Since the claims of energy bars aren't regulated by any federal agency,
it's often hard to tell where the candy bars end and the energy bars begin;
they're often sold right next to each other in the store. That's why it's
important to take a look at labeling. Bars with more than 18 grams of sugar
and those that don't contain much fiber or protein are more likely to fall
into the candy-bar group. For this report, we looked for bars that contain
less than 18 grams of sugar, no trans fats, at least 3 grams of fiber and
low saturated fat.
Though taste is largely a matter of personal preference, other characteristics
of an energy bar are easier to assess objectively, like its durability (whether
or not it can be eaten while frozen, or whether it melts easily in the heat.)
Here are some other savvy tips to help you find the right energy bar:
for a bar that gets most of its calories from carbohydrates instead
of fat. Carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more rapidly than protein
or fat, and are the primary source of energy for physical activities. Experts
say optimal energy bars should get 65 percent of their calories from
carbs rather than fat. To find out what percentage of calories in a bar
are from carbohydrates, multiply the grams of carbohydrates in a bar by
four, then divide the total by the number of calories in the bar as a whole.
- For a quick
burst of energy just before a short workout, choose a bar high in
carbs, low in protein and fiber (no more than 3 grams) and lower yet
in fat. The calories from carbs are burned more slowly in the presence of protein
and fiber, so the less a bar has of them, the more quickly you'll get an
energy boost. Fat is not digested quickly and can sit in your stomach and
cause discomfort during exercise.
- For pre-workout energy, look for a
bar with a carb-to-protein ratio of 3-to-1 or 4-to-1. The protein will
cause the carbs to be digested and absorbed more slowly, and you'll get
longer-lasting energy. Simple math will help you figure out how many grams
of protein you should look for relative to the number of grams of carbohydrate
in a bar. Just divide the grams of carbohydrate by four and then by three
to get a range. Example: A bar has 42 grams of carbohydrates. Forty-two
divided by four is roughly 10, and divided by three is 14, so look for
10 to 14 grams of protein.
- In any bar, look for at least 3 grams
of fiber. Fiber naturally aids digestion and it can help
you feel fuller. However, too much fiber may cause digestive distress,
so be wary of bars with more than five grams.
- Steer clear of sugar-laden energy bars. Ideal energy bars should have no more than 18 grams of sugar, says
registered dietician Suzanne Farrell, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic
calories. Energy bars can have just as many calories as candy bars
-- and if you eat more than you burn off, those extra calories will turn
into extra pounds. Eating a bar as a snack and don't plan to burn off any
extra calories? Experts suggest choosing an energy bar with 150 to 250
calories, depending on your age, gender, activity level and overall diet.
- Don't use
them as regular meal replacements. Energy bars should not be a mainstay
of anyone's diet, since health experts say they are no substitute for
- Be conservative about fortified bars. If you regularly
eat energy bars fortified with vitamins and minerals, you could overdo
it, especially if you take a daily multivitamin or eat other fortified
foods. The reason: Experts say consuming too many vitamins and minerals
can actually lead to oversupplementation, causing health problems.