Sure, we're a little biased, but we're especially wild about the new Planters Men's Health Nut-rition nut mix, from our good pals at Men's Health magazine. One serving of this pistachio-almond-peanut combo has 6 g of protein and just a touch of salt, making them low-sodium but totally satisfying. For a list of healthier options, see this list of 5 Nutritious On-the-Go Energy Bars.
If you've ever trained for a marathon, there's a good chance these products made their way into your runner's belt at one point or another. But unless you're exercising intensely for more than an hour, you should steer clear.
"These are just sugar by another name," says Clark. "You could also eat jelly beans, gummy bears, Twizzlers, marshmallows, any other form of refined sugar." Better yet, during a long run or workout, opt for a natural energy booster, like dried fruit or dates.
As for the average exerciser: Bracket your regular meals and snacks around your workout for maximum energy and recovery without taking on unnecessary calories, says Pearson. For instance, eat a banana before your morning run, and refuel with a Greek yogurt or some oatmeal when you finish.
If you're slamming a massive can of Red Bull or Monster to supercharge your workout, you're not doing your physique any favors. The "energizing" ingredient in these drinks is nothing more than sugar, mixed with caffeine (a 16-oz. can of Rockstar Energy Drink packs a staggering 62 g of sugar).
"You might as well save your money and dump a 1/4 cup of sugar into a cup of coffee," says Clark. "If you feel like you need a boost to get through a tough class or training session, you probably didn't eat enough earlier in the day." Fuel up with real food, like bananas and peanut butter, before you hit the gym. Already ate and still feel like you're dragging? Sip a cup of black coffee instead.
While taking in high-quality protein after a workout can speed muscle repair, you still need to your keep your total daily calories in check. "It always comes back to calories in and calories out," says Wayne Westcott, PhD, Prevention advisory board member and fitness research director at Quincy College.
"If you add these types of shakes on top of your normal diet plan without burning off the extra calories, especially if they also contain a lot of added sugars, it's likely that you'll gain some body fat along with any lean muscle you put on."
But even if you need the extra protein boost, you don't have to shell out big bucks for pricey products with added sugars and sweeteners: "Milk is nature's natural protein shake," says Clark. "If you want an even bigger protein boost, simply mix some powdered milk into your milk."Perfect your nutrition to boost your performance. Sign up for a race near you.