How to Choose the Best Energy Bar

Do you feel overwhelmed by how many protein/energy bars there are on the market?! What ingredients should you be looking for? Which should you try to stay away from? Today I’ll be sharing some tips to make your shopping a whole lot easier!
Navigating the Food Label

NUTRITION FACTS – This is where macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and their amounts are listed on the back of the label. While all three of these macronutrients are important, the necessary amounts vary from person to person depending on health status, lifestyle, and activity level. Certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are also listed on the food label. If a food contains 10-19% of the daily value of a nutrient, like Vitamin C, it is considered to be a “good source”. If it contains 20% or more, it’s considered an “excellent source”. Look for bars with at least 4 grams of protein (ideally >10 grams), and if you plan to use it as a pre or post-workout snack, at least 20 grams of carbohydrates.

THE INGREDIENT LIST – Before I look at the nutrition facts, I first inspect the ingredients. This will tell you where those grams are coming from. For example, are the grams of sugar coming from whole food sources like dates? Or from refined sugar and corn syrup? And are the fats coming from whole food sources like nuts and seeds? Or hydrogenated oils?
I recommend avoiding bars marketed as being ‘low carb’ or ‘low sugar’ before workouts as they often contain artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and synthetic fibers that can cause GI issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea) mid-workout. Tolerance level of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols will vary depending on the athlete.
Ingredients are listed in order by weight. Heavier, denser ingredients will be listed first followed by lighter ingredients. For example, ½ cup of brown rice syrup weighs the same as 2 cups of oats, so even if a product uses more oats than brown rice syrup, the syrup will be listed first due to weight.

Look for Whole Food Ingredients

What’s it mean when I say look for ‘whole food’ ingredients? Here are some examples:

CARBOHYDRATES –

  • Dates
  • Dried unsweetened fruits
  • Whole-grain sources like oats, brown rice
PROTEIN –
  • Pea protein
  • Brown rice protein
  • Egg whites
  • Whey Protein Isolate – Whey is derived from dairy. Whey protein isolate has a higher protein to carbohydrate/fat ratio compared to whey protein concentrate. Thus, making whey protein isolate a higher quality protein source.
HEALTHY FATS –
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters (ex: peanut butter, almond butter)
  • Seeds
Ingredients to Avoid
Gastrointestinal issues may occur when a product contains additives and artificial sweeteners, preservatives, etc. This is especially true for athletes suffering from digestive disorders such as IBS.
Ingredients I recommend avoiding include:

HYDROGENATED OILS – Used to extend shelf life, this type of fat has been shown to increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while actually lowering your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and have been linked to cancer. You find hydrogenated oils in products like packaged cookies, candy, crackers, etc. but can also see these oils in performance bars. Instead look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and nut butters.HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP & ADDED SUGAR – It’s important to know that sugar has many, many names – there are over 60 synonyms for added sugar. Again, it is important to read the ingredient list because companies and manufacturers will use multiple names in an attempt to disguise how much sugar is in their product.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS & SUGAR ALCOHOLS – Companies can get away with labeling their product ‘sugar-free’ or ‘0g added sugar’ by using artificial sweeteners (Sucralose, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium) and sugar alcohols (Erythritol, Xylitol). Artificial sweeteners in excess can have a negative impact on the gut microbiome, which plays a major role in your immune system and brain health. Instead, opt for energy bars with sugars such as honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, or date sugar.
SYNTHETIC FIBERS – Synthetic fibers like soluble corn fiber and inulin may also lead to GI distress, especially in athletes with IBS. Fiber is essential for proper digestion and maintaining blood sugar levels. Opt for natural sources like fruits and vegetables, oats, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
A few brands to check out that I often recommend to clients include:
GoMacro, Larabar, RXbar, Perfect Bar, Health Warrior, EPIC, and Picky Bars

Energy bars definitely come in handy for athletes trying to put on weight! With how calorie-dense most bars are, it’s an easy way to get more calories in without feeling overly full. Just 2 Perfect Bars = 640 calories! But you can also see now why eating too many can make weight loss more difficult.Bars can be a convenient snack between meals, when you’re on-the-go or pre/post-workout, but they shouldn’t replace an entire meal and I don’t recommend them for every snack multiple times a day. Opt for whole food snacks like a banana with peanut butter, or an apple with hard-boiled eggs.

Want to try making your own energy bars at home? Try this recipe for my Snickerdoodle energy bars!

Angie Asche is the owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition. She is a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, and personal trainer that provides nutrition counseling virtually to professional athletes across the country. You can follow her on social media here.

My First Ever Blog Post…

My First Ever Blog Post…

With a newfound career, the launch of our new website and new direction of our gym I wanted to share some thoughts on this journey and how we got here. In 2015, I distinctly remember watching the CrossFit Games on TV. Seeing what humans were able to accomplish during these grueling workouts gave me a new perspective on life. At that time I had been doing my regular workout routines at the gym. 10 years of lifting weights 3 days a week, cardio 2 days a week, and anything else that qualified as being active was something I was dedicated too; however, once I saw what these athletes were doing at the Crossfit Games I knew there was more potential to unlock. Heading into the gym for the first time after seeing the Games I asked the owner whether getting CrossFit in his gym was something he had thought about. Fortunately for me he had and was already prepping the gym to bring in a local CrossFit gym to take up the back space. Before I get into that though I want to backtrack to a couple years prior…

I actually had heard of CrossFit before and was getting a little bored with my current routine. I decided to contact a local CrossFit Gym (CrossFit Perrysburg) and see what they had to offer. I went through two free sessions to evaluate my movements and to work on some mobility. I liked what I had done and asked about their membership pricing. I was floored at the prices they were charging. I certainly couldn’t afford it so I didn’t sign up and went back to my regular routine. Little did I know that price should never come between you and your fitness goals. Everyone needs a fitness coach and the best ones are certainly worth the price.

Back to my “second” CrossFit experience. CrossFit Crowned (formerly CrossFit Perrysburg) was now moved into the gym I was at and I noticed that it was the same people I had worked with a couple years prior. I couldn’t help but be amazed with all of the things the athletes at this gym were doing. I would continue to do my regular routine as I watched in awe at what the “CrossFit people” were doing. I knew then I had to join. I went home one night and told my wife that I wanted to try this out. There was a fee for personal training to get me ready for classes, and it was expensive, but nothing was going to stop me this time. I think my family gave me some money for my birthday so I could try it out. Upon my first hour of training not only was I hooked, but I had learned more about the body and how it is supposed to move than I had in 4 years of training for high school sports, 10 years of working out at the gym, and even a personal training certification I had acquired a year prior. I remember thinking everything I had learned before was wrong. CrossFit was the answer and I needed to continue to seek out more information and more training. After my PT sessions I told my wife I needed to try the 3-month commitment. It was expensive, but she could tell how much it meant to me. So…I joined. I loved every second of CrossFit. The workouts were intense, but really fun. I felt I was doing things I had never even dreamed of doing. In the first month I came home and wrote down all the goals I had for myself. Those certainly included fitness goals, but one of those goals was going to be the toughest to achieve…become a gym owner by 2018. My friends can probably tell you they remember seeing that on my refrigerator. I had to do this. Fitness was my passion and I finally had a roadmap to achieve my dream. The big question to answer though was how…

As I continued to try and figure how to make my dream come true an opportunity all of a sudden presented itself. Friends of ours who owned part of the CrossFit Crowned asked if I would be interested in buying out their share of the gym and become part owner. I thought…”this is it!” I could now see a way through. I was so worried that I would need to start a gym from my garage in order to make my dream come true. That thought weighed on me because with so much to do in a situation like that where do you start. Now I didn’t have to worry about that. So many thoughts went through my head on how to make it happen and also what it would take. So, I jumped right in. Once I made the decision to move forward another opportunity presented itself. During our discussion of buying out a portion of ownership in the gym the majority owner gave us news that he intended to leave in the next 18 months and wanted to be bought out as well. What an opportunity I thought. I could own this whole gym myself and finally my dream would be fully realized. This was it…again! How could I make this happen…again! Well I did, I found a way. It has been challenging, stressful, and a fun ride to this point. This whole business rest on my shoulders now and I can’t wait to get to work…though, I have been working pretty hard already preparing for this.

Now that I am here I can’t believe it. I want to thank my family who has been instrumental in making this happen. Without their support I couldn’t have done any of it. I also want to thank each and every member of CrossFit Crowned. Every member has been so gracious and kind during this transition. They have put their trust in me and I pray each and every day I can deliver on the promise I set out to make…Get people fit! That is the number one goal. Every decision I make from here on out is to make people better than they are today. I will work hard to make sure the service that CrossFit Crowned provides is the best around. I will deliver the results, all I ask of my CrossFit family is one thing…JUST SHOW UP. We are here to help as long as you are here to get better. We’ll be here every day thinking of you!

God Bless,

Matt Williams – Owner of CrossFit Crowned