As team nutritionist for ButcherBox Pro Cycling it is my job to enhance the performance of our athletes through optimal nutrition practices. The team’s cornerstone is all-natural performance. This means steering towards real food and away from processed foods and supplements. As a sports dietitian this was an exciting challenge for me when I came on board. Sports food products are specifically formulated to make dietitians happy. They have the right number of macros, electrolytes, and generally check all of the boxes of nutritional needs for performance as supported in the scientific literature. What these processed sports foods like sports drinks, bars, gels, chomps, blocks don’t have are beneficial micronutrients like vitamins and essential minerals. Also there is speculation that over time the use of these processed foods can cause gastrointestinal issues and blood sugar irregularity.


Without getting too fancy with homemade bars and rice cakes. Try these snacks which fit the ideal nutritional profile for fueling during exercise and boost overall nutrition with vitamins and minerals.

  1. Dates are typically dried and can be found in the produce section or in the bulk bin section of the grocery store. They are rich in glucose and other forms of sugar ideal for fueling moderate to intense workouts. In addition to glucose, dates are rich in selenium, copper, magnesium, potassium, B-vitamins, and vitamin C. Dates are also a perfect serving size for training with 1 dried Medjool date containing 20g of carbohydrate. Try eating 1-2 dates per hour with water or low calorie electrolyte drink mix to fuel your workout.

  2. Bananas are a go to snack for many athletes. They are easy to pack, easy to eat, delicious, and provide a quick boost of energy before or during a workout. Bananas are rich in glucose and fructose perfect for during workouts to have a quick supply of sugar to the bloodstream. Bananas are also rich in potassium, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals to enhance the nutrient density of your overall diet. Try 1 medium sized banana per hour with water or low calorie electrolyte mix for a moderate to intense workout. Remember to take the pits out before eating. I recommend taking the pits our before you take them with you on your workout.

  3. Figs are rich in glucose, vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of zinc which helps to prevent illness and boost the immune system. Like dates they are a perfect serving size for a workout. Try eating 4 black mission figs (small dark colored) or 1 Turkish fig per hour of exercise. Remember to cut off the hard stem before eating these or spit the stem out. I recommend cutting off the stem before you take them with you on your workout. 

  4. Sweet Potatoes - a medium sized sweet potato contains 20g of carbohydrate. Those 20g of carbohydrate come from 13g of starch, 3g from fiber, and 4g from sugars. These deliciously sweet morsels are great for fueling longer workouts 2+hours where a steady supply of blood glucose can boost performance. They are also good sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Try covering them in foil and roasting them for 1-2hours in the oven at 350degreesF for a sweet and easy to eat consistency. For a quick-and-dirty workout snack, poke holes in a sweet potato, pop it in the microwave, and press the potato button. For cyclists and runners, these are great to put in your back pocket to keep you warm in the winter in addition to being a great ride snack. 

  5. White Potatoes - While sweet potatoes and white potatoes may seem similar, as they both have potato in the name, they are quite different in nutritional profile and plant species. White potatoes are tubers which are the energy source for the plant. This is different from a sweet potato which is a traditional root vegetable. In addition to them being different types of plant, white potatoes have a much higher proportion of sugars and faster effect on blood sugar. White potatoes have a higher glycemic index, which means their sugars hit the bloodstream more quickly for a quicker and faster burning fuel source during workouts. In addition to being a great snack for short workouts, they are one of the richest sources of potassium found in foods. Try roasting them in the oven for 45-60minutes at 350dgreesF or popping them in the microwave. Try salting them to create a great balance of electrolytes to replace sodium and potassium lost in sweat. 

Kristen Arnold is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a USACycling Level2 Coach and has a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition. Kristen has been helping individuals and teams with their nutrition since 2013, the same year she started racing bikes. By 2016, she started road racing at the elite/national level on a Domestic Elite women’s racing team at which time she decided to specialize in sports nutrition to help athletes improve their performance and health. Kristen works with everyone from beginner to professional athletes in a range of sports and athletic goals. A state champion, she is currently a  Category 1 cyclist riding as Women’s Team Captain for ButcherBox Cycling.