How to Choose the Right Energy Bar for Your Needs

Monday, October 17, 2011

There is a time and a place for energy bars, says Liz Kirk, PhD, RD, a nutrition and exercise science faculty member at Bastyr University.

Partially unwrapped energy bar

There is a time and a place for energy bars, says Liz Kirk, PhD, RD, a nutrition and exercise science faculty member at Bastyr University. For sustained energy, home-cooked whole-food meals are best, but energy bars can be much easier to fit in a jacket pocket than, say, Orange Pistachio Quinoa.

With shelves and shelves of bars to choose from, it helps to think about your purpose in selecting one, says Dr. Kirk. She offers these tips:

Before Exercise

  • For quick energy during strenuous activity, look for a high carbohydrate content — 20 grams or more.
  • For energy that won't fizzle out, look for sugar content of 18 grams or less.
  • Bars with fewer than 15 grams of protein are easier to digest on the move.

Recovering After Exercise

  • The first two hours after exercise is the most efficient time to replenish your body's carbohydrate and glycogen stores.
  • Look for bars with a 4-to-1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.

Satisfying Hunger

  • For staving off hunger, choose bars with a more even ratio of protein to carbohydrates. Protein and fat both slow digestion and prolong a sense of fullness.
  • Look for fiber as well; it slows digestion for a longer, more consistent release of energy.
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