Who doesn’t love the convenience of an energy bar? But, do you find yourself with a case of decision fatigue trying to choose the “right” one? Energy bars can be a great option – but, you need to know how to properly select the best one for your needs! With shelves and shelves of options at your  grocery store, this post will help you navigate your options.
3 energy bars
To begin, you will need to familiarize yourself with two areas of your bar 1. Nutrition Facts Panel 2. Ingredient List

food label from energy bar

Candy Bar? Or Energy Bar?

Many energy bars have enough added sugar to equal a candy bar. Select whole-fruit, natural sweeteners such as dates or other dried fruits when possible. Energy bars made with artificial sweeteners may cause GI upset in some people. A good rule of thumb is to look at the ingredients for the number of sugar sources; if there are more than 3 sources of sugar, the added sweeteners to that bar might be too high. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 10% of our total calories come from added sugar; that’s 200 calories for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet. A quick go-to guide:

  • Less than 6 grams of added sugar per 100 calories
  • Or sugar isn’t one of the top 2 ingredients

Match The Energy Bar to Your Goals:

Pre-Workout Fuel

If you are using a bar as a pre-workout fuel, aim for a bar with 15-45 grams of carbohydrates. In this case, fiber is not as high of a priority; the body needs quick energy to perform. Protein and fat needs could be a minimum. We like Clif, Bobo’s Bars or Fig Bars for pre-workout options.

bobo's original bar

Post-Workout Fuel

If your noshing after your workout, opt for a bar with both carbs and protein. After a workout, the body generally needs around 0.25 g/kg of body weight. For a 160 pound athlete, this would be 18 grams of protein for optimal recovery. Don’t forget the carbs! Depending on the intensity or duration of the workout, you might need anywhere between 15-60 grams of carb in your bar. Our post-workout choices are Clif Protein Bars, Oatmega Bars and RX Bars.

clif protein bar

Quick, On-the-Go Snacking

The reason I usually grab a bar is when I’m in need of a super quick snack with some staying power. In this case, aim for a bar made with mostly whole-food ingredients (nuts, seeds, dried fruit), a bar with at least 3-5 grams of fiber and 5-10 grams of protein. Plus some healthy fats from nuts, needs or olive/canola oil. This ingredient combination will ensure you stay full longer and can make it to dinner without being ravenous! For a small snack, you might look for a bar with under 150 calories. For a more substantial snack, you might choose a bar with between 200-300 calories. Our faves are the RX bars and Larabars.

RX bar

Lastly, pick a bar you enjoy!

You might not personally enjoy every bar, and that’s okay! Pick a bar with a flavor and texture that makes eating it enjoyable.
dietitian's top energy bar

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.