Picture this: It’s a Friday morning and you wake up to bright neon numbers flashing directly in your face and the obnoxious alarm begging you to wake up after a long night out. You smack the snooze button in an attempt to gain a few extra minutes of sleep, only to wake up to the same situation nine minutes later. This is a common scenario. It’s said that the few minutes of sleep you get when you hit the snooze button is the best you get of the night. However, it’s often the most costly as well. While running to class with disheveled hair, you didn’t have time to stop and make breakfast because of your decision to enjoy your sleep.
As a result, you turn to meal-replacement bars as a means to stay full and in shape when you’re on the run. The problem with this is the belief that the bars are healthy and will keep you in shape because you bought them at GNC. However, most bars are loaded with sugar, quickly digestible and, as a result, are not viable alternatives to healthy food. Whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, a meal is always the better solution. However, there are still some bars out there that can succeed in doing their respective jobs.
Many Anteaters participate in intramural sports, whether it is the Interfraternity Council or simply recreational athletics. Without strict rules and organization, intramural athletes don’t usually have the time or desire to prepare for games with nutritional, carbohydrate-filled pre-game meals like intercollegiate athletes. As a result, many choose to snack on energy bars before games as a quick and easy alternative. The main thing to look for in an energy bar is complex carbohydrates. These are carbohydrates that take longer to digest and provide a more timed release of energy to the body.
Although they may not provide the same kind of fuel as food, energy bars are still a solid alternative, and there are some good ones on the market. The first of these is Clif Bars. A quick look at the nutritional facts of the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut flavor of the original Clif Energy Bar shows 43 grams of carbohydrates, with 20 of those grams coming from sugar. Now, that’s a lot of sugar, but for an energy bar, that’s not too bad. The sugar will give an initial insulin spike to the athlete that will be beneficial. The other carbohydrates that make up those 43 grams are relatively complex and will give a sustained energy boost.
Also, five of those grams come from dietary fiber, which aids digestion. The bar also provides 10 grams of protein, which is a plus. There’s something to be said about the general taste of Clif Bars as well. The sugar helps them taste amazing – the Oatmeal Raisin tastes like an oatmeal cookie – and that’s definitely a plus to the taste-conscious consumer.
Another popular brand of energy bars is Power Bar, one of the original energy bars on the market. Power Bar’s main “performance bar” is very similar nutritionally to ClifBars. A look at the Cookies and Cream flavor shows 43 grams of carbs, with a little more sugar (24 grams) and a little less dietary fiber (two grams). The Power Bar also has only eight grams of sugar. The taste is still good, but a little dry and not quite as good as Clif’s Energy Bars. Both brands of bars are low in fat, with two to three grams per bar, and less than one gram of saturated fat in each.
While energy bars can be fairly useful, the same can’t be said for meal replacement bars. There are very few on the shelves that can help people achieve their fitness goals. The biggest problem is that those who are weight-conscious simply believe eating less means their dietary goals will be met. Meal replacement bars encourage this line of thinking, with a small bar being filling and leading weight-conscious consumers to believe they just had a healthy meal. For those hoping to maintain or lose weight, there aren’t many solid meal replacement bars on the market. To keep any semblance of decent taste, sugars and sweeteners must be used.
However, for people looking to gain muscle and avoid a little extra fat, there are a few solid bars that provide a good in between-meal boost of calories. Detour’s Oatmeal Bar is a very good source of calories for an on-the-run snack. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bar contains 460 calories, with 58 grams of carbohydrates (only 10 grams of sugar, and eight grams of dietary fiber), and 30 grams of whey protein. On the downside, there are 12 grams of fat (five grams saturated). For those who can deal with a little extra fat, Detour’s bars are a solid source of calories.
As with most things, it’s best to use the bars moderately. Energy bars can provide a good boost when partaking in a sport or other strenuous activity, but shouldn’t be eaten otherwise. Meal replacement bars, for the most part, are about as worthless as a Smush Parker jersey. The smart alternative is to keep yourself from hitting the snooze button and take those extra few minutes to prepare some healthy foods to keep you energized throughout the day.