Do you always find yourself at the nutrition center or gym grabbing a quick snack before you workout? Whether or not you’ve skipped breakfast or lunch, your body will still need some extra nutrition to fuel through a heavy duty workout. A protein bar is a quick and easy fix! It’s a healthy alternative to either a high-calorie fast food meal or low-calorie salad that you packed for the day. It will help your body replace nutrients and assist with recharging properly after your favorite pilates or high-intensity interval training. There are several different bars on the market today. So which one do you choose? Don’t make it too complicated, just learn some basic facts and experiment until you find the perfect go-to bar to always keep on hand.
Pea, Egg or Whey?
Your body needs essential proteins while building muscle, losing fat and recovering from a strenuous workout, so it’s best to find a protein bar to boost energy levels before you work out. Pea, egg and whey-based bars pack a lot of protein in a calorie-controlled snack. They are the perfect ingredients to look for when selecting a bar at the store. But is one protein bar better than the other?
Let’s start with pea-based. A pea-based protein bar is an excellent selection if you have an underlying issue with food allergies or adverse reactions to hidden fillers. Dairy and gluten free, you can be assured that this type of protein bar won’t cause any underlying reaction after you eat it. Pea protein-based bars are not only great pre-workout, they are also fantastic for a pick me up when you’re done exercising or training. Eating a pea-based bar high in protein anytime before you exercise may make it easier for your body to better absorb amino acids immediately after your muscles have been worked hard. This could encourage better post-workout muscle recovery. In many cases, most protein bars and shakes can often trigger bloating and some gastrointestinal distress with sensitive individuals. A pea protein bar is dairy-free and vegan-friendly — making it a top choice for vegetarians and vegans who also love to workout and crave a boost of energy before raising their heart rate.
Egg is always a popular protein bar choice for the workout enthusiast. If you have a full schedule this week with your personal trainer, pack some egg-based protein bars in your bag. Egg offers the opportunity to promote lean body mass gain and one serving of egg protein can give you up to 6 grams of high-quality protein and contains B12 for added energy to get you through a high powered workout, along with riboflavin and folic acid to boost antioxidant function. Many protein bars contain egg protein as one of the main ingredients, so if you are looking to stay lean while putting in a strong workout, egg may be a good option for you.
Whey is found in milk. So if you’re a believer in milk actually does the body good, choose whey protein bars to get your cycling warmup off to a good start. Whey is a processed part of milk that contains the bulk of the protein that’s formed easily into a powder to place into shakes and bars. It offers more taste and appeal than egg and pea-based bars, and is a good alternative if you’re leaning more toward flavor than anything else.
To Carb Or Not To Carb
That is the question. With many low-carbohydrate diets being implemented into workout routines, some protein bars are also geared toward those following this type of diet. When considering a protein bar that is low carb, pay close attention to net impact carbs. These are the number of total carbs to consume minus the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols contained in the product. The goal is to keep net carbs down to a minimum to encourage weight loss. If you’re not following a strict low carbohydrate diet, another consideration is to alternate low carb with high carb bars pre-workout and keep a log of your results. This will help determine what combination of protein and carbohydrate works best for your weight loss or weight maintenance regimen.
Protein bars are just a small part of the total picture when it comes to reaching your overall nutrition and physical goals. “The realization of any goal is possible when your body mechanics are optimized, your workouts are planned and progressive, and your diet and lifestyle are structured to amplify your efforts in the gym.” explains Carl Israelsson, from LaJolla Sports Club. When you grab a protein bar, how many vitamins and minerals it contains is important when it comes to getting the most out of your workout. Vitamins are considered micro-nutrients—meaning they work together to support energy and boost your metabolism. As you sweat, you lose a lot of electrolytes and important minerals that are important to muscle repair and weight loss. Some of the key electrolytes lost in strenuous activities include:
Replacing the lost electrolytes can be done through a replacement drink or a protein bar. Look for protein bars that contain the daily recommended portion for essential vitamins and mineral replacement in your body. These pre-workout bars likely contain fewer preservatives and more raw nutrients to help fuel your exercise regimen. While you can’t replace all of your electrolytes with protein bars alone, they may a great accompaniment to your favorite electrolyte replenishment drink.
Choosing organic ingredients is important, especially if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. Supplements that contain chemical based ingredients can have adverse side effects in sensitive individuals and affect your overall performance in the gym. Look for natural ingredients in bars that are recognizable and easy to read, like honey and fruit. Stay away from inorganic and possibly unhealthy ingredients, including:
- Inulin- a starchy substance used as a filler in processed foods
- High fructose corn syrup
- Sucralose and saccharin
- Fractionated palm kernel oil
Bars with these types of emulsifiers and fillers may cause you to feel ill and make it difficult to get through your favorite yoga program. In some cases, artificial sweeteners can also stall weight loss, promote tiredness and put you at risk for certain types of cancers and heart disease. Stick with bars that have minimal sugar, low carb counts and are high in fiber.
Watch Out For Fats
Many protein bars may promote a healthy meal replacement, but they can be loaded with hidden fats. Partially hydrogenated fats and fillers are found in many granola and protein energy bars. While it can be difficult to find protein bars that are low or no-fat, without artificial sweeteners, there are still a lot available on the market, especially those with more organic fats including grass-fed butter. If you’re uncertain what’s in your bar, try a homemade recipe, like one from the Daily Burn, to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting with each bite.
Stretching, proper technique and timeframes are vital to getting the most out of your workout. Don’t forget about what you eat and what powers you to get you through your exercise session.
Do you have a favorite protein bar? Do you make your own protein bars? Let us know all about it in the comments section below!
// Your La Jolla Sports Club team