Bars are everywhere now! I should know because I consume them almost daily and I also sell them at the gym that I work in. I just wanted to take a few moments to talk about the different bars and why they may or may not be right for you.
First we have ingredients:
How many ingredients does your bar have? Well just in case you didn’t know, the fewer the better. Ingredients are usually listed by weight, meaning that the ingredient that takes up most of the bar will be first. So for example when you see that a bar has: puffed rice, brown rice syrup, crystalized cane sugar, oats, almonds, whey protein powder, safflower or canola oil, chia seed, sea salt, vanilla, flax and natural flavors… maybe you get the picture. This “bar” is going to be mostly sugar, puffed rice and oats. However on the label it will probably say something like “Chia Flax Protein Bar.”
Then we have MACROnutrients:
This is going to be the amount of carbs, fat and protein your bar might have. This is where you will want to think about your fitness goals. If you want to build muscle and you are lifting heavy in the gym, then maybe a high protein bar is right for you. If you like to get in a quick 6 mile run before work and don’t really have time for a real breakfast, then maybe a bar high in carbs is right for you. If you are trying to burn fat and playing with carb cycling or relying on your diet to shed pounds, then maybe a bar higher in fat is right for you.
Some other important numbers to look at here are fiber and sugar or “net carbs.” A bar can be high in carbs but also really low in sugar and high in fiber which is A.O.K. However, if your bar has 20g of fiber and 19g of sugar then keep shopping around. The NET CARBS listed on the nutrition label is the grams of carbs minus the grams of fiber. The idea is that you will poop the fiber out. For example: Chia seed and carrots are both carb dense foods but they are insoluble fiber. Sugar however turns into glucose and then potentially stored fat instead of pooped out or used a fuel.
Now lets talk plain ol calories:
What are your fitness goals? Why do you consume bars? Are you just board or are you refueling after a long race? Some bars are just as calorie dense as a candy bar but people assume they are “healthy” so they don’t feel like its a poor choice. If your goals are weight-loss and you are relying mostly on diet then I would recommend carefully reading the nutrition label on your bar. If your goals are to gain or maintain muscle after a hard workout then a bar higher in carbs (thing 15-30g) might be right for you.
Bars I enjoy:
RXBar: Real ingredients with the addition of egg white for extra protein. This bar has a chewy texture that took about 3 seconds to get used to before I was hooked. If I don’t have any of my “wods” I will enjoy 1/2 of one before my workout and the other half after.
Rise Bar: Minimal ingredients with either pea or whey protein. These bars have great texture, a good amount of fat and enough protein.
LaraBar with superfoods: Again, minimal ingredients with some fun superfoods hidden into the mix. Texture is great and they can be found organic too.
Make your own:
Making your own bars is great if you can find the time. This way you can control all of the ingredients and make them match your fitness goals. For example I have dealt with some sluggish thyroid and candida issues in the past so my bars always have plenty of brazil nuts (for selenium) and coconut oil (for caprylic acid).
Here is a simple recipe that is very similar to the ever popular Lara-bar:
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw cashews
2 cups raw dates
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or 4 drops lemon essential oil)
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp chia seeds
1 pinch of sea salt
Line a baking pan with parchment paper and make some room in your freezer.
Place almonds and cashews in a flood processor or blender and process until crumbled.
Add the dates, lemon, coconut oil, chia seeds and sea salt and blend until well combined.
Remove and press into parchment paper to form a square that you will later cut. If you do not have the right size pan you can always roll them into balls.
Place in the freezer for about two hours.
Cut to the size of your liking.
Keep them in the fridge or freezer.