Dishing out plenty of fast-digesting sugars, gooey energy gels can be a viable option for those whose stomachs can't tolerate solid bars during exercise. But as with bars, consume plenty of liquids (six to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes) along with the gel to satisfy hydration needs and encourage better digestion.
What We Like
PowerBar Performance Banana (powerbar.com)
230 calories, 44 grams carbs, 2.5 grams fat, 8 grams protein, 2 grams fiber
Odwalla Bar Strawberry Pomegranate (odwalla.com)
220 calories, 44 grams carbs, 3 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fiber
Clif Bar Nectar Cranberry Apricot & Almond (clifbar.com)
170 calories, 29 grams carbs, 6 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 4 grams fiber
Researchers have found that consuming a snack containing protein within an hour after a workout can significantly improve your muscles' ability to recover. Energy bars can provide a compact and portable supply of carbohydrates and protein--two macronutrients that help your muscles rebuild and refuel after sweating it out.
"Bars with 200 to 250 calories and roughly a three-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein will do the trick post-workout," says Gidus. She recommends looking for bars with soy or whey, two of the best sources of protein in bars.
What We Like
Vega Chocolate Flavor (myvega.com)
240 calories, 30 grams carbs, 10 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 6 grams fiber
Detour Runner Chocolate Chip Cookie (detourbar.com)
200 calories, 29 grams carbs, 3.5 grams fat, 12 grams protein, 4 grams fiber
Hammer Bar Chocolate Chip (hammernutrition.com)
220 calories, 26 grams carbs, 9 grams fat, 9 grams protein, 5 grams fiber
Genisoy Crispy Chocolate Mint (genisoy.com)
240 calories, 37 grams carbs, 4.5 grams fat, 14 grams protein, 2 grams fiber
Chosen carefully, an energy bar can be a nutritious snack in a pinch and a much better option than raiding the vending machine. But Clark warns, "The calorie content needs to equal that of a snack, not a meal." She adds that a bar intended for snack purposes should contain 100 to 180 calories with some protein and fiber. "These two ingredients are satiating, which will help get you by until your next meal."
Rack up more fiber, not to mention vitamins and minerals, by choosing a snack bar with fewer refined sugars and more natural carbohydrate sources such as dried fruit and oats. And look for bars with mostly healthy unsaturated fat sources such as nuts, seeds and nut butters. Be wary of chocolate and faux "yogurt" coatings that can contain highly saturated palm kernel and partially hydrogenated (trans fat) oils, which are notoriously bad for your heart and health.
What We Like
Gnu Bar Banana Walnut (gnufoods.com)
130 calories, 30 grams carbs, 3 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 12 grams fiber
Luna Chocolate Pecan Pie (lunabar.com)
180 calories, 25 grams carbs, 5 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fiber
LaraBar Apple Pie (larabar.com)
180 calories, 23 grams carbs, 10 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fiber