With all sorts of energy bars on the market, which one should you choose? The main thing to consider when choosing an energy bar is what is in it and what type of energy is it going to give you. Are you using it to fuel your body right before your workout or an hour or more before your workout? In my opinion, it's best to choose an energy bar that is going to give you long-lasting energy to maintain endurance. It's best to eat these bars (I'm going to list some brands in a second!) about an hour or so before you workout. This way you will limit any intestinal distress and avoid getting sick! This is all going to vary individually too. Not everyone can do eat an hour before a workout... maybe it has to be 2 hours. It's all about experimenting and learning what works best for your body. There is no one-diet-fits-all!
Some things to consider when choosing an energy bar... low sugar (unless you need quick releasing carbs), minimal ingredients, and balance between carbs, protein, and fat. So many people are afraid that eating carbs is fattening and will cause weight gain. NO. Not the case. Excess CALORIES are fattening and what causes weight gain. So get that thought out of your head. When exercising, especially moderate to high intensity exercises, your body runs on carbs, so if it doesn't have enough, it's going to tap into your protein stores for energy. Not fat. Thus, this causes muscle loss. The reason your body uses protein as the next source of energy, rather than fat, is because it is easier to breakdown. You muscles have glycogen (sugar) stores so it uses those stores for energy to help you power through your workouts! That's why it is important to replenish those stores shortly after working out! Your body burns fat better during low intensity exercises... example: walking. Fat breaks down a slower rate, so your body has more time to break down fat during a low intensity workout as opposed to jumping rope, where your body needs that energy immediately.... This is why having a balanced diet is so important!!
Back to energy bars... they make great on-the-go pre-workout snacks. They provide the energy you need and are very convenient (that's why you may find them to be kind of expensive... but you can always make your own (more on that later!). I try to go for lower sugar bars because I do eat them about an hour before my workout, so it has plenty time to breakdown and give me the energy I need. I like the ThinkThink bars. They are high in protein, don't have added sugar, and are gluten-free! The area where you need to watch for sugar is usually the outer coating because it's typically chocolate. I also like Quest bars and Power Crunch bars for similar reasons. Many people complain about the texture of protein bars... I do too. That's why I like both of these brands because they aren't chalky. Another good energy bar is Larabar. They are minimally processed and contain natural ingredients... they taste really good too! These don't provide as much protein as the other two, but you don't always need that much protein. Depends what you have eaten already throughout the day and what type of exercise you are doing. These also make good afternoon snacks, even if you aren't planning on working out soon after.
Bars to stay away from are ones that provide lots of energy, but few nutrients... Example: Cliff bars and PowerBars. They are loaded with calories and sugar, so if that's what you need and you know you will be burning that energy, then it's not a bad choice. Another things to look for is chicory root fiber. This is a common ingredient in bars that provide fiber. Chicory root fiber is a synthetic blend, so if you eat too much or eat it too often, it may cause intestinal distress. Chicory root fiber is added to a lot of food... I've even seen it added to Greek yogurt before. It's not bad, but should be consumed on moderation... For endurance athletes, you may want to really limit this ingredient especially a week or more before a race! This is why it's important to read not only the nutrition facts, but the ingredient list too. You should know exactly what you're putting in your body!