Energy Bars, Gels and Drinks

Food is so important to any athlete and as I have gotten older, I have found that my body needs a lot more TLC that when I was in my 20s. For example, last year while training for a half Marathon my iron levels fell dangerously low.  I don’t eat meat and I eat very little fish so I have to be careful about my protein and iron. Energy bars can be a great addition to my diet for supplementing where I may be weak and for simply providing more energy when I am on the go or between workouts.

Unfortunately, most of the literature I have read about these bars, drinks and gels is that most of the “energy” products and supplements are full of sugar and chemicals.  As it is unlikely that I am going to produce my own natural granola bar, the last time I was in the US I went to the local heath stores and bought almost one of every energy bar I saw.  I tried to be conscious of how much sugar, animal products or unpronounceable items were listed in the ingredients but I still felt lost.

Some of the bars that I tried include: Luna, Cliff, PowerBar, Probar, LaraBar, Raw Revolution, Vega Energy Bar, Balance Bar

Honestly, they all seemed just like the Special K Breakfast Bars or like weightlifters food.  While the Luna and Balance had been favorites because of the taste, I have recently found them too filling and too much like candy bars – no surprise that even Snickers has an “energy bar” product.  The Cliff Bar really stands out to me because it feels hearty, homemade and doesn’t fill overfill me. I stick to few flavors; Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate or Peanut Butter and most of the literature I have read has been positive about the product. I also like the Vega Energy bar as I am trying to eat more Vegan and edible products in this category are far and in between.  Unfortunately these products are not available in Barcelona, so I buy in bulk and fill my suitcase when I am in the States.

As for gels, I just stay clear of them. I mean, is there anything natural about them? On the 10K Sitges swim earlier this month, I had some gel that tasted like cola and some orange drink and they both just about made me sick during the swim.  I now stick to water and bananas as I wait for something better to arrive.

I would love suggestions, experiences and nutritional content tips for choosing an energy bars or energy supplements and drinks. But not from distributors or product reps please!

Categories: Products, Races, Training

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. You could make your own squares or bars, excluding ingredients that you can’t or shouldn’t have for medical, allergic or experiential reasons.

    Here are some I might personally experiment with in making squares or spheres, but would not tell others to do unless it was cleared with their doc and their own experience:

    oat & / or multi-grain cereals w/ flaxseed (I like Bob’s brand)
    olive oil
    nut spread that works for you (almond, peanut etc.)
    sea salt
    banana puree
    touch of fresh garlic?
    bee pollen?

    Research whether there are any ingredients that would NOT be recommended (if any) for someone swimming in the sea, or competing in a race.

    Here is a piece on eating for open swims by a veteran whose experience may help:

    Done sparingly, finely ground espresso or chocolate might add a boost if you can have same. Moderation is the key. Just an accent on the main ingredients.

    Might also look into Oat Milk. Has good calcium in it, but can’t vouch for it as an ingredient in homemade training snacks / bars.

    Mix and match & experiment. Can you make cubes? Spheres? What sticks best? What carries best without turning into a mess…& make sure to date your final product to know when best to dispose of them. Too much sugar, too much fat?

    A friend of mine swears olive oil grants super powers — energy, but different people may respond differently. Your thoughts?

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