For people who are constantly on the go, high-protein foods like energy bars, protein shakes, and energy balls can become a staple in their diet. These snacks can keep you full as you go about your day, but some people may also use them to replace meals. If you are a frequent eater of energy bars, you should be aware of what you are putting in your body, and if it’s good for you.
Read on to learn if energy bars are bad for you, or if they possibly can be a nutritious part of your diet (1).
First of all, it’s important to consider that all energy bars are not built equal. Before deciding if any particular energy bar is good or bad for you, you’ll want to consider the ingredients. In fact, you’ll want to examine the entirety of the nutrition label before purchasing a bar at the store.
When looking at a label, in general, the fewer ingredients listed, the better. This is because with foods like an energy bar, it’s easy for more ingredients to be snuck in without your knowledge. Many ingredients can be fine in small amounts, or in different foods, but in energy bars, hidden ingredients can equate to hidden sugars.
If energy bars are a core part of your diet, they should only be acting as a snack - not a meal. Many people try to replace meals with energy bars, but that can lead to adverse effects. Energy bars can be a good way to get a boost of energy before a workout, or to tide over your appetite in between meals. If you try to make an energy bar become a meal, it’s more than likely that you’ll be hungry for more food later. So, rather than eating a hearty and filling meal, you will have eaten a calorie-dense energy bar, plus whichever snack you choose to go alongside it.
The concept of volume eating is important to consider here. If you eat an energy bar, you are eating calorie-dense, low-volume food. So, while you may be eating 100-400 calories, your body does not fully recognize that it has received this amount. However, if you eat a mass volume of low-calorie food, like broccoli, you will feel fuller for longer, haven eaten fewer calories (2).
So, as mentioned, energy bars can help you in a pinch, but it’s best they don’t become an everyday food option for you. One of the best times to have an energy bar are before a workout, particularly if you don’t have enough time to make a meal. If you are currently bulking or trying to put on muscle, energy bars can be a good way to ensure your calorie intake is high enough each day to account for the energy you’re exerting.
There are new energy bars coming out all the time, but some of the best ones currently on the market are RXBars, Larabars, GoMacro bars, and ALOHA bars (3).