Fruit provides that sugary goodness bodybuilders might look for without adding too many extra calories to their diet.
But, not all fruits are suitable for bodybuilders, especially when we consider our own individual goals (bulking or cutting) and meal timing (pre and post-workout nutrition).
Today, we’re talking about dates and whether we can add them to our bodybuilding diets.
So, are dates good or bad for bodybuilding?
Dates are good for bodybuilding as they have the necessary carbs to give you long-lasting energy throughout the day. They are high in fiber, thus promoting good gut health and keeping you satiating (ideal for those who are cutting).
They are also high in potassium ‒ a key mineral important for preventing muscle cramps.
In this article, you will learn everything related to dates and bodybuilding.
Some of the topics we will discuss are:
- The nutritional content for dates – its calorie and macronutrient composition.
- The pros and the cons of having dates if you are a bodybuilder.
- When is the best time to have dates, either before or after training.
- How much can you eat depending on your phase (bulking or cutting).
- Learn how to make a fantastic recipe using dates.
Dates For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutrition Content of Dates
One Medjool date (24 g) has the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 66
- Carbs: 18 g
- Fiber: 1.6 g
- Fats: 0 g
- Protein: 0.4 g
Dates are energy-dense. One date has 66 calories. This means that if you have 5 dates, you could easily reach 330 kcal.
For bodybuilders in a bulking phase, they might be lifesavers. They provide the necessary calories for increasing muscle weight but don’t take up a lot of room in the stomach.
However, if you are in a cutting phase, be aware of its caloric content to surpass your daily calories.
Dates, like any other fruit, are a one-sided food. This means that they only have carbs, with no protein or fat. For a bodybuilder, this is ideal since its energy source mainly comes from carbs.
Having an adequate carb intake allows having plenty of energy throughout the day. Without carbs, protein would be used as energy instead for muscle building—something we really want to avoid.
One of the benefits of dates, besides their delicious caramel flavor, is their high fiber content. It has 6% of the recommended daily intake of fiber. An optimal fiber intake allows healthy bowel movements, reducing cholesterol, and having good gut health.
Being a one-sided food means that you lack the other essential macronutrients – protein and fat. Protein is essential for muscle building.
Thus next time you add dates, try to add a protein source like Greek yogurt. You can also add healthy fat like coconut oil.
Not everything is about macronutrients. Micronutrients allow for your body to function correctly. Dates are no different than other fruits, and it is high in nutrients. It is high in potassium, copper, vitamin B6, magnesium, and manganese.
- Vitamin B6. One of the most important functions of vitamin B6 is its relationship with energy production. It is responsible for breaking down the energy you have in your muscles into usable energy for your workout.
- Potassium. It is one of the minerals highly used during exercise. It regulates the frequency and degree of muscle contraction. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to do any muscle movement.
- Copper. It has important immune benefits. Boosting your immune system means you are less likely to get sick, which means you are more likely to hit the gym.
- Magnesium. It has several benefits, but one of the most important is sleep regulation. People who have insomnia and supplement with magnesium before going to bed are more likely to have a good night’s sleep. Why is it important? During your sleep, your muscles are recovering, and without adequate recovery, you might not get the gains you are looking for.
- Manganese. It helps in the role of fat and carb metabolism. This means that it turns the macros that you eat into usable energy in your body. This allows you to move during the day and throughout your workout.
Check out my complete guide on the Best Fruits For Bulking.
3 Pros Of Eating Dates For Bodybuilding
Dates are easy to carry around, they provide energy, and they are easy to access. There are other benefits of adding dates if you are a bodybuilder. Here are 3 pros of adding them into your daily life.
1. Prevent Muscle Cramps
Cramps normally occur when the muscle doesn’t relax adequately. This could be from a deficiency of potassium and magnesium in your diet.
Dates are both high in potassium and magnesium. This means that they help prevent muscle soreness and muscle cramps produced after a training session.
2. Promote Fast Recovery
Dates are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help decrease inflammation in the body, which leads to better muscle recovery.
There is also some evidence that antioxidants might help reduce muscle soreness after training. However, the antioxidant supplementation was very high, higher than the one obtained naturally from products. Still, more research needs to be done.
3. Improved Metabolism
The vitamins from the B complex found in dates help regulate and manage your metabolism. This means that they get the food that you eat and turn it into usable energy for your body.
There is some evidence that has shown that an increase in these vitamins helps fight fatigue. Having more energy during the day means more movement and a harder training session.
This leads to improved muscle mass, which in the end improves your metabolism since muscle burns more calories than fat.
- Check out other dried fruit for bodybuilders: Are Raisins Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
1 Con of Eating Dates For Bodybuilding
Dates are a good fruit to have. However, it might bring certain drawbacks if you are a bodybuilder. Here is the main con of adding dates to your diet.
Might Produce Weight Gain (mainly fat if you are not careful)
Since dates are energy-dense, they might add more calories than you need. Although you need a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass, this has to be controlled to avoid gaining too much fat mass.
If you don’t measure the portion size and determine you might go overboard on your total calories, leading to fat gain. With energy-dense things, always measure and weigh the portion size to control the calories you are eating.
Can You Eat Dates Before Workouts?
Dates are a great pre-workout snack. They offer the quick energy you need to have an intense training session. Nonetheless, since they are high in fiber, they might produce bloating with certain people. Make sure to try them first to check any symptoms that might arise.
Since they are a source of simple carbs, they are great to have 30-60 minutes before a workout if you don’t have any bloating with them. Otherwise, if you do have some gastric problems add them 1-2 hours before your training.
They are great for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase since it adds calories without adding too much bulk in your stomach. In this phase, you can have 2-3 dates before your workout to provide the necessary energy for training.
If you are a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, you might want to cut down on snacking with dates. They might have you surpass your total calorie intake. If you do add them, make sure it’s 1-2 dates before training.
Dates are a source of only carbs. Add some healthy fats and protein to have a steadier energy release. For example, you could to a protein shake with dates and almond butter. It’s amazing!
Can You Eat Dates After Workouts?
Dates are a good post-workout snack. The carbs help you refuel your energy levels. Its high potassium content helps replenish lost electrolytes. Finally, its antioxidant capacity helps reduce inflammation, which means optimal recovery. However, it lacks protein and fat, which are essential for post-exercise.
The main benefit dates have their high potassium content. Potassium is an essential electrolyte that is often lost during your training session.
Without replacing it, you might get muscle cramps and irregular heartbeats. It is also high in magnesium which is also another electrolyte loss that needs to be replenished.
Its high antioxidant capacity also aids post-exercise. It helps reduce inflammation which means you are more likely to recover better if you add dates after training.
However, even if dates are amazing to have, they lack protein. Protein is the top macronutrient to have post-exercise. It aids in muscle recovery and is the primary material for building muscle.
I really can’t emphasize the importance of adding it after your workout. To have a more balanced meal, you can add a protein shake or Greek yogurt along with dates. You can also add coconut oil or nuts to add healthy fats.
If you are a bodybuilder in a cutting phase, you need to be careful with the number of dates you have.
Having 2-3 dates is more than enough to help you replenish the energy lost during training. On the other hand, you can have between 5-6 dates if you are in a bulking phase.
Does Dates Help Muscle Growth?
Dates give you the necessary energy for your training. This means that it indirectly helps in muscle growth.
It also gives you the calories required to have a surplus which then leads to muscle increase. However, it lacks protein which is the main macro for muscle building.
To have muscle growth, you need mainly two things, adequate muscle stimulus and sufficient calories to grow.
Dates are energy-dense, which allows you to have many calories in a small size. This is ideal for people that have trouble adding calories to their daily diets.
On its own, dates won’t produce the gains you are looking for if there is no protein source. Make sure to add some protein along with it.
For example, add some dates the next time you are doing a protein shake. Also, add some healthy fats like nuts to increase the nutrients you are getting in one meal.
- Dates is on our list of high calorie, low protein foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Dates Recipe For Bodybuilding
A bodybuilder’s diet might be a little bit limiting sometimes. You might be avoiding certain foods, especially those high in sugar, to prevent adding calories and leading to fat gain.
I chose this recipe because it is a simple and natural way of having a caramel dip that is low in sugar and high in nutrients. It might not have all the macros a bodybuilder needs, but you can find some tips at the end on how to balance it all together.
I hope you enjoy!
- Calories: 1080
- Carbs: 288 g
- Fats: 10 g
- Protein: 6 g
- 15 medjool dates
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until you get a smooth and creamy texture.
- If you want to have a more runny texture, add more water or almond milk
- Store in the fridge or consume immediately.
- This recipe only contains carbs and fats. It is a great dip for your apples or add it to your protein shake to get a caramel flavor protein shake.
- Spread it along with your favorite bread or whole-wheat cookies.
- Two tablespoons of the caramel have the following nutritional content: 145 kcal | 36 g carbs | 1 g protein | 1 g fat
Other Fruits For Bodybuilding
Check out my other fruit resources for bodybuilding:
McKenna MJ. Effects of training on potassium homeostasis during exercise. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 1995 Apr;27(4):941-9. doi: 10.1016/0022-2828(95)90063-2. PMID: 7563106.
Stabel JR, Spears JW. Effect of copper on immune function and disease resistance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1989;258:243-52. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4613-0537-8_22. PMID: 2697138.
Cao Y, Zhen S, Taylor AW, Appleton S, Atlantis E, Shi Z. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 21;10(10):1354. doi: 10.3390/nu10101354. PMID: 30248967; PMCID: PMC6212970.
Al-Farsi MA, Lee CY. Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Nov;48(10):877-87. doi: 10.1080/10408390701724264. PMID: 18949591.
Ranchordas, M. K., Rogerson, D., Soltani, H., & Costello, J. T. (2017). Antioxidants for preventing and reducing muscle soreness after exercise. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 12(12), CD009789. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009789.pub2
Tardy AL, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 16;12(1):228. doi: 10.3390/nu12010228. PMID: 31963141; PMCID: PMC7019700.
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