. 🙂

See the original recipe here. I cut it in half here  to make about 20 balls.


  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, sunflower butter or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup of honey and/or agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup ground chia seeds and/or flax seeds (Grinding releases the nutrients… and prevents your stomach from having trouble digesting them. But I like to leave some whole for texture.)
  • 1/2 scoop of chocolate protein powder or some chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup any combination of nuts, seeds and soft dried fruit, such as sunflower seeds, raisins and dried cranberries
  • Sweetened shredded coconut, for rolling (optional)

Stir together the nut butter and honey in a big bowl, then add the other ingredients slowly. The texture should be semi-dry and able to pick up nearly everything in the bowl. Roll the mixture into little ping pong-sized balls, as Seidenberg suggests, and set on wax paper. Stack them in a container to refrigerate. Better once refrigerated. (I’ll probably freeze mine overnight for better travel… nothing worse than hot energy balls :-).

And if you need a place to work off those energy balls, I teach my first Cardio Blast class on Oct. 8 at Gold’s Gym Alexandria… (oh, and it’s at 6 a.m.). I know you’ll be there in spirit.

So what are your go-to energy recipes? Pre-workout snacks?


One Response to “Power foods for a workout weekend”
  1. Meagan says:

    Those energy balls were delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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