What Exactly Are Energy Bars?
While eating an energy bar every once in a while probably won’t hurt you, they’re not a good replacement for normal meals. There are many types of energy bars but they are not all equal. Even though they were originally created to provide a needed boost for endurance runners, energy bars are now aimed more for people who are dieting or for snacks, so they may not be as nutritious.
Energy bars come in four basic types: high-carbohydrate, high-protein, lower-calorie and meal-replacement. Besides protein and carbohydrates, many energy bars also have vitamins and minerals. Some also have higher than normal calories from high-fructose corn syrup or sugar. You may also find saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, caffeine, guarana or ephedra which are not particularly healthy. In order to be sure you’re eating something good for you, read the labels carefully.
High-carbohydrate bars are those in which carbohydrates comprise more than 60% of the calories. Energy bars in this category are considered “performance” bars which are useful when doing strenuous activities. The carbs are rapidly absorbed which gives the burst of energy needed when working out.
Protein bars contain more protein, often up to 15 grams per bar. The amount of carbohydrates can vary and often these bars are also considered to be low carb. These bars are often used by athletes trying to reach or maintain a certain level of protein in their diet each day.
Lower-calorie bars will contain less than 200 calories. In many cases this type of energy bar is used primarily by women who also have other needs. They often contain vitamins and minerals specifically needed by a woman’s body such as folic acid, calcium, and soy protein.
The final type of energy bar is the meal-replacement bar. Even though they are given this name they aren’t complete enough to actually replace a meal. While they do have balanced nutrition, normally 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 30% protein, they should be avoided before or during extended aerobic exercise because the added nutrients aren’t needed. Choose them between meals or during activities such as hiking.
So as you can see energy bars can be good or they can be bad depending on which ones you choose. Look at the labels and remember they should never take the place of a good meal. Eat them when necessary but not in large amounts. Enjoy an energy bar when necessary but maintain a proper diet to ensure your body is get all it needs to stay healthy.