ENERGY BARS AND EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you are curious about what goes into your energy bar, you might like to know if it's actually healthy or not. Just because it says it gives you energy can be deceiving, it might be packed with sugars or unhealthy additives. But the meaning behind the energy bar is much more than just advertising since there are plenty that can be healthy. This helpful article will help solve the never-ending mysteries behind a product that often misunderstood.
We'll do our best to help you learn about what really goes into them and why they are so appealing. By the end of this fact-driven expose, you'll have a better idea of what kind to choose. You'll also benefit from how they can improve your energy when you need them most.
What are they/their History
By the definition, what makes an energy bar especially important are the ingredients. It contains a specific amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also includes a generous amount of vitamins and minerals that can help boost energy. The ideal shape was a simple bar form and was intended to be a food or meal substitute. It also is defined further since they lack caffeine and come in a solid form rather than a liquid.
Now here is the interesting part about energy bars since they weren’t sold in stores when they were first developed. You might find it a pleasant surprise that energy bars were created for the early NASA astronauts. The Pillsbury Company was contracted to create a food stick that provided astronauts with portable energy on their outer-space missions. It wasn’t until the late 60s that Pillsbury finally marketed Space Food Sticks’.
While they were about as gimmicky as the pet rock or Sea Monkeys at the time, it did not sell very well. By the mid-70s, this early energy bar has been renamed Pillsbury’s Food Stick’, but still suffered from lacking sales. And while these were idea for outer-space missions, they were small enough to fit inside Astronauts helmets all the same. Not until a decade later when Americans began to change their opinions on exercise, energy bars finally got a break.
It was in 1986 that a new product was released and specifically marketed towards athletes and sports fanatics. In this decade it was common that many new exercise machines became popular. Major television products such as the BowFlex Home Gym, the Abdominizer, and the Thighmaster were being sold through infomercials. So it’s no surprise that the Power Bar became a big hit for competition and endurance athletes.
It further reached a peak when the notion of diet fads and home exercise workouts. You might remember that Richard Simmons released his ‘Sweating to the Oldies’ VHS tape in 1988. It not only encouraging overweight people to slim down, but it also provided Power Bar with a new breed of consumer. It didn’t take long after Power Bar paved the way as a nutritional aid, much more energy bar brands soon followed.
What are they traditionally made up of?
There’s no limit to what can go into an energy bar but it must follow a guideline for nutritional values. Just like granola bars were popular in the mid-70s, the release of the Nature Valley granola bar was obvious. It was touted as the perfect hippy snack but for obvious reasons the combination of granola, nuts, and dried fruits. It was mixed with honey or sweetened natural syrups and baked into a bar shape.
Despite the granola bar name, a granola bar can be considered a very weak energy bar. It’s typically all-natural and hence the combination of various natural fats, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. But because of their healthy ingredients, they are lacking the energy bar standard that can boost energy. You would need to eat at least 10-20 granola bars to get the effect that a standard energy bar delivers in a single bar.
This is why granola bars often get blurred between the lines of energy bar nutrition levels. This doesn’t mean that an energy bar will not contain raisins, nuts, granola, and a whole slew of natural ingredients. These just add appeal to bland energy bars that might contain mushy proteins, vitamins, and sugars under a chocolate coating. No matter what the name may imply, if it looks interesting to eat, it will practically sell itself.
This is where protein bars also have a similar problem being confused with energy bars. They are not the same! Protein bars and energy bars are often head to head with their ingredients. A protein bar may have higher protein than an energy bar but may lack essential vitamins and minerals. Most experts will agree that a protein bar is simply a cleverly disguised candy bar. You might as well eat a Snickers bar to get the same effect that any protein bar promises.
The energy bar will list all their ingredients that can help boost energy. Of course, this is why the nutritional value chart is required these days, but some legitimate bars add further ingredients. Some may contain omega fatty acids and pre-workout energy boosters including natural syrups instead of processed sugars. For this reason, you always need to look at the ingredients to see if it falls into a true energy bar category.
Health and Energy bars
These days it’s not uncommon that energy bars are marketed as the perfect diet or meal replacement. This can have a major destructive effect on your health and well-being. They can never replace the role of regular meals including meat and vegetables that supply your body with essential vitamins. Energy bars have fallen into a niche category that is confused with the so-called healthy candy bars.
As it was found that the early weight loss energy bars that were sold from Weight Watchers. They were more-or-less marketed as protein bars and were intended for aiding weight loss. However, the intention of an energy bar is focused on short-term energy between mealtimes. They should never be confused with being a meal substitute. These can be attributed to the appetite suppressant bars which often have the energy bar advertisement on the label. Names such as Snack Less are using the energy bar disguise their secret ingredient.
They propose that adding bits of a cactus-like plant called Hoodia Parviflora that grows in South Africa. Aside from pretending to be a vegan-friendly energy bar, there’s no medical proof that Snack Less appetite suppression bars work. It has proven to cause stomach aches, vomiting, high blood pressure, and eventual liver injury. For this reason, some disguised energy bars can be hazardous to your health.
Another apparent issue with energy bars is the over-saturation of vitamins and minerals. Your body does have a daily level that required only a certain amount of these essentials. Too many can have negative effects on your body nausea or diarrhea. Not only that, but there should also be a direct link to your healthy diet and eating energy bars. For example, you should always avoid ones that have hydrogenated oils, palm kern oil, and coconut oils.
These additive are used so the chocolate coatings don’t melt in your hand so easy, but aren’t necessary. These can also add extra pounds over time if you aren’t watching your daily exercise. Another hidden fact is that each bar should be followed with 1-2 cups of water to help with easier digestion. And if you use an energy bar as a meal replacement, add one item of fruit, yogurt, or some yogurt. This will help balance out the dietary aspects of what your body should have for a basic meal.
Pros and cons
You might already have a pretty good idea that there are going to be pros and cons to energy bars. Of course, there are, every product has a good side and a bad side. To be fair, we’ll list them all so you can see them both. Let’s take a look, shall we?
- Instant energy:
These bars are remarkable for packing a lot of energy. This can be an instant pick-up if you are training and being on-the-go. But this is another good reason why you’ll need to study what kind of energy you need and why. Every energy bar will have a specific amount listed for what it provides energy-wise. Unless you’re training as an athlete, you don’t need to overdo your energy intake if you only want a mild morning or afternoon boost.
- Stable long-term shelf life:
Most people like that energy bars are great for storing in their kitchen pantry for a long time. They are considered stable since they have natural ingredients that resist spoiling. Not just that they are packed inside plastic foil wrappers, but they tend to last for months when they are put in a cool dark place for storage. Storing bars in a hot stuffy closet or sitting for long periods in the sun will not be good for them either. This might cause natural dried fruits to spoil or get rancid.
The nice part about energy bars is how portable they can be compared to traditional foods. They fit easily into pockets or purses and are ideal for those small compartments on your backpack. They can also be more portable than a sandwich or fruit as their serving size is slim and compact. These are better alternatives to be tucked into a coat pocket than a candy bar would tend to take-up.
- High in calories:
Sadly there is a danger to energy bars since they do have such high calories and carbohydrates. Without proper exercise, this can add excess weight that builds up over time. If you’re consuming energy bars daily, it will be important to choose bars that have low-carbs. Also, it might be a better solution to find natural sweeteners like syrups or honey. Natural sugars have a lower risk of becoming stored fat over time.
- Too hard to digest:
It’s also not a surprise that the ingredients in some energy bars are more difficult to digest. The presence of added fiber is a tricky borderline. Energy bars that use chicory root, inulin, or oligofructose is often lumped into the total fiber count. But it will be listed in the ingredients. These in addition to normal fiber make it harder for your stomach to break down. It can often lead to stomach cramps and bloating.
- Cost per bar:
Often more expensive than the average candy bar, energy bars are not a cheap item. Some will range between 2-3 dollars apiece, which can add-up as staggering weekly or monthly cost. Needless to say, energy bars are not cost-effective when compared to buying raw ingredients to make normal lunches or dinners. Fancy energy bars are nearly bordering the cost of a budget meal at a fast-food take-out!
- Selective tastes:
How many times did you try an energy bar and wonder what is that awful taste? It’s easy to imagine that taste is the last thing you have to worry about. This is an issue with all of the different brands that all use various ingredients for flavor. It also applies to texture, color, smell, and the level of hardness or chewability. It will take time to find which energy bar has the right appeal for you, in addition to nutrition values.
Energy bars and kids
I know that this is a delicate issue since so many kids these days are dealing with weight issues. The everyday presence of fast food and snacks around your kids has created a new trend in weight gain. The lack of exercise and the commonplace distraction of smartphones and mobile devices make it harder to burn calories. It’s also becoming a trend among kids that energy bars are then a new food substitute.
It’s also a huge danger when energy bars are consumed with energy drinks, yet this is an issue that is more-or-less a teenager trend. At home, your kids will no doubt want snacks and the best solution is going as healthy as possible. Granola bars with fruit or organic energy bars are some of the more natural substitutes. There are Clif Kid Z bars that have just a 5% protein that is also budget-friendly.
There is also a sunflower oil-based energy bar called Sun Life SunSeed Crunch bars. They are gluten and nut-free and as a bonus, it has low sugar. But as a general rule, kids don’t need the additional carbohydrates and sugars. Natural granola-based snacks are perfect for their developing bodies, so anything with dried fruits and nuts is exciting for them. This is especially obvious if they are chewy and have exciting bits of dark chocolate inside them.
The real trick is introducing them to your kids, so be a good example when making it a routine. Try eating a bar with your kids so they can see it’s tasty and fun. More stubborn kids will be harder to convince, so you’ll need to look out for different brands that are healthy. Once you find a brand they like the most, stick with that until they outgrow it. This makes it easier for your kids to try something new after that.
Some of the best-recommended bars
No matter how you slice it, there are going to be valid arguments for which energy bar is the best. But this is where the problem starts since not all energy bars are the same. Some are considered best for sports training, while others are meant as a post-workout snack. Then the all-natural category also comes into play. Some bars are better suited for runners and some are meant for quick release energy like basketball or wrestling.
And though it would be easier to list several top-selling energy bars, the problem is exactly that. Right now they are top sellers, but trends can change like the wind. And there is always a new product being introduced every-other-week. The best advice for choosing the best energy bar is based on your sporting requirements. How active do you get and how much energy boost do you need. These are viable questions, so everyone will be different.
That also applies to look at the nutrition label to see how much your calorie input will be. The level of protein or carbohydrates is also going to be your decision too. As there are some specific rules to follow, your health should always be a top concern. You also don’t need to over-do your daily vitamin and mineral intake. When choosing an energy bar, it should be as balanced to your dietary needs. The least amount of negative effects it may have is always the best choice.
We hope this gives you a better outlook on the world of energy bars and what they do for you. Nothing beats eating healthy, but if you do decide to eat an energy bar, it should be healthy too. As it seems we can’t always sit down to a normal meal if we are constantly on-the-go. But there are perfectly healthy choices suitable for energy bar supplements if you keep track of the nutritional value label. Follow this golden rule, and you’ll be better off.