Monday, September 16, 2013

Energy Bars

Something I have become interested in and want to read more about is a runner's nutrition. As part of my healing process from my last race, I feel that it has empowered me to learn more about this subject. I am curious about proper fueling practices. There is such a science to running and the food that is put into the body. It is a true statement that your body is a machine and you need to fuel it accordingly. When it comes to energy bars, I enjoy them, but do not eat them often. I have heard mixed reviews about whether an energy bar is actually beneficial to your performance. Every once in a while I will grab an energy bar when I know I am participating in a hard evening work out, otherwise, I use whole food sources to fuel my body. I am also cautious because I have heard a lot about added ingredients and sugars that are not healthy for a runner's body. I am a big label reader. My motto is, If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't be eating it. So how do you know if energy bars are good for you? They're definitely convenient but are they beneficial?

I came across an article that spoke to my questions and confusions about energy bars. Here were some of the facts I took away from the article:

  • When looking for a bar that will support a hard work out or race effort, look for a bar that contains 40g (or more) of carbohydrate. Choose a 15-20g bar for a mid-day snack.
  • Pay attention to the fat content. If the fat content is 11g on the label of an energy bar, consider the sources. When you look at the first couple of ingredients on the label, are they sugar or nut sources? Nuts provide healthy fats, these healthy fats leave you feeling satisfied and relieve hunger. Pay attention to the saturated fat, if it's over 1-2g, it's not a good choice for you.
  • When choosing a bar for performance, focus on the carbohydrate content more so than the protein amount. Bars with protein content of 6-20g is fine for recovery after a hard workout. However, a bar may not be your best food source post work out. If that is all that is available, stick to the 6-20g of protein.
  • If a bar claims to be "low sugar," again, pay attention to the label. Some foods contain what is called, sugar alcohols that can ferment in your digestive tract causing gas, bloating and even diarrhea. This varies from person to person but it definitely something to be aware of! Therefore, choosing low sugar may not be the best choice.
  • The same bloating and gassy symptoms can be caused by high-fiber bars as well. Although the fiber is great for you, it may not be a wise choice before a work out. 
  • Fortified bars are those with added vitamins for people missing such nutrients from their diets. Luna Bars are an example of bars with added vitamins. They can be helpful if you are aware that you lack certain vitamins but make sure that if you are ingesting other supplements, you may overdose on these nutrients, hence, they will not be beneficial to you.
  • Choose grains! Look for bars that list items such as brown rice, quinoa, or wheat. These grains will keep you full and give you the energy necessary for your workout. 
So after considering these facts, I went back to my Bearded Brothers bars that I previously reviewed: here, and I read the amount of nutrition per serving. The Bodacious Blueberry bar had 29g of carbohydrates. So it may be helpful for a pretty decent work out but not a very hard effort. The fat content was 12g but the saturated fat was 1g. Now let's consider the sources. I see almonds and dates in the ingredient list. These are healthy sources, therefore, it's a great fat source. The bar does not claim to be low sugar and the sugar content is 21g. The sugar comes from natural sources and none is added, this is very important and will fuel your body much better. Just another reason to get out and purchase those Bearded Bro bars! In fact, right now they are doing a promotion of $10 off your total purchase. To learn more, go here

Do you enjoy energy bars? What is your favorite brand? Do you pay attention to food labels?

Happy Monday! Let's make this week a great one. Remember to get out and get moving this week!

To read more about my findings, you can look here

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