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Choosing The Right Energy Bar

Energy bars have become a staple in the sporting and working world alike. Initially created for athletes, Powerbar was introduced to consumers in 1983 as the “first sport/energy bar on the market.” The energy bar was a great idea, a convenient source of nutrition and energy replacement for athletes. The bars had a high amount of carbohydrates in them (the preferred energy source) with average levels of protein and small amounts of fat. At first, flavor was not a concern when making the energy bars, and many athletes just got used to the bland taste.

However, in the last decade and a half, energy bars have become more commonplace and are used for more than just serious athletic endurance or workouts, Melinda Manore, Ph. D., said in the Sept./Oct. 2000 issue of Health and Fitness Journal.

Because of the mainstreaming of energy bars, some concerns have arisen regarding nutritional levels and increasing fat levels in some energy bars. Which energy bars are right for athletes or regular consumers, which are suited for consumption during exercise and which are suited to be snacks when not exercising? Athletes usually prefer an energy bar with carbohydrates because it “delays times to fatigue, maintains blood glucose levels and helps athletes work at higher intensities,” Manore said. The form of energy intake, whether solid or liquid, does not appear to affect the potency of the energy bar or drink. However, some liquid should accompany an energy bar during exercise to ensure proper hydration.

Since protein intake levels are usually higher for athletes, energy bar companies have often put more protein content in their bars. Some energy bars have added fat content because athletes also take in a higher level of fat, although fat is not readily available for energy. These additions make many bars seem more like candy bars in disguise. Some energy bars have been supplemented with vitamins or herbs; some are even specially designed for women, supplemented with higher amounts of folic acid, calcium and iron, “three nutrients frequently low in the diets of women,” Manore said.

Energy bars used during exercise should be high in protein, and energy bars with higher levels of protein and fat might be preferred when used as snacks between meals. The bars should not replace meals either. Also, make sure the energy bars don’t contain substances barred from many athletic associations, such as caffeine. Finally, watch out for the price. Many bars can be very expensive, and cost may be a factor in choosing the right energy bar.

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