With hundreds of options on the market, energy bars are running rampant on our health food shelves and at-home pantries. But do they actually give us the boost that we think they do? Yes…and sometimes no. Here are both sides:
Energy bars simply give runners what they need; energy. Many find them to be a quick and easy fix for getting the carbohydrates and protein they need before a run, during a run, and even after. Much like cars, our bodies need fuel in order to perform well and recover optimally. With the significant amount of mileage we put in week after week, it’s essential to give our bodies what they need—energy. According to fitness professional and author of Athletic Human, Jeff Kuhland explains that energy bars primarily comprise carbs, which break down to sugar, providing us with the energy to run. They work hand in hand with our energy and aerobic systems, which burn carbohydrates when we run. Another reason many athletes choose to eat them is because they contain a sufficient amount of calories to offset those burned during a workout or a run. Pay attention, though, and read labels carefully; not all of these bars contain what we need to sustain us.
According to Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, some energy bars aren’t much different than candy bars, although they should have less sugar and fat. “You really have to look at the label. Energy bars are simply a portable way to deliver energy in the form of calories,” explains Skolnik. Similarly, Liz Applegate, PhD, lecturer in nutrition at the University at California Davis, says there’s nothing magical about energy bars. She explains that although most are fine, others can be too high in fat. These bars might not be as powerful as we think. According to nutritionist and certified specialist in sports dietician Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., any food that has calories can give us energy. She notes that Twinkies give energy, the same way a banana does. Although nutrition bars are handy, you need a lot more in your diet if you wish to perform well. Another thing to be aware of is that most energy bars contain a high amount of fructose corn syrup and added sugars. So, although these bars may be handy when you’re on the go, they might not be the best option. Instead of choosing one as a meal replacement, consider foods with a high content of fiber and protein. For example, fruits and yogurt can be a great alternative.
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