Just grab a sports bar and go, right? What about when you're staring at a rack of these portable snacks, hand hovering in indecision? The next time you're shopping and you feel a glazed look coming on, whip out this page and don't be afraid to ask a few questions
Just grab a sports bar and go, right? What about when you're staring at a rack of these portable snacks, hand hovering in indecision? The next time you're shopping and you feel a glazed look coming on, whip out this page and don't be afraid to ask a few questions.
Basic protein bar: designed to offer a fast, hefty amount of protein, usually 16 to 25 grams, from either whey or soy sources. Whey-sourced protein bars may be slightly more digestible, while soy-based bars, which have usually been processed for better bio-availability, are great for vegetarians or those with dairy intolerances. Use between meals or post workout.
Meal replacement bar: versatile bar containing proteins, fats and carbs, and usually enriched with vitamins and minerals. Meant for those on the go, although most experts don't recommend skipping real meals on a regular basis.
Says Graham Butler, a health food store owner and writer, "True meal replacement bars offer more balanced nutrition, are higher in calories and are suitable for persons involved in activities such as hiking and canoeing."
High protein low-carb bar: promises protein minus the carbs. The catch: most bars contain glycerin, which isn't metabolized as a carb in the strictest sense but is actually higher in calories (4.2 calories per gram) than regular carbs (4.0 calories per gram).
It used to be that manufacturers didn't have to list the amount of glycerin, which meant the bar could be labelled as low-carb. No longer. Brand new regulations require glycerin to be treated as a carbohydrate. What does this mean to the consumer?
"Canadian labelled bars appear to be very high in carbohydrates," says Butler. He points out that the actual formulations of these bars haven't changed.
If all this sounds confusing, consider what Cory Holly does. He's the author of the Canadian Health Food Association's Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor program.
"I just pick up the bar, take the time to read the ingredient panel and determine whether eating the bar will help me achieve my objectives," he says.
That means asking yourself what you want from the bar-quick energy, more protein, meal replacement-and checking out the quality of ingredients. "If the ingredients are superb, the bar will not increase insulin resistance or cause any gastrointestinal complaints," says Holly.
Avoid ingredients such as trans fatty acids (modified or hydrogenated fats), sugar, sucrose, glucose-fructose and casein, he adds.
Butler also recommends being on the lookout for cotton seed oil, which may be contaminated with pesticide residues. "Generally speaking, if a bar contains a lot of ingredients that you are unfamiliar with, be wary," he says.
Other tips from the experts:
Don't consider just taste and texture alone. Take time to evaluate the label for high quality ingredients.
Gently squeeze the bar. Sports bars have a short shelf life and harden over time, so check for an expiration date.
Bars contain no moisture, so to ensure you get the most out of them, drink plenty of water.
Who's Your Exercise Buddy?
If you have problems getting motivated to exercise, here's one solution: Pick up that phone and make a plan with a friend. Surveys show that physical activity levels are related to participating with others. In other words, those who exercise with a partner stay more active. And why not? Someone to talk to and motivate you can make a big difference in helping you stick to your fitness routine.
Test your fitness knowledge by answering true or false to these questions.
Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, clfri.ca.