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For your afternoon snack, be aware that many energy bars have a calorie level similar to candy bars. If you are watching your calories or trying to lose weight, it can be difficult to find a low-calorie bar that doesn’t contain sugar alcohols (see “Cons” above).

Eating half of an energy bar or choosing another type of snack might be a better idea for waist-watchers. For individuals who aren’t looking to lose weight, energy bars are still better choices than candy bars because they contain added nutritional benefits.

Read the nutrition label to find a bar that contains:

  • About 150-200 calories
  • At least 1.5 grams of fiber
  • Less than 15 grams of sugar
  • Less than 2 grams saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat
  • About 30% of your RDA for vitamins and minerals (optional)
  • Approximately 40%-60% carbohydrates (15-30 grams), 20%-30% protein (7-15 grams) and 20%-30% fat (3-7 grams or less)

Workout Fuel

Before hitting the gym or starting a long run, your body needs carbohydrates. It is best to avoid protein, fat, fiber and sugar alcohols, all of which can delay the emptying time of the stomach and slow digestion, causing cramps and sluggish energy levels. Energy bars are usually too high in protein, fat, fiber, and possibly sugar alcohols to be used for pre-exercise nourishment. Instead, try another carbohydrate-rich food.

During your workout, energy bars are not an appropriate refueling choice because aerobic and high-intensity exercises require blood flow to the muscles, not to the stomach for the digestion of foods. After exercising for more than 60-90 minutes, consider a sports drink or sports gel to boost your energy levels, promote hydration, and balance electrolytes in the body.

Energy bars may work for low-intensity, very long-duration activities such as a long, slow hike or bike ride. (During lower-intensity exercise, less blood is diverted to the muscles.)

After your exercise session, your body needs mostly carbohydrates (to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles), some protein (to help repair damaged muscle tissue), and a little fat (for cellular repair). Eating a “real” and complete meal is your best bet. But if you cannot eat a meal within two hours working out, then an energy bar paired with a glass of water and a piece of fruit is a good option. Look for a meal replacement bar (see examples above) with at least 30 grams of carbohydrate, 10 grams (or more) of protein, and 5-10 gram of fat.

Bar Alternatives

Don’t ever feel that you have to rely on bars to meet your calorie and nutritional needs. These snack ideas provide energy, nutrition and flavor in a convenient, budget-friendly package:

  • Fresh fruits: apples, oranges, pears, plums, grapes, bananas
  • Individually packaged fruit and applesauce
  • Yogurt or string cheese
  • Whole grain crackers (plain or with cheese or peanut butter)
  • Bagels and muffins
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Carton of milk or juice
  • Graham crackers

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