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Are Energy Bars Good for You?

Jan 11 2021
3 min read
woman eating energy bar on winter trail

You can’t be in a gym or grocery checkout line without seeing stacks of colorfully packaged energy bars promising to...

...fill you up or add power to your next workout. They may taste good and give your body a quick burst of fuel (which is especially useful for athletes), but in some cases you could be consuming as much sugar and as many calories as you’d find in a candy bar.

Put simply, energy means calories, so any food that contains calories is technically an “energy food.” But not all energy is created equal. Some bars are made with wholesome ingredients – wheat, nuts, honey – but others are packed with high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, and hydrogenated oils. Here are some tips from Canyon Ranch nutritionists to help you make good choices

Read the Ingredient List

Do you recognize all the words on the nutrition label? If not, or if the list takes up more than half the package, find another option. Products made of natural, whole foods are more nutritious. Look for ingredients like rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruits.

Pay Attention to Calories

Energy bars are tasty, easy-to-find, and portable, but they’re also calorie-dense; choose one that exceeds 200 calories before you hit the gym and you may wind up consuming more calories than you burn.

Sidestep Unhealthy Fats

Some manufacturers include hydrogenated oils in their bars. This means that the oils, such as coconut, palm, and corn, have been heated at high temperatures to give them a solid consistency. That’s good for maintaining shelf life, but these types of fats can cause health concerns like weight gain, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and more.

Avoid High-fructose Corn Syrup

Refined sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) race through your body and give you a super-fast jolt of energy, but often leave you depleted a short time later. And because they can actually inhibit your ability to feel full, eating them can lead to cravings for more of the same. In addition to HFCS, it’s wise to beware of bars containing sugar alcohols, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltodextrin, sucralose, and artificial colors.

Don’t Overdose on Vitamins

Skip energy bars that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you’re taking a multivitamin or if you drink fortified orange juice, you could max out on your daily vitamin intake, which can have harmful effects.

Keep it Balanced

Bars don’t provide as many nutritional benefits as a well-rounded meal, so don’t use them as replacements. If you do eat them, make sure you’re getting balanced nutrition from the rest of your diet.

Eat With Caution During a Workout

Though energy bars don’t have this effect on everyone, they can cause diarrhea for some during exercise sessions.