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Energy & Protein Bars - Real Food for Real Energy

Author:Britt Maughan RD
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Real food for real energy

Bars are the packaged deal – a tasty package containing a variety of nutrients and energy all wrapped in one. Bars offer a quick and easy delivery of nutrients for any athlete – and can be used as part of your training or competition nutrition strategy, or simply as a meal replacement or snack on the go. At FTM, we are always prepared and like to keep one or two bars with us at all times – in our gym bag, car, everyday bag, and in every drawer (just kidding) to make sure we always have energy on the go. On that note, we love waffles too - they also work as a great snack or fuel on the go. Check out our waffles category for more info!

Bars have picked up in popularity and can be found at any grocery store or sports shop, and are even at gas stations! It seems like every company is jumping on the energy bar bandwagon – and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a bar that not only tastes amazing, but has quality ingredients that athletes need to perform at their best. With marketing and cheap manufacturing driving major companies today, it’s important to look past the pretty packaging, and really figure out what’s good and what’s not. 

But no need to fear, this is what we DO! This is what we LOVE to do! We go nuts for quality products and only carry what we believe to be the best products out on the market. For a quick look, check out the comparison chart below. It is separated by protein content. In the first chart, you'll see bars with 10 or more grams of protein. In the second chart, you'll see bars with less than 10 grams of protein. You'll also find a comparison chart for our waffle category here

Bars Comparison Chart

Calorie requirements 

As we’ve said, bars offer a quick and easy way to deliver a solid dose of energy and fuel. Most bars offer 150-300 calories per bar with the bulk of the calories coming from carbohydrates (roughly 40-50%). Protein and fat content vary bar to bar, and depending on your fuel goals and sport – you may want to focus on a bar that offers higher fat (for the low carb or high fat diet) and high protein (for added recovery). 

Depending on your physical activity – you will want to gauge how many calories you need, and choose a bar (or a combination of fuel sources) to provide the necessary calories to replenish energy losses and provide a steady flow of energy to keep you going. Endurance activities over an hour/hour and a half will require these extra calories. 

‘’The primary reason to consume calories during endurance exercise is to provide carbohydrate to the working muscle and brain. This becomes increasingly important as the duration of training/competition lasts longer than 60-90 minutes due to the body’s limited capacity to store carbohydrate (glycogen). The ability to digest and utilize carbohydrate is dependent on the amount and types of carbohydrates consumed. Individual carbohydrates sources have different transport mechanisms in the GI track which allow for different rates of absorption. […] By selecting a product with more than one source (e.g. sucrose and fructose), you are able to absorb more than when you consume a single source (e.g. glucose only). The general recommendation is to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour or 120-250 calories per hour during endurance exercise.’’ (1)

While this is a good general rule to follow, several factors can come into play that may increase this number (such as athlete’s size and fitness level, duration of event, type of event etc.) With that in mind, you may need to experiment with the amount and the type of carbohydrates offered in your fuel sources. As a refresher –glucose, sucrose, and maltodextrin are absorbed more quickly than fructose, galactose and amylose. Look at the carbohydrates listed in each bar and refer to the chart to see the amounts offered in each serving. 

Real food for real energy

Ingredients are important to us, which is why we’ve chosen bars that have real food listed in their ingredient list (with names you can pronounce). 

Carbohydrates: Our bars include a variety of carbohydrate sources which aid in quick and slow absorption. Sources include brown rice syrup, gluten free oats, honey, brown rice flour, quinoa, rice protein, and fruit (such as blueberries, apples, apricots, strawberries, dates, figs, dried cranberries, orange juice and lemon). 

Fat: This is another great energy source and varies from bar to bar (anywhere from 1-16 grams) and should be supplied by quality fats such as coconut oil, nuts, sesame seeds, and flax seeds.

Protein: This nutrient also varies from bar to bar including anywhere from <1g to 20g per bar. Sources include pea protein, almond butter, peanut butter, quinoa, cricket flour, rice protein concentrate, and whey protein. If you’re focusing on recovery nutrition, a bar high in protein (such as Hammer Whey Bar at 20g) is a great choice. 

Gluten Free: If gluten is something you’re avoiding or trying to limit, look for the gluten free symbol for each bar and refer to our chart. 

Bottom Line

We love the convenience and variety of energy bars, and with so many options available, you can find a bar that fits your needs whether you’re running a race, competing in a triathlon or simply need a quick snack or meal on the go. We look first to the ingredients listed to ensure they are quality ingredients, and then assess what we need based on our calorie requirements and carbohydrate needs. We recommend testing this out, as everyone’s needs differ based on a variety of factors. Then comes the easy part – taste and enjoy! Each bar differs in their texture and taste – and we recommend checking out our comparison chart then trying several to find the best bar for you.



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