Looking for the perfect homemade energy balls for runners? These oatmeal energy balls are my favorite pre-run snack and also make for a great afternoon snack to help keep you full until dinner!
My favorite pre-run snack of all time are the homemade energy balls in this post. My mom started making these years ago after adopting a recipe she got in a Runner’s World magazine. And it’s kind of silly that I have a bunch of other energy ball recipes on the blog (like these S’more Coffee energy balls and these Tahini energy balls) but I’d never shared the recipe for the ones I make most often. So, I’m finally sharing that recipe today!
These oatmeal energy balls are filled with healthy, easily digestible carbs that make the perfect running fuel. They have a little fat, fiber, and protein to help keep you full and satisfy you (all of those are important elements to satiation). And they are just plain delicious. They’re also gluten-free, as long as you buy gluten-free oats!
I eat 1-3 of these every single day, no joke. And I’m still not tired of them. I eat 1-2 before a workout, 1 in the afternoon, and oftentimes 1-2 before bed. I also ate them ALL the time when I was pregnant with Thomas. (Hey, that’s pregnancy life! Healthy snacks are a must!) It’s also a great recipe to keep handy when you’re breastfeeding and hungry all the time!
Homemade Energy Balls for Runners
These are no-bake energy balls so you can eat them as soon as they’re made and they freeze beautifully. While these are perfect homemade energy balls for runners, they work well for pre-workout fuel no matter how you sweat. I eat them before I ride the Peloton, before strength training, before yoga, a long run, everything! If I’m running 3-4 miles, I eat one. If I’m going longer, I typically eat 2. When I had a running coach, he always preached the importance of fueling well before, during and after a run!
Old Fashioned Oats are a great source of healthy carbs to help fuel your workout. They also contain gut-healthy fiber. I buy these at Trader Joe’s. Be sure to buy gluten free oats if you’re celiac or sensitive to gluten.
Chopped Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and help provide a satisfying crunch!
Raw Sunflower Seeds are high in vitamin E and promote a healthy nervous system.
Unsweetened Finely Shredded Coconut is high in manganese, which is great for bone health.
Cacao Nibs are a great addition in this recipe. I love the dark chocolate kick that isn’t too sweet.
Peanut Butter helps hold these together and tastes amazing. I use an all-natural peanut butter that is salted but has no added oil or sugar. My favorite is the Kirkland Signature peanut butter from Costco or the non-organic peanut butter from Whole Foods. (The organic one doesn’t taste as good!)
Honey is the natural sweetener in this recipe and provides a quick hit of energy and carbs to fuel your run. I always try to use local honey.
Vanilla Extract adds flavor without more added sugar.
Combine the oats, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, cacao nibs and shredded coconut in a large bowl. (If your nuts didn’t come pre-chopped, chop them with a chef knife or pulse in a food processor first.)
In a medium bowl, microwave the peanut butter and honey together for 60 seconds. Add vanilla and mix so everything is well incorporated.
Add the peanut butter & honey mixture to dry ingredients and mix. It takes a few minutes and stirring to get it to fully combine. Make sure you get all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl mixed in!
Wet hands a little and roll into balls, about 1″ in diameter. (Or, form smaller, bite size ones if you prefer!) Re-wet hands as needed as you continue to form balls. Wet hands helps prevent the dough from sticking to your hands like crazy. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. (You can place them close together because you are not baking them.) This recipe makes about 60 energy balls when they’re 1″ in size.
Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a couple of hours and then transfer the energy balls into a ziplock bag. When you want to eat one (or three), microwave for about 10 seconds to thaw. Or just leave them on the counter for a few minutes — they thaw quickly. And sometimes I just bite right into them right from the freezer, but that’s probably not the safest option for my teeth. 😉
Energy Ball Variations
Switch up the nuts
You can use your favorite mix of nuts in this recipe to suit your preferences. I typically go for almonds, walnuts and pecans. Both Costco and Trader Joe’s sell mixed nuts I like. I prefer salted nuts since I always crave salt. (And salt is necessary for super sweaty summer running like we’re going to see in the next few months!)
Use maple syrup
This doesn’t work perfectly as a substitution since it’s thinner than honey. If you do use maple syrup, you’ll likely need to add more oats.
Leave out the coconut
I’ve made these successfully without coconut! You could sub in a few tablespoons of cocoa powder instead.
Add Chocolate Chips
You can use mini chocolate chips in place of cacao nibs. But using cocoa nibs helps prevent a melty chocolate mess, which is great if you take these in your purse or when traveling. I also find that the chocolate chips melt a little when I add the warmed honey and peanut butter mixture.
Add chia seeds
You can add a few tablespoons of chia seeds for healthy omega-3 fats, antioxidants and fiber. They’ll add just a little crunch too!
Sub in Almond Butter
You can sub almond butter or any other nut butter in these, but I much prefer peanut butter! Just make sure your almond butter isn’t too runny since the peanut butter helps bind them. If your almond butter is runny, use a little less or add more oats.
Reduce sugar at your own risk!
I’ve tried cutting back on the honey and honestly, they don’t taste as good or hold together as well.
Add protein powder at your own risk
Protein powders are so dry that it will likely mess up the ratios and you’ll need to add more honey to get them to hold together. Or, you could follow this recipe instead. Those energy bite recipes already incorporate protein powder. And remember, if you’re using these for a pre-run snack, too much extra protein will limit what your body can digest. Carbs are the most easily digestible and accessible form of energy during a workout!
Form bars instead of balls
You can make these into energy bars. Rather than forming balls, simply press the dough into a large baking dish and place it in the fridge. Once it sets a bit, then cut them into bars. Individually wrap each in bees wrap or plastic wrap and store in the fridge (for 1-2 weeks) or freezer (for 3-4 months)
2 cups old fashioned oats, uncooked (not instant!)
1 cup mixed chopped nuts
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
½ cup cacao nibs
1.5 cups peanut butter
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the oats, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, cacao nibs and coconut in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, microwave peanut butter and honey together for 60 seconds.Add vanilla and mix so everything is well incorporated.
Add the peanut butter & honey mixture to dry ingredients and mix.It takes a few minutes and stirring to get it to mix without any dry ingredients left.
Wet hands a little and roll dough into 1” balls.Place on a parchment or wax paper covered cookie sheet.(You can place them close together because you are not baking them!) Place in the freezer for a couple of hours and then put into a ziplock bag.
When you want to eat one, microwave them for about 10 seconds to thaw or leave them on the counter for a few minutes and they thaw quickly.
I like one before a workout and one after. You can also keep them in the fridge if you think you’ll go through them quickly!
Nuts: I use the salted mixed nuts from Trader Joe’s or Costco since I love the saltiness, but if I don’t have those, I just use a mixture of nuts that I have around, usually ½ cup almonds, ¼ cup walnuts, ¼ cashews or pecans
Peanut Butter: I use the Kirkland Signature creamy peanut butter or Whole Foods non-organic creamy or crunchy. Any peanut butter will do but you may need to add a little extra honey if your PB is too dry or add more oats if your PB is too runny so the dough will hold together.Avoid one with added sugar.
Cacao Nibs: You can find these at Trader Joe’s. They’re not sweet, but add a great chocolate flavor and crunch. You can use mini chocolate chips but often they melt into the mixture.
Nutrition stats are approximates and will vary depending on the exact ingredients and brands of ingredients you use.
Serving Size:1 ball
I was obsessed with these while pregnant, and still am!