Looking for the perfect energy bar? Check the label. Sports nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CPT, breaks down the back-of-box jargon to take the guesswork out of snacking.
As told to Jessica Sebor
Check the serving size. "Always see how much you're getting for the whole package," recommends Moskovitz. A bar should be one serving—not four.
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Calories"The first thing you want to look at is total calories," says Moskovitz, who recommends enjoying bars with fewer than 200 calories post-run. "We can easily undo our whole run with one high-sugar bar or drink. If it's more than 200 calories, you're better off eating a meal."
"Many protein bars have a ton of saturated fat," says Moskovitz, who recommends keeping this number below 2 g.
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CarbohydratesNext, shift your gaze to carbohydrates. Moskovitz says, "Generally you only need 20 to 30 g of carbs after you run."
When ingested immediately following a workout, fiber will slow the absorption of carbohydrates, so keep this number low. Moskovitz says, "Five to 10 g is a good mark."
ProteinFind bars with 10 to 15 g of protein, roughly half the amount of carbs. "This is the most effective ratio for both losing weight and repairing muscles," says Moskovitz.
Vitamins should be considered a bonus—not a deciding factor in your purchase. Moskovitz recommends getting micronutrients from "fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy—not a bar." However, Moskovitz notes that female runners are often deficient in the following nutrients: "iron, zinc, B-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D." Getting a little extra boost from fortified bars may help in these cases.
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Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CPT, is a sports nutrition and personal training specialist. Moskovitz has designed numerous lecture programs for Velocity Sports Performance, an athlete training facility in Manhattan.
Jessica Sebor is the editor in chief of Women's Running magazine.