Finding the Right Energy Bars

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, March 31, 2009

Energy Bar
When it comes to food bars, there are countless brands and varieties out there, and they’re certainly not one size fits all. Here’s how to choose the best bar for your lifestyle.

Energy Bar vs. Granola Bars
Stroll down the grocery aisles or check out the shelves at the gas station — you’ll likely find both energy bars and granola — or snack — bars (Read more about snack bars here). In some stores, energy bars are in a separate “diet and nutrition” section along with the diet pills and meal replacement shakes (don’t get me started on those!).

Energy bars are typically protein-packed, higher in calories, and full of carbohydrates to give active individuals and athletes a boost of energy. Granola bars are typically a lighter mix of nuts, grains and dried fruit. While many granola bars make a great snack in between meals, energy bars are often higher in protein and calories and better for a post-workout refuel — or in some cases, a small meal.

After exercise, the body needs a combination of carbs to replace energy stores and protein to feed fatigued muscles. That’s what energy bars are designed to do. You can also get this protein and carbs from a turkey sandwich or a glass of chocolate milk. Energy bars may be more convenient, but they’re often highly sweetened and will never replace the nutrients in whole foods. Ergo, our advice: eat them in moderation.

What To Look For
If you’re an athlete or someone who exercises regularly, an energy bar can be a good choice post-workout. Look for one with ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce. Choose one that is 200 to 400 calories (200 for women and closer to 400 for men). And yes, there is such a thing as protein overkill. Pick a bar that has 15 to 20 grams of protein (or less) per serving. You also want to stay away from the low-carb bars — energy bars are designed to give you energy and energy comes from carbs!

When my clients ask, I usually recommend the following: Clif Bar, Luna Bar and PowerBar. These brands offer many different varieties, so check nutrition facts and ingredients to find the right one for you.

Make Your Own
Unlike store-bought bars, homemade energy bars are lower in calories and protein and made from more wholesome ingredients. Plus, you can adjust the size of your bars for a smaller snack or a more substantial one for after a workout.

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Comments (42)

  1. Dana White says:

    Hi Ann Marie –
    As some others have mentioned, LARA Bars are a good choice, many varieties contain only natural sugars from dried fruit.

  2. Michael says:

    Clif bars are naturally flavored, so the cane juice is okay. It is not your typical unhealthy high frutose corn syrup. They use all natural ingredients, even though they use obscure words on their ingredients list. Trust me, my brother works for Clif bar. Luna bars are also a great option of you are looking for something with fewer calories and sugar. They have about 180 calories and the sugar content is usually in the low teens. It varies depending on what flavor you get.

  3. Ryan says:

    I agree with the Larabar comments. I’ve tried the Apple and Cherry Pie varieties and they were both full of win. I haven’t decided which one to try next.

  4. How good are the special K bars?

  5. Miss Leading says:

    "energy bars are designed to give you energy and energy comes from carbs!"

    Why does the body store energy as fat then?

    Energy can come from other sources than carbs.

    • jill says:

      the body stores glucose in the liver as glycogen. This gets used for energy before fat because the body has to break down the fat via gluconeogenesis to use it for energy. The body uses glucose for energy.

  6. Kim says:

    Love the Cliff Bars: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut!

  7. ceecee99 says:

    i am 100% addicted to the cocao pistachio probars. they are definitely a meal replacement rather than a snack bar. one downside: they are on the expensive side, but worth every dollar!

  8. sue says:

    special k bars rock, I also love sunbelt, especially oatmeal raisin

  9. Sarah says:

    If you read the article, you'll see that ENERGY BARS are protien filled bars that would be a meal replacement. (which is what this article is about) You would eat these when you're hiking or backpacking or just don't have time (or room in your stuff) for a real meal. SNACK BARS (like special K bars and Larabars, or *bleh* sunbelt…) are not ENERGY BARS because you wouldn't eat them as a meal replacement (unless you really like 100 calorie meals). Don't compare Special K to Cliffbars. Please.

  10. Trudi says:

    Think thin protein bars are good too!

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