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Homemade Energy Bars

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Homemade Energy Bars

Sports Bars
Sports bars are convenient sources of energy, but there's nothing magical about them, says Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., and an associate professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Some manufacturers want you to believe that their products can make you stronger, faster, or leaner, but that isn't necessarily so. A piece of fruit, a bagel, oatmeal, toast, fig bars, or any other high-carb, low-fat food works just as well, "but aren't as convenient as commercial energy bars," says Rosenbloom.

Eaten before or during sports, "performance" bars provide easily digestible carbohydrates, which are burned as fuel by muscles. Small amounts of protein and fat can also help delay fatigue by sparing carbohydrates during lower intensity workouts. During high-intensity workouts, protein and fat are inefficient energy sources, so they aren't recommended.

Intensity is everything
Choosing what and how much to eat during exercise has a lot to do with your fitness level and goals. If you're an endurance athlete working out for more than three hours per session at moderate to high intensity, you need to eat during exercise.

If you're exercising to lose weight and aren't spending more than two hours per exercise session, you don't have to worry about eating while exercising. "Many people sabotage their diets by thinking that they have to eat like an endurance athlete, when they're not," notes Rosenbloom. "If you eat 200 to 400 calories with at least 50 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein, and the remainder from fat, you probably won't need any additional fuel during exercise lasting up to three hours."

We asked leading sports nutritionists--Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., author of Power Eating [PROD: link to Human Kinetics book on our site]; Susan Kundrat, M.S., R.D., L.D.; and Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D.--to suggest some good recipes for workout food. What you find may surprise you. For each high-energy option, we'll explain what makes it a good choice and for which sports it's best.

No-bake power bites
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup figs (stemmed)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup wheat germ
5 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

In food processor, combine first five ingredients. Process until dough forms a ball. In small bowl, mix the crumbs and lemon juice. Roll dough into 1" balls and coat with crumbs. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Makes 4 balls.

Nutritional info per ball: 240 calories; 54g carbohydrates; 2.5g fat; 5.5g protein

Dried fruit provides the bulk of the carbohydrates and calories in the bites. Because it contains a significant amount of fiber (more than 8 grams per serving), they are best eaten before and during sports that do not stimulate the gastrointestinal tract. These sports would include cycling, swimming, and hiking. They may not settle in your stomach if you're going to participate in high-impact types of activities such as running or aerobics.

Cereal bars
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/8 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup Grape Nuts

Preheat oven to 400. Set aside 2 tablespoons Grape Nuts. In bowl, blend all ingredients. Roll dough into 2" by 1/2" balls. Press into rectangular bars. Coat bars with remaining Grape Nuts and place on nonstick cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely before eating. Store in airtight container for up to a week. Makes 18 bars.

Nutritional info per bar: 90 calories; 17g carbohydrates; 2g fat; 2g protein

These bars are lower in calories than many commercial sports bars but they provide a similar ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

-Susan Kleiner


Lemon-orange sports drink
Water
1 caffeine-free lemon tea bag
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons orange juice

Bring 16 ounces of water to a boil. Steep lemon tea bag. Dissolve sugar and salt in the tea and let cool. Combine the tea and orange juice and chill.

Nutritional info per 8 ounce serving: 60 calories; less than 1g protein; 15g carbohydrates; 130mg sodium; less than 1g fat

Although you won't taste it, a scant amount of sodium is added to the recipe to help keep you better hydrated. Working out for long periods of time without adequate sodium levels can cause the blood sodium levels to drop to dangerously low levels. Drink this homemade concoction before, during, or after working out.

-Susan Kleiner


Bag-and-go mix
1 cup roasted salted soy nuts
2 cups cereal (Frosted Mini Wheats, Chex, or Raisin Bran)
1 cup raisins or any dried fruit
1 cup mini pretzels

Nutrition info per 1 cup mix: 375 calories; 52g carbohydrate; 10g protein;14g fat

Soy nuts or any other type of nuts can be used in this recipe. A cup of any type of nuts contains more than 700 calories, primarily fat calories. Therefore, trail mixes are best used for long distance low-intensity sports such as bike touring or hiking, where the body is working in a primarily aerobic state so that the body can efficiently burn fat for fuel. Since nuts are dense in nutrients, they are good to snack on during multiday hiking or cycling trips where you must carry your food.

-Susan Kundrat


Banana goo
In a blender, combine two bananas and 1tablespoons peanut butter and blend until smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag or tube and eat as needed.

Nutritional info for entire serving: 310 calories; 10g protein; 66g carbohydrates; 9g fat

This homemade gel is high in carbohydrate and provides moderate amounts of protein and fat. Because it contains 9 grams of fat, it is not recommended for high-intensity running or cycling because fat delays stomach emptying. However, if you want a gel to use when hiking or doing lower-intensity workouts, this is a good option. You can also make this low in fat by substituting peanut butter with chocolate syrup for banana-chocolate flavored goo.

-Susan Kundrat

Graham cracker and jelly squares
Spread one side of entire graham cracker (four rectangles) with 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam. Place another graham cracker on top. Break in half.

Each half provides: 114 calories; 24g carbohydrate; 1g protein; 1g fat

This is an easy, high-carb, and virtually fat-free snack that's low in calories. You can add peanut butter, raisins, banana slices, or nuts or seeds to the jelly to add more calories, flavor, or texture.

-Susan Kundrat

Other good choices
Low-fat muffins or crackers
Animal crackers
Pretzels
Saltines
Low-fat Pop-Tarts
Fig bars


Although these foods are not nutritional all-stars, they can be bought at virtually any grocery store or deli and they're a lot less expensive than sports bars. All are high in carbohydrates and low in fat and can be used for most sports of moderate intensity. Fig bars, cookies, and crackers are best for cycling or jogging while the others are most appropriate for activities where you can use both hands to eat.

  

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