Energy Bars Provide Workout Boost

Debbie Melvin  |  8/10/2006 9:05:51 PM

We all know that it is best to eat a variety of whole foods at each meal to provide a well-balanced diet. But on some days you may need to grab something to prevent skipping a meal or snack, and a so-called energy bar may be a good alternative.

Most, if not all, are sweet, some more so than others. Look at the sweeteners used by reading the ingredients label. Be aware that food manufacturers now combine artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages.

Acesulfame potassium is commonly used with aspartame or nutrasweet and sucralose, marketed as Splenda. Some bars cleverly use the term evaporated cane juice, which we know is sugar. But at least we know it is a sugarcane product.

Many of the bars also contain nuts or soy for their protein source.

For a feeling of fullness and satisfaction to last you a couple of hours, until your next meal, look for a bar with three to five grams of fiber. Also, what I have found works for me is at least 3 grams of protein for every 15 grams of carbohydrate. This helps with balancing blood sugar and insulin release, which in turn controls appetite.

The calorie content of energy bars varies, so reading the label is important when evaluating which bar to buy. Of course, taste is important too, so try several flavors and brands before forming your opinion on whether an energy bar will work for you.

Energy bars can also provide energy before and/or after a work out or participation in a sporting event. For a good source of energy, focus on a bar with mostly carbohydrates. Remember also to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or non-caffeinated beverages.

According to the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department, there are five different kinds of energy bars:

Performance Bars: Frequently referred to as energy bars, they can be high in carbohydrates to maximize an aerobic workout. High carbohydrate bars (60 to 70 percent carbohydrate) are best eaten 45 minutes to one hour before aerobic exercise. The protein in the bar should contain a high quality source, such as casein, whey, soy, or egg.

Meal Replacement Bars: Designed to replace a meal within the caloric range of around 300 to 400 calories and 15 or more grams of protein from a quality source. Choose a bar that is no more than 5 grams total fat and 3 grams saturated fat. Be sure to note that a single bar will not provide all the nutrients you need, so do not replace all of your meals with a meal replacement bar.

Snack Bars: Intended to be eaten between meals to satisfy your appetite until your next meal, but are not intended to be a meal replacement. These bars typically range from 100 calories for women up to 300 calories for men. Select a bar with no more than 5 grams total fat and 3 grams saturated fat. These bars can be combined with low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit for a meal replacement.

Women’s Bars: Specially formulated to provide extra nutrients needed by most women such as calcium, folic acid, iron, and soy protein. Although designed for women, males may benefit from them as well.

Carbohydrate Controlled Bars: Designed for people with diabetes; ask your Diabetic Specialist which bar is best for you.

Tips for choosing the healthiest energy bar:

  • Try to avoid bars with palm kernel oil or partially-hydrogenated fat in the first five ingredients on the label.
  • Limit saturated fat to 3 grams or less per bar and no trans fat.
  • To help manage appetite for weight control, choose a bar with at least 3 grams of fiber.
  • Women may want to choose a bar that contains at least 300 mg (30% DV) of calcium per serving to help meet their daily calcium needs. But evaluate your other sources of calcium during the day first to see if you need the extra amount in an energy bar.
  • Sources of sugar should not be more than half the grams of carbohydrates in the bar. Look at the total carbohydrates on the label, then the sugars listed just below. Try not to select a bar with high fructose corn syrup, glucose, or fructose as the first ingredient.

Though some energy bars are little more than a camouflaged candy bar, others can fit into a healthy lifestyle for occasional use.

It just takes a little know how when choosing one.

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