It’s hard to read a magazine or watch television these days without seeing an advertisement for the latest energy bar. You know those energy bars: all decked out with ingredients like chocolate, nuts and raisins with fancy names like “Choc Full of Energy” or something equally as cheesy. They’re advertised as good sources of energy to help you get the most of out of your high-intensity workouts. But, do these so-called energy bars actually give you energy? Or, are you actually just eating an expensive candy bar?
The answer: you’re more than likely just eating an expensive candy bar. Anything containing calories can technically give you energy since a calorie is a unit of energy. However, if those calories come from processed ingredients and simple sugars, then they aren’t giving you the right type of energy you need to make the most out of your intense workouts.
It may be hard to believe that all of this is true. Corporations are spending millions of dollars on clever marketing tactics to make you believe that the energy bars you pick up in the health food area of your grocer are exactly what you need. Leading nutritional experts have conducted tests on several of the leading energy bars on the market today. Their results are startling.
Among their findings?
• Most of the fat in several different energy bar brands was ‘bad fat’ – commonly known as saturated fat. Saturated fat is exactly what you try to avoid when attempting to lose weight or achieve better health.
• Energy bars contained as many calories and fat grams as leading candy bars do.
• The top ingredient in some energy bars is sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are known to cause bloating and gassiness.
The nutritional experts took their tests a step further by conducting energy bar experiments on high-performing athletes. The athletes were instructed to work out for an hour. After the workout, some of the athletes were instructed to eat 1,000 calories worth of energy bars. The remaining athletes were told to eat an equivalent amount of bagels.
When tested, both groups of athletes were found to have the same level of energy output and blood sugar levels. Basically, this means that the performance of the bagels and the energy bars were exactly the same. There was no benefit to consuming an energy bar: the fat level was higher and the energy bars were more expensive than the bagels.
In addition, most people don’t need extra energy to assist them with their workouts. Energy bars, with their high carbohydrate and calorie counts, can only really help endurance athletes (think long-distance runners.) Why? Because a typical person’s workout won’t last more than an hour or two – not enough time for an energy bar to actually digest through the body. The result? You’re working out to burn off the calories of the energy bar instead of burning other calories off. You’re just making your job harder.
Alternatives to Energy Bars
Though energy bar makers would have you believe otherwise, you can maintain high levels of energy that will help you get through your daily routine and workouts successfully. You don’t need fancy sounding bars, drinks or potions to keep your energy up. Just follow these suggestions:
• Get plenty of rest. Adequate sleep is essential to keeping yourself healthy and energetic. Strive to get at least eight hours of sleep each night and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. You’ll find you are more alert and able to tackle the day’s activities without having to resort to coffee or an energy bar fix. Added bonus? Scientists have recently discovered the link between sleep and weight loss. That’s right: get enough sleep and you’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack between meals.
• Eat four to six small meals a day. As you discovered before, calories are units of energy. Getting the right kind of calories in your system is another key to keeping your energy up throughout the day. Strive to eat several small meals staggered throughout the day. These meals should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, fish and poultry. You’ll never be hungry, because you’re constantly keeping food in your stomach. This will keep energy levels up and decrease the likelihood of mindless snacking.
• Drink plenty of water. You know you should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water in a day. Water keeps you hydrated – dehydration drags your energy level down because it slows down your body’s natural processes. Drinking plenty of water also flushes toxins out of your body as it helps your body maintain its natural pH level.
• Eat healthy snacks. If you find that you want to snack during the day, don’t fret. You can certainly snack in between meals; however, you want to keep those snacks healthy to help you keep your energy up. Good snack suggestions? Any type of fruit or vegetable – think apples, carrots, grapes, oranges or cauliflower. Or, think about your whole grains – foods like wheat bread, whole wheat bagels, etc. The key is to stay away from processed ingredients and simple sugars found in candy and cookies.
• Take your vitamins. Doctors recommend that people take a daily multivitamin to help them get their recommended daily amount of all of the essential vitamins and minerals. While it’s true that you get the majority of the vitamins you need from your daily diet, it’s not a bad idea to ensure proper levels of nutrition in your body at all times. Doctors also recommend that women take calcium supplements each day to keep enough calcium in the body to keep osteoporosis away.
Don’t keep wasting your money on those expensive energy bars that are advertised everywhere. You now know better than that. The key to maintaining high energy levels in your body isn’t found in a chocolate bar. It’s found in a proper diet mixed with plenty of water, rest, exercise and daily multi-vitamins. By following this regimen, you are sure to keep your body healthy and functioning at the highest level possible.