This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2006 edition
here are a huge range of nutrition bars out there, so how the heck are you to know which ones suit you, or indeed which ones are good for you and are not just junk confectionary bars?!
Nutrition bars are quite varied and can be classified under a number of different headings based on their make up and general nutrition they provide. They can be labelled as meal replacement, protein, energy, low carb or flapjack bars. Nutrition Bars can be useful supplements for health and sports enthusiasts, especially bodybuilders who struggle to consume enough food to meet their requirements. They are a convenient way of adding extra nutrition to a food and supplement plan as they are easily transported and eaten on the go. Nutrition bars should not replace any of the main meals of a diet, but are useful replacements for 'snack' meals, especially for people with busy lifestyles.
Obviously the first factor to consider when selecting a bar is what you want from it. If you want an energy boost, then go for an energy bar; if you want it to contribute to a good protein intake, opt for a protein bar; if you want it to act as 'complete nutrition' for a significant snack then pick a meal replacement bar; or if you simply want to enjoy a bar which has more nutrition than confectionary, then any will do.
The best bet when you're deciding which nutrition bar to choose is to read a bar's description and if reviews are available look at them too. Things to look out for include the sources of protein, fats and carbs they contain. Many nutrition bars do unfortunately contain trans fats - these are the bad hydrogenated fats which ideally should be avoided. So try and look for bars which contain no trans fats.
Flapjack bars, or those based on oats, are generally a good choice as they contain slower released complex carbs as well as sugars and are more ideal for a sustained energy release rather than a sugar rush. Bars based on oats will also be high in fibre. However be aware that bars which contain maltodextrin will not give sustained energy, because, although maltodextrin is a complex carb, it is rapidly absorbed.
Bars can have their protein from a whole range of sources including whey concentrate and isolate, peanut butter, nuts, soya, milk solids (in the chocolate ones) and calcium caseinate. A useful common ingredient in many bars are nuts, which are a useful healthy way of contributing protein and good fats to the bar.
The other major factors affecting choice will be taste and texture. Bars need to be palatable, that's why we have them. Reviews will give an indication but people's tastes vary; remember that you may loathe a bar others love! As we get bars for convenience, make sure yours are easy to eat - some are extremely chewy and a chore to consume. A bar which is good value for money will be relatively small and packed with good nutrition.
Nutrition bars are not essential by any means, and they are not on the whole, particularly a healthy choice to a fitness enthusiast's diet, but they are convenient so make sure you get one with suitable nutrition that you enjoy.
Home-made nutrition bar recipes in Muscle Menus Shakes, Bars & Smoothies
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