An Energy Bar Existential Crisis

Why energy bars don’t know what they are supposed to be anymore, and how to navigate

Written by Kate Flannery,

Is there any among us who haven’t yet tried energy bars? These are bars that you take before exercise. Or was it after exercise? No, wait, they replace a meal immediately after exercising so that you do not have to eat any fatty food and can stay lean longer, right? This is a summary of what the average Jane or Joe really knows about energy bars, not to mention its ingredients. This brings us to the important question: what constitutes a good energy bar?

Energy bars can be a lot of things. Some emphasize certain nutrients over others, and the quality of content varies drastically. And importantly, energy bars have different purposes depending on the brand and type. Here are a few tips for understanding the sometimes dense energy bar world.

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There has been a massive increase in energy bar production in the previous decade and nowadays there are hundreds of different products available practically everywhere around us. This mass production brings benefits in terms of competition but also allows for less quality products to be displayed shoulder to shoulder with really good ones. Therefore, instead of listing what is present in majority of energy bars available, which would be an impossible task, the focus will be on things to look for and things to avoid in energy bars in general. Naturally, knowing how to read the labels is obligatory for any smart shopper, and if you’re expecting some positive chemical reaction from your food, you should pay all the more attention.

Things to look for

Whole grains top the what-to-look-for list. Any oats are considered a whole grain, therefore they are the safest bet. Whole wheat flour would be the follow up choice. The reason why whole grains are important is because they are a great unprocessed source of carbohydrates and fiber. Nuts and seeds are also preferred since they are a perfect source of protein and fiber and a great natural energy booster. Do not be intimidated with fat figures on the label if they come from nuts and seeds, they are good fats and exactly what your muscles need after exercise. Lastly, look for dried fruit content, the most natural and harmless sweetener there is. Quality energy bars pay attention to how they balance out their proteins and sugars, and they can even have chocolate in them, so don’t worry about serious fitness snacks being too serious for your taste.

Things to avoid

Sugar is number one on the list of unwanted ingredients, but since it makes the taste of energy bars much more appealing to wider masses, it is found in a lot of them. However, as you now know, there is always a healthier alternative. Next on the list are artificial ingredients such as colors, preservatives and sweeteners. Avoid anything on the ingredients list that is not natural, since all artificial ingredients have been heavily processed. Lastly, avoid partially-hydrogenated oils, better known as trans-fats, the most dangerous fat linked to numerous health issues and probably the last thing you would expect in a supposedly healthy energy bar. However, they are there and it is up to you to learn to avoid them.

Knowledge applied

Luckily, there are energy bars that are rich in benefits and have minimal unwanted ingredients, and they aren’t terribly hidden.

To sum up, among hundreds of energy bars available, everyone should be able to pick the most appropriate ones as long as they read the labels.

All it takes is to stop and look at the label the next time you are shopping.

The three seconds you can easily spare are a minimal price to pay for staying healthy and energized.

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