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How to Choose the Best Energy Bars

Posted by Team Veloforte on
Choosing the best energy bar

Choose an energy bar that will provide the right amount of carbohydrate energy for your exercise, preferably from natural sources. Find a bar that’s easy to digest and that you enjoy eating.

There are all sorts of energy bars on the market, and choosing can be daunting. Luckily, we’ve got everything you need to know about choosing the right energy bar for your sport, your goals and your dietary needs.

What types of energy bars are there?

Has the variety of different bars available got you asking, “what are energy bars anyway?”

Carbohydrate-based bars

The majority of energy bars fall in this category. When you exercise, your body burns carbohydrates (as well as its natural fat stores). Carbohydrates deplete quickly, so it’s important to not run out or you’ll be left feeling tired, hungry and unable to go on.

Carbohydrates in these bars can come from a number of sources, which we’ll explore below. 

Low carb or keto bars

Low calorie or low carb bars are not a useful alternative to carbohydrate-based bars. They are usually designed and marketed as ‘healthy’ snacks, but many are loaded with questionable artificial ingredients and offer no real nutritional or performance value.

Similarly, bars marketed as ‘keto’ or ‘paleo’ tend to be high in fat and low in carbohydrates — based on the idea that you can train your body to fuel itself solely with fat. While the keto diet has its devoted fans, there’s little evidence to support its health claims or long-term benefits.

Protein bars

Not a true energy bar, protein bars are designed to deliver a quick hit of protein which your body can absorb and use for muscle recovery after exercise.

You can, however, find bars that combine carbohydrate energy with protein, which can be very useful for post-workout recovery and for endurance fuelling.

Meal replacement bars

‘Meal replacement bars’ usually contain a decent balance of carbs, protein and fat, and are sold as a quick and easy option for people with no time for breakfast or lunch. The quality of ingredients can vary greatly.

If you’re able, have a meal. If not, then a natural bar with a good nutritional balance isn’t a bad second choice.

Choosing energy bars for different sports

Depending on your sport, you’ll have slightly different needs in your energy bar, affected by the length and intensity of your training sessions.

We’ve taken a deeper dive into how energy bars work here.

HIIT and fitness

For very short workouts you may not need any fuel at all, as your body’s natural glycogen stores will provide all you need.

Often you’ll need a quick boost of energy before a session. Here, glucose and fructose can work wonders, being quicker to absorb and use than some other carbs. So look for bars that can provide those.

Energy bar after fitness

Cycling, running, swimming and other sports

Cyclists, runners, swimmers and other athletes often find themselves right in the fuelling ‘sweet spot’. Exercise of 90 minutes or more will require fuel of some kind.

Look for easily digestible carbohydrates. Bonus points if it offers dual-source carbs that will give a quick energy boost and slower-release energy too.

If your bar contains around 40g of carbohydrates, split it into halves or thirds and take on some of it every 20 minutes.

Energy bar for cycling

Enduro, triathlon and ultrarunning

At the long end of the endurance scale, you’ll need to make sure you’re taking on an even greater amount and variety of foods and nutrients. Opt for bars with a diverse nutritional profile. You’ll need some protein, fat and salt (or other electrolytes) as well as carbohydrates.

Finding a bar that you really enjoy to eat is key. Variety and flavour can give a real motivational boost on long workouts. And be sure to incorporate real foods into your fuelling too: bananas, nut butter sandwiches, maybe even a slice of cake...

Energy bar after triathlon

Choosing a bar to fit your goals

Going faster

Okay, so a bar can’t make you faster. But you’re looking for something easily digestible that will sit easily on the stomach and won’t cause discomfort or bloating. A straight-up carbohydrate bar with some quick-release energy from glucose will serve you well.

Going longer

Looking to ride, run or swim further? Look for a bar with some longer-release carbohydrates. Mix in some bars with protein, fats and salts too.

Getting stronger

Looking for a recovery bar that will help replenish carbs and also give your muscles what they need to repair and recover stronger? Find a bar with a carbohydrate/protein combo.

Staying fit and healthy

Energy bars on their own won’t help you achieve a particular physique or fitness goal. But they’re a great partner to your active lifestyle.

If you’re looking for bars for snacking, be aware that the carbohydrate levels tend to be high. Don’t snack on energy bars too frequently, and opt for a natural choice which will deliver some vitamins and minerals too.

Choosing a high quality bar

Real food is best

Our bodies are excellent at taking food and turning it into energy. Every great sporting achievement in history has been powered by food.

Often athletes feel they need to sacrifice the taste, texture and digestibility of real food for the performance of synthetic energy bars and products. Actually, an all-natural energy bar can out-perform an artificial bar without sacrificing excellent flavour.

Real food energy bars

Natural or synthetic ingredients

Scan the energy bar shelf at the supermarket and you’ll find a bewildering array of unrecognisable synthetic ingredients. Artificial sugars and sweeteners, in particular, have been linked with gastric distress like bloating or the dreaded runner’s tummy.

Call us old fashioned, but we’d rather stick to bars with 100% natural ingredients, which we know will be easy to digest and won’t upset our bodies. 

With a short ingredient list, you’ll find it much easier to see whether a bar is vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, or fits your dietary needs.

Taste and texture

There’s a saying in endurance sports: “the best fuel is the one you’re actually going to eat.” If you’re three hours into a ride in the pouring rain, or running across a mountain at 3am, you’re much more likely to eat something that tastes great and has a pleasing texture.

There’s a great psychological reward from knowing you have a great tasting bar to look forward to. In fact, some of our customers have reported going out for a long ride just so they can have a bar on the way!

There’s science behind this too. Digestion begins with the enzyme amylase, which is released in saliva when your body anticipates something good coming its way. So a great tasting bar can get to work quicker simply by being mouthwatering.

Energy bars texture close up

Dry or naturally hydrated

To prolong shelf-life and drive down costs, many mass market energy bars are very dry. Handy for the manufacturer, but much less enjoyable to eat, and more difficult for you to chew, swallow and digest.

Naturally produced energy bars can contain up to seven times more water, usually from fruit, making them easier to eat and absorb, and much more enjoyable. And by using time-tested preserving techniques, they can obtain a long shelf life without artificial preservatives (or the texture of cardboard!).

Fibre, protein and fats

Fat has become something of a divisive word. The body requires fat to function properly, but some fats are more beneficial than others.

During long periods of exercise, taking on some fat, especially unsaturated natural fats, can maintain healthy tissue and organ function. 

Unfortunately, synthetic bars are often bulked out with trans fats from artificially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Conversely, natural bars usually incorporate nuts and seeds, both excellent sources of heart-healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and can positively impact metabolism and cholesterol levels.

Nuts and seeds also provide a ready source of fibre and protein. While too much fibre (eating a load of wholemeal bread during a race, for example) can have detrimental effects, a small amount of natural fibre is ideal, especially during endurance training. 

It’s also important to restock protein during extensive exercise. Our bodies are trained to digest and quickly use protein from natural sources.

Vitamins, mineral, electrolytes and more

Electrolytes are soluble compounds that your body needs to regulate the nervous system and muscle function. Without them your muscles quickly fatigue and you can experience dehydration symptoms like nausea and confusion. For short bursts of exercise, or if you’re taking on electrolytes in a sports drink, you won’t need them in your energy bar. 

For longer workouts and races, a bar with electrolytes can be a vital part of your fuelling. Again, you’ll find an array of electrolytes. Our Avanti bar, for example, uses a sea salt, a naturally occurring electrolyte to keep muscles feeling fresh.

One bonus of natural bars created from fruits and nuts is that they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. It isn’t likely that an extra dose of vitamin C is going to help you smash your PB, but eating natural bars will contribute to your body’s vitamin and mineral levels which can boost your immune system, improve recovery and give all sorts of health benefits. Win win.

A guide to our top energy bars

Classico

Veloforte Classico energy bar

The original, all-natural Veloforte bar. Succulent fruit, zingy citrus, crunchy almonds for texture. Delivers all the energy you need, with absolutely zero preservatives or synthetic ingredients.

Provides 40g of dual-source carbohydrates, with a taste and texture you’ll actually look forward to eating.

A two star Great Taste Award winner.

Mocha

Veloforte Mocha energy bar

The Mocha is a real crowd-pleaser. It features a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, making it an ideal bar for energy and healthy recovery.

It’s gluten free, vegan and combines the indulgent taste of toasted hazelnut butter, coffee and cocoa. Ideal within 30 minutes of your workout.

Avanti

Veloforte Avanti energy bar

Dates, pecans and Himalayan sea salt make Avanti a soft, chewy, delicious and slightly salty wonder bar.

Avanti is excellent for endurance and longer workouts, combining an optimal balance of rich carbohydrate sources with natural fat from pecans and pure sea salt electrolytes.

A two star Great Taste Award winner.

Di Bosco

Veloforte Di Bosco energy bar

Luscious red berries combine with delicate pistachios in the Di Bosco bar, delivering 40g of carbohydrates from glucose and fructose to keep your energy up. 

It’s vegan, gluten free, totally free of preservatives and synthetic ingredients. Just the thing to keep your spirits up on a ride or run.

A two star Great Taste Award winner.

Forza

Veloforte Forza energy bar

Squidgy apricots, toothsome almonds and… fennel? Forza is a delicious sweet and savoury combo in your mouth, guaranteed to keep your fuelling interesting.

It also provides an easily digestible 3:1 combo of natural carbs and complete protein (from egg whites, so this one isn’t vegan). Great for energy. Great for recovery.

A Great Taste Award gold winner.

Zenzero

Veloforte Zenzero energy bar

Another totally vegan and gluten free bar, the Zenzero gets it easily accessible carbs from soft dried fruits, which are given a mood boosting kick from ginger and Sicilian lemons. This one’s like a sunny day, even if it’s cold out.

Expect 100% natural dual-source carbs and nothing artificial.

A Great Taste Award gold winner.

Ciocco

Veloforte Ciocco energy bar

All the goodness of a Veloforte bar, with extra chocolatey-ness. Dates, almonds and cocoa combine for all natural energy to keep you going, with a flavour you can’t get enough of.

Ciocco will give you 40g of carbs. Or break it into thirds for a steady supply every 20 minutes.

A two star Great Taste Award winner.

Mixed Energy Bars Pack

Veloforte mixed energy bar pack

Can’t decide? You don’t need to. Get one of each of our award-winning, naturally powerful energy bars.

They’re all dairy free, gluten free and vegetarian. Get energised the right way.

Vegan Energy Bars Pack

Veloforte Vegan energy bar pack

Get the family of Veloforte vegan bars. All the energy, all the flavour, all plant based, and with zero artificial ingredients or nasty surprises.