by Matthew Kadey
Hungry cyclists usually have no trouble finding high-energy grub on the go. They can simply swing by the supermarket, health food shop or even the gas station for convenient, compact energyon- the-go. There are many energy bars on store shelves, each with its own hook. Some tempt you with a promise to fuel your ride or spur muscle growth. Other bars are geared toward providing a meal in a hurry or accelerating fat loss. Instead of being lured by sales pitches and flashy packaging, use these rules to raise the bar and pick the best one to sink your teeth into.
Rule 1: Less is more
More and more bar manufacturers are following the lead of forwardthinking Larabar by scaling back their ingredients into only items your grandma would recognize. The best bars have an all-natural mix of whole foods, such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oats and nut butters. In general, the longer the ingredient list, the more likely you’ll find nutritional fluff gluing things together, such as soy protein crisps, fractionated palm oil and cane juice syrup.
Rule 2: Taste matters
With so much competition in the marketplace, there is now no reason to settle for a bar that does not play well on your taste buds. Gone are the days when you had to settle for bars that were drier than the Sahara. Generally, whole foods–based bars with an ingredient list that does not read like a chemistry quiz are the most palate-pleasing.
Rule 3: Don’t shun protein and fat
Many cyclists are obsessed with taking in enough carbohydrates while riding hard. Yet, some protein and fat can provide valuable calories during long rides, not to mention keep your appetite from waning in response to overindulging on sugar-bomb bars. Still, carbs are the primary bonk-preventing fuel for working muscles. A rule of thumb: if you’re selecting a bar as a riding fuel shot, choose one with about 10 g of protein and 7 g of fat for every 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrate. A bar with some protein is also important after a ride as it will accelerate muscle recovery.
Rule 4: Play the field
Use your training rides as an opportunity to experiment with a few different bars. Find what works best when it’s consumed before, during or after a ride. You don’t want anything that will cause your stomach to cry foul. Some people can handle more protein, fibre and fat, while others are best served by sticking with bars that are mostly fastdigesting carbohydrates.
Rule 5: Coating is not your friend
The last thing you probably want to do on a ride is rip open your bar package only to discover a chocolate mess. Steer clear of bars with any sort of coating that is prone to melting, such as chocolate or faux yogurt. Besides, the ingredients used in these coatings is often sketchy.
Rule 6: Don’t become a bar slave
Since energy bars are so convenient, it’s easy to rely on them for quick snacks or post-ride fuel. But no matter how healthy the ingredients, bars should never be a dietary staple. Use them only as a supplement to a healthy, whole foods–based diet.
DIY Fruity Nut Bars
These “scarfworthy” bars – with their nutrient-rich mix of real food – are just the ticket for cyclists on the go. During rides, keep a stash in a resealable plastic bag in your jersey pocket. They’re also great for a quick snack.
1 cup walnuts or almonds
2 cups rolled or quick-cook oats
1 cup dried plums (prunes), chopped
⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp sea salt
Chop the nuts in a food processor until they are cut into small pieces. Add oats, dried plums, coconut oil, honey, ginger, cinnamon and salt to the processor. Process until the mixture is moist and sticks together when pinched between your fingers.
Place the mixture in a greased or parchment-lined square baking pan and press the mix down firmly into an even layer about ½-inch thick. Place the pan in the freezer for one hour to firm up and then slice into 12 bars. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutritional Information for one bar
Carbs 26 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Protein 4 g
Fibre 3 g