Nutrition bars are a category of products designed to provide a quick meal replacement option for athletes and generally people on the go. While many bar choices are designed to provide a high protein option, there are quite a few energy bars available, these types of bars are ideal for endurance athletes.
When it comes to protein intake, the importance of eating a protein based meal every three hours cannot be overstated. As well, the concept of grams of protein per pound of body-weight – at least one gram per pound to be exact – also cannot be overstated. That being said, making it happen in real life can be quite a challenge. College or high school kids, for example, have no real time to eat beyond lunch. How would you get in a whole food meal in that situation? Add to that athletic practices that last last up to three hours after school with no provision for food – these kids haven't eaten since lunch! How can they perform at all let alone at their best without fuel! As well, many people with demanding or fast paced jobs find themselves in a similar dilemma – little time to eat! While whole food meals should occupy most of your eating plan, the concept of convenience for these types of situations makes a lot of sense. We have two options: bars and shakes. High protein bars can be eaten quickly and can provide protein and nutrients that will tide you over until your next meal. There are a lot of choices: high carb/low carb, high fat/low fat, big bars or small bars – the list is endless and can fit any need.
Beyond that, we have energy bars. These are more athlete – designed, meant for use during any type of demanding endurance event, such as a triathlete eating a Power bar while riding the road bike. These are bars high in carbohydrates and usually low in protein, they are easily digestible and can be eaten during your actual event. Since carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy these make a lot of sense. They usually have both fast and slow digesting carbs to promote extended energy. Of course, you can use a bar like this as part of a quick meal but total carbohydrate intake must be monitored to help control fat gain, if that is your concern. While carbohydrates are critical and are not really the villain many people may think, to many carb calories – especially simple or sugary carbohydrates – beyond what you need for energy will be stored as fat.
- Provide a quick meal solution for those people on the go.
- Provide a convenient source of protein.
- Provide sustained energy for endurance athletes.
The big thing with bars is the choices – you have a lot to choose from with many offering quite a few flavor and texture selections. Most of the bars can taste quite good. You also have several that are almost like a candy bar in texture and taste. You can tailor the bar to your needs based on the size of the bar and the ability to eat it quickly. For example, if you need a really fast choice, it would make sense to go with a small one that's not really chewy as opposed to some big, chewy monster that will take a half hour to eat.
When choosing a nutrition bar, especially a high protein one, pay careful attention to what you are getting. What is the sugar content, the total carbohydrate content, the fat content and what exactly are they putting in this thing? Yes, there are many quality choices but careful label reading is a must. I suggest a low fat/ low carb bar. Nothing to candy bar like or so big you get 600 calories out of it. Personally, I'll go with a small bar and a protein shake for a good meal replacement when I can't get to a whole food meal but I understand a shake is not always feasible, where a bar can be carried a lot easier and does not require adding liquid and mixing.. On the downside, some bars are nothing more then a candy bar with “high protein” on the label and all the junk that comes with typical candy bars.
Energy bars, on the other hand, are simpler to choose from and really come down to user preference in terms of taste and ease of digestion. Of course, you'll want to check the ingredients and watch the ratio of simple to complex carbohydrates, although this may be more sport-specific than anything else. With the big advantage of bars being convenience, timing is whenever it works for you. The main thing is to not let a bar replace a real meal, use them when you can't get to a meal. Energy bars are typically part of an endurance athlete's training and are used accordingly.