When you want a nutrient-rich recovery snack but don't have time to seek out the perfect whole food, eat a carb-rich bar with moderate doses of protein and fiber—five to 10 grams of each for a bar with about 200 calories.
"Postrun, these nutrients can help improve recovery and curb hunger," says Gidus.
For the greatest recovery benefit, eat a bar within 20 minutes of your run. If your workout was particularly hard or long, follow that with a light meal of protein and whole-grain carbs one to two hours later.
A Good Bar: Hammer Bar's Cashew Coconut Chocolate Chip packs 27 grams of carbs with five grams of protein and fiber. Really tough runs call for the 14 grams of protein in Balance Bar's Chocolate Mint Cookie Crunch—it contains vitamin E, which helps repair muscles after long runs.
Eat BetterWhen you're having a meal-replacement bar for lunch, supplement it with a serving of yogurt for an extra hit of protein and more nutrients.
What's That Stuff?
Some mysterious ingredients are good—and some aren't
Protein IsolatesWhey and soy proteins are first extracted from a food and then added to bars to boost protein content. Hydrolyzed proteins undergo further processing that removes vitamins but makes the protein more digestible.
It's another term for corn syrup. It's used because it bonds easily with dry or solid ingredients. Its short, simple sugar chains are rapidly absorbed, so it offers instant fuel that's ideal for prerun energy.
SorbitolSugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, Xylitol, and maltitol, are low-calorie sweeteners—that cause diarrhea. "I don't see why anyone should have sugar alcohols, but especially not runners," says Tara Gidus, R.D.
Brown Rice Syrup
This sweetener is a bit higher in nutrients and slower-burning than corn syrup. But organic versions can contain traces of arsenic. Its health threats haven't been confirmed, but some companies may stop using it.
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