Calorie Boost or Calorie Bomb? What to Consider When Choosing an Energy Bar
You’ve seen them in nearly every snack aisle at the grocery store, and sometimes in the health food section. There is no lack of options when it comes to choosing an energy bar. Typically, these convenient snacks are a dense source of energy-boosting carbohydrates and protein, making them a natural choice for pre or post-workout snacking. But not all energy bars are made equal and can contain hidden sugar and more calories than you expect. So are they a healthy choice when you’re on the go? Here are three questions to consider:
Is an energy bar a good choice?
Sometimes. If you're going to choose an energy bar, it's so important to pick the right one at the right time. Often, energy bars are calorie dense, packing upwards of 400 calories in a small package. It would take an average person 45 minutes of high-impact aerobics to counter the intake.
If you’re looking for an easy snack but not exercising regularly, an energy bar may be convenient but a healthier option like fruit or nuts is a better choice. Consider an energy bar if you'll be exercising within 30 minutes of eating it — this will help ensure that the carbohydrates are used for fuel rather than getting stored as fat.
Do you need an energy bar as part of your workout routine?
If you’re looking to be ready quickly for an intense workout, or have a packable, shelf stable option for a long hike, the convenience of energy bars is undeniable. While an energy bar is never a suitable replacement for a nutritious meal, if time and location are a factor, toting one along can be a convenient way to ensure you are ready to recharge when necessary.
But choosing the right one is equally as important for active individuals. Not only are energy bars packed with the calories you need to sustain your performance during high intensity workouts and training, they can be high in sugar and fat. Reading the label before choosing an energy bar is key to understanding whether or not it is a healthy option.
What ingredients are most important?
If you’re looking for weight loss, look for bars that have 200 calories or less. The fewer calories you consume in your bar, the better it will help you achieve your goals. Also, make sure the bar has at least 5 grams of fiber—the more fiber in your energy bar, the better! Finally, look at how many saturated fats are contained in each serving of this product. Saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol levels which can increase risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
If you’re looking to enhance your athletic performance or recharge after a high intensity workout or long hike, be sure your energy bar isn’t loaded with sugar. Sugary snacks will lead to spikes in your blood sugar and be counter effective to keeping your energy levels high. Additionally, if you're trying to build muscle mass or just want more protein in general, look for bars with at least 10 grams of protein per serving. This amount will help keep your muscles strong and aid in recovery after workouts.
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