By: Carrie Bishop, University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern
Have you ever grabbed an energy bar for a quick on-the-go snack? Most of us have.
They can be a great option that includes tons of important nutrients like protein, fiber, and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals. But the key is choosing the right one for you and your lifestyle.
When I ran cross country in high school, one of my favorite pre-workout snacks was a Cliff Kid Chocolate Brownie bar. Being the chocoholic that I am, it satisfied my sweet tooth while giving me the perfect amount of energy and holding power for practice.
Certain bars are geared towards pre-workout, others for post-workout, and some just for a quick pick-me-up.
When searching for your ideal energy bar, think about what kind of energy your body needs – are you getting ready for a workout, recovering from a workout or do you just need a nutritious, satisfying snack?
What you’ll want in your energy bar will vary depending on the situation. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the perfect energy bar:
The perfect pre-workout bar. Before a workout, you want a bar that will give you enough energy to power you through your workout. This means one that has a higher carbohydrate content (20 grams or more) and a protein content of 10 grams or less. This allows your body to perform at its best. More info on what to eat before a workout >>
The perfect post-workout bar. If you are recovering from a workout, you should shoot for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1. The large amount of carbohydrates needed is important to restore the lost glycogen stores. Glycogen stores help maintain blood-glucose levels and also serve as your body’s readily available energy source. The protein is needed to rebuild lean tissue, such as muscle. More info on what to eat after a workout >>
The perfect snack bar. When looking for a bar for in between meals, search for one that has a fairly equal ratio of carbohydrate to protein. You’ll also want one that has a good source of fiber, up to 5 grams, to help you digest slower and feel fuller longer. More healthy snack ideas >>
Smart ingredients to look for in an energy bar:
- Whole grains – adds complex carbohydrates
- Nuts and seeds – adds both protein and essential fatty acids
- Dried fruits – adds sweetness without a lot of extra sugar
For more information on choosing a nutritious energy bar and to get all of your nutrition questions answers, sign up for a FREE diet analysis session with the University Health Center.