Monday, March 10, 2014

Post-workout recovery: Finding a better bar

Here are some things we all {should} know:
  • How we recover from a workout can be just as important as the workout itself;
  • A carbohydrate:protein ratio of 4:1, consumed within 30 minutes of exercise, helps the body replace tapped out glycogen stores;
  • Protein shakes and specially formulated recovery drinks are what people want us to think we need after a workout.

One more thing. Not all of us have time for that kind of follow up.

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At least I don't, when you consider that I have negative 15 minutes to get to work from the gym.

So while I'd like to go home, take a hot shower without flip flops and relish a green monster {cue eye roll}, I'll be honest: I don't have time for that shit - at least not until I get my hands on a DeLorean and a sweet puffer vest. So, I do my best and throw in a bar, any bar, that I find in my pantry and manically eat it on my way to work, washing it down with free coffee from the Y.

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The problem with this scenario, though, is that not all bars are created equal. Far from it. Some bars are loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Others have lots of chemicals and a list of ingredients that are harder to pronounce than "refrigerator" with a mouth full of peanut butter. The good ones are pricey, though, and sometimes a calorie BOMB.

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Currently in my house {not including Mark's cereal bars and Miles' granola bars} are Clif Mojo Sweet and Salty, found on clearance at Kroger; Fiber One meal bars, sent to me for free through Bzz Agent; and Kind bars - lots of them as I won two giveaways.

Let's talk about how they stack up:

Clif Mojo 

Nutrition: The bar has 200 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein, making the carb:protein ratio nearly 5:2 and a bit protein-heavy for recovery. The sugar content is manageable at 8 grams, coming from brown rice syrup and, I'm guessing, oat syrup solids. Those are organic, by the way.

Ingredients: The list is good, not great, as there's a lot of recognizable things - almonds, cashews, pecans - but some creepy things such as vegetable glycerin and gum arabic.

Taste: Good but not craveworthy.

Fiber One Meal Bars

Nutrition: 170 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein. Again, this is not a good ratio for recovery - almost 2:1. The sugars ate at 9 grams as is the dietary fiber.

Ingredients: The list is what you would expect out of a mass produced snack found in a traditional aisle at the grocery store. Among them: Sugar, fructose, soy protein isolate, yogurt powder, dipotassium phosphate and  propylene giycol.

Taste: Nasty. So, so nasty. I used to eat Fiber One bars by the truck full during my Weight Watchers days, as the high fiber content kept the points value low. Either my tastes have changed or the ingredients used to make this bar a "meal" have taken away the flavor. It is chalky, hard to chew and has an unpalatable after taste.

Kind bars {Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt}

Nutrition: 200 calories, 16 grams carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein. It needs a few more carbs to be better for recovery but it's not too bad. It also has 5 grams of sugar - lowest of the bunch - and 7 grams of fiber.

Ingredients. Kind gets real - mixed nuts, chicory root fiber, honey, cocoa powder and sea salt. There is some crisp rice, soy lecithin and palm kernel oil, which might be not as good but it's far from being offensive.

Taste. Between the two giveaways, I've tried a good number of flavors and styles of kind - from the Healthy Grains line to the lower in sugar bars. There has not been a single one that I've tried that I didn't like, and the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt is downright addicting.

Other bars that make it in my rotation: Clif, especially the seasonal flavors; Lara ALT - not the uber; Bonk Breakers; Picky Bars; and Luna Protein bars. I am not sure I have a favorite. Wait. I do. It's the one that is on sale.

If you are curious what to look for in a bar, think whole grains, dried fruit and nuts and seeds. A bar with fewer than 300 calories is best, especially if you are looking at it as a snack, and be sure that the sugar content isn't crazy as some can have as much as a candy bar.

Do you have a favorite protein/energy bar? Or, do you get sassy and make your own?


  1. very interesting post! I am always questioning what I eat pre and post workout.

  2. I'm a Kind and Larabar girl. Geez Kind bars are $$$, except I found them for $1 each and loaded up.

    1. YES to the $$$. I am not sure I could afford to eat them after every workout.

  3. Not sure I've seen the kind bars but they sound great. I'm terrible about recovery eating so maybe I should look for those. I do like making "energy balls" but they probably aren't the healthiest.

  4. I actually really like the Clif Mojo bars. A local favorite, Bobo's Oat Bars. They are super calorie dense - like half of one is nearly 200 calories. I never eat just half either, so it has to be a meal with maybe a yogurt with it. I like to make my go-to energy bars but I'm always out of one ingredient when I decide I want them. Of course.

    After hard workouts I like chocolate milk the best or graham crackers with peanut butter or, let's be honest, a spoonful of peanut butter does me just fine.

  5. Larabars! Three to seven item ingredient list, all real food, taste amazing, don't freeze even if it's -10F, and you can occasionally get them on sale for $1 each. No-brainer.

    Picky Bars also taste decent, are gluten and dairy free, agree with my GI tract, and have the magic 4:1 carb:protein ratio.

  6. My usual post workout these days is a small baked sweet potato and a handful of nuts. It should be a sweet potato + a hardboiled egg, but my kids are always eating the eggs.

  7. I like Kind bars, Luna bars and the taste of larabars but they don't keep me full.