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David Freeze: Gotta Run

My scoop on energy bars

Sometimes we become creatures of habit, feeling comfortable in a certain routine. Running is one of the areas of my life where those routines have a place. Most long-time runners have developed an affinity for energy bars. A few of my ex-wives might say that I am addicted to them. For a little fun, I decided to experiment with some  of the energy bars on the market and analyze their nutritional statements. Not being a registered dietician, this analysis is just from a layman who enjoys running well.

I headed to Harris Teeter where the best choices and the best prices for energy bars are available. My independent study focused on energy and pre-workout nutrition bars. Here is what I found. A gram (g) is just over a third of an ounce.

Gatorade Prime Fuel Bar—One of the largest at 2.1 ounces, tastes a lot like a dense rice krispy treat. Also, one of the most expensive. Carbs-45 g, fat 3.5 g, protein 5g. 220 calories. Palm oil is an ingredient, a negative.

Larabar—Labeled as the original fruit and nut bar. Small but dense 1.7 ounces. Carb. 23g, Fat 3.5g, protein 7g. 220 calories

Balance—Tastes like a less sweet Snickers, dense and flavorful. Carbs 22g, Fat 7g, protein 14g. 220 calories and 1.7 ounces. It has both palm oil and a lot of non-understandable ingredients like toxopherols.

Luna Nutrition Bar—Lower in sugars than most but one of the smallest at 1.69 ounces. Carb 25g, fat 7g and protein 9g. 200 calories. Has palm oil.

Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar—Also lower in sugars but the smallest of all at 1.58 ounces. Carbs 24g, fat 5g, protein 10g. 180 calories. Comes with palm oil also, so beware of anything claiming to be perfect.

Simple Truth Energy Bar—Says it is free from 101 artificial ingredients and does have an ingredient list that is understandable. Carbs 35g, fat 6g, protein 8g. 230 calories, but is one of the larger bars at 1.94 ounces. It does have palm oil.

Clifbar—Carbs 45g, fat 8g, protein 9g. 250 calories. 2.4 ounces, making it the heaviest bar. Ingredient list is lengthy but understandable.

PowerBar—Carbs 44g, fat 4g, protein 10g 230 calories. The second largest bar at 2.29 ounces. Every single ingredient is easily read and understandable.

Here is my takeaway from the listed information on energy bars. Only a few things set the individual bars apart. The first is that I avoid palm oil, which is very high in saturated fats. The food industry began using it as a substitute for even worse products a few years back. Read up on it and you won’t use it either.

Good fats are needed for a healthy body and most of these bars have similar mixes of good fats. Carbohydrates are also essential for exercise, they fuel the body. Don’t even mention a carb-free diet to me.

Protein is the building block for post-exercise repair and recovery. There are a bunch of post-exercise bars on the market too and they highlight higher levels of protein.

Bottom line, here is what I want: an affordable good-sized bar with a proper mix of carbs, fats and protein and an understandable ingredient list. Taste has improved some in recent years, but I don’t want a sweet energy bar. Sweet just means higher sugars or sugar substitutes.

My morning routine includes a bottle of water and a quick-grab energy bar that meets the guidelines listed above. Neither bother my stomach when I am out the door 20-30 minutes later. Leveled-off blood sugar and some last-minute hydration usually enhance the run.

My winner: PowerBar. It was the original “energy bar” for endurance athletes when developed in 1986. I began using them shortly after and they have been a staple for pre-exercise and snacks ever since. It is also the largest selling and most affordable energy bar.

Races next weekend include the Love Thy Neighbor 5K/10K on Saturday and the UMW Missions 5K on Sunday. Mt. Hope Church has its 5K at Salisbury Community Park on March 25. More info on all of these events is at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org


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