When I was a kid, good ol’ Quaker Oats and Power Bars were pretty much the extent of my knowledge when it came to the (now EVER popular) “bar supplement.” In today’s society, both of those are considered bad for you – to the somewhat nutritionally aware, anyway. There’s constantly new brands and new lines within brands coming out…when it comes to the world of protein and supplement bars, what IS what? Well, it depends on your goals, first of all. If you’re working out to body build, your intake is going to be wildly different than if your goal is to run a marathon or to lose 5 lbs (note: those two things should NEVER go hand in hand. When I am training for a marathon, weight loss is the last thing on my mind and I actually tend to gain a few pounds in leg muscle. Besides, you risk malnourishment, you become a psychological mess, and your risk of injury skyrockets!).
We are so overexposed to varying philosophies of what is good for us, what is bad for us, what type of carb should I eat, what has too much sugar, sodium, etc. I struggle with it myself, because let’s be real here – I enjoy a deliciously sugar and carb heavy bar as much as the next guy, but my body would hate me over time if it was all I ate. Because I am not Olympic weight lifting, as many are not, I don’t rely on a 4,000 calorie diet and therefore need delicious ways to keep those stats in check. Also, how is eating that many calories in a day even possible? It’s actually impressive. It reminds me of reading that book by Dean Karnazes, the ultra-marathon runner, who ordered a FULL pizza while on a 6-8 run in the middle of the night. And people think I am crazy…unreal.
The point is, these days there are so many options out there – Cliff & Luna & Mojo and all of their other branch labels, Larabar, Power Bar, Pure Protein, KIND, ThinkThin, Kashi, the list goes on and on. Below, I outline the Top 5 bars for endurance athletes like myself, and for those looking to maintain or shed a few. Overall I think they are the “most healthy” bars…they are also my personal favorites so take this as you will. 🙂 In a nutshell, eat these if you’re looking for optimal energy/performance and to watch your sugar/carb intake.
1. KIND Bars – First of all, the variety of flavors is amazing. At 200 calories each, they are gluten free, have a high protein content because of the nuts, and and a few of them have only 5 grams sugar. They’re delicious, too! My favorite flavors are the Peanut Butter
& Dark Chocolate and the Blueberry Vanilla & Cashew.
2. LaraBar – Also gluten free, tons of flavors, 200 calories, good source of fiber and no added sugars. The texture is more like a soft cookie too – very easy to eat if you’re on the bike, mid-marathon, or in motion. My fave is definitely the Cashew Cookie.
3. Luna Protein – gluten free and 180 calories each, there are only 4 flavors but I dig them all! I try to get carbs in my diet “senza gluten” for the most part, so this one fits that bill. Luna (Cliff Bar line of bars for women) has great products overall, but these ones are awesome, mainly because they all have a chocolate coating. 🙂 Try the cookie dough. Delightful.
4. ThinkThin – this bar grew on me over time, I’ll admit. No sugar, high protein, a little higher calorie value at ~230 per bar. If sugar alcohol tastes bother you, this may be your least favorite. I actually only like the Cookies & Cream and I LOVE the Creamy Peanut Butter (do not mix this up with the Chunky Peanut Butter. There is a very distinct difference, trust me!). They fill me up for a long time and have a nice texture.
5. Picky Bars – this is brand new on my list and introduced to me by a few fellow cyclists. They’re awesome! They’re vegan (it’s ok, dad, I’ve not gone to the dark side), gluten free, and a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, so fantastic for workouts that last over 1.5 hours (the company was founded by and for athletes)…and SO YUMMY. Try the All-In Almond.
Now go get your bar on…happy training!