You be the judge

Energy bars that pack a punch: Which one is best for you?

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

I was starving. I had 1 1/2 hours to get a weight-lifting workout, get showered, and on to the next thing. Of course, I didn't have time for lunch, so I stopped at HEB and headed straight for the energy bars. I looked desperately at the shelves full of energy bars, dumbfounded and overwhelmed. So many to choose from.

In my haste, I grabbed the first one I saw. On the way to the gym, I choked down the dry, chalky mass of god knows what . My workout was super disappointing because the mystery food made my stomach hurt and no matter how much water I drank, I could not get that horrible taste out of my mouth.

Has this ever happened to you?

The nutrition industry has come a long way since the 1960's when energy bars were made exclusively for astronauts. Now, the market is completely flooded with energy bars contending for the title of best bar. I've chosen 6 bars and just for fun we are going to let them take each other on in the ring (or the plate).

We have 2 preliminary and one main event. The contenders are being judged in the following categories:

  • Ingredients- are they real, whole, recognizable ingredients?
  • Taste- does it taste like the ingredients and does it taste good?
  • Texture- does it feel good in your mouth or like rubber dusted in chalk?
  • Functionality- does it make you sick (allergies excluded) and does it last through your workout?
  • Price - is it an occasional treat or can you stock pile it and include it in your meal plan?

The featherweights get inside the ring. In one corner, we have the LARA Bar in the next, RX Bar. These bars are featherweights because they boast being made with simple, whole ingredients that are so transparent that they even list them on the front of the package. No B.S. They are direct competitors. Let's see who gets knocked out.

LARA Bar

  • Ingredients- says it on the bag. 10
  • Texture- has a pretty good mouth feel. 7
  • Taste- 26 different flavors like pecan pie and peanut butter and jelly that taste awesome. 8
  • Functional- some flavors may be really sweet. I would wait at least 20 minutes before your workout. 8
  • Price- at $2 per bar, they are easy to stock. 8
  • Total Score- 8.2

RX Bar

  • Ingredients-says it on the bag. 10
  • Texture- kinda rubbery. 5
  • Taste- 22 flavors like chocolate peanut butter. It was a little bland. 4
  • Functional- made for CrossFitters. 8
  • Price-$2.50 a bar. Little pricey. 6
  • Total Score- 6.6

And LARA Bar wins the Featherweight Title.The middleweights get inside the ring. These bars are contending for the best raw bar. Both are made with ingredients that have live probiotics and plant based protein. You can find both in the refrigerator in your grocer. We have Perfect Bar and Pro Bar.

Perfect Bar

  • Ingredients- made with 20+ superfoods. 10
  • Texture- straight up 10
  • Taste- peanut butter with coconuts taste amazing. 10
  • Functional- no stomach upsets and great for heavy workouts. 9
  • Price- at $2.5 to $3 a bar, makes it an occasional treat. 6
  • Total Score- 9
Pro Bar
  • Ingredients- real ingredients like crunchy seeds. 10
  • Texture- good mouthfeel. A little extra crunchy. 9
  • Taste- good, more savory than sweet. 8
  • Functional- good for heavy lifting. 8
  • Price- at $3. Not good to stock pile. 5
  • Total Score.- 8

Perfect Bar knocks Pro Bar out to win the middleweight title.

The main event contenders are the heavyweights. They both have been in the game for a long time and have the notoriety to match. They are my all time go-tos when I'm on the go: KIND bar and Clif bar!

KIND bar out of Austin, Texas is known for its recognizable ingredients that are easily seen through the bag. With 30+ flavors made with chia seeds, dark chocolate, almonds, and sea salt, they are an quick favorite.

  • Ingredients- Absolutely yes. 10
  • Texture- 10
  • Taste- Never had a flavor I didn't like. 10
  • Functional- may not last through a hard workout. 8
  • Price- $2 a bar. A little pricey, but worth it. 7
  • Total Score- 9

Clif Bar is the hardest working bar in the biz. You see it everywhere from convenience stores to specialty stores. Runners, hikers, lifters, and cyclists swear by its energy that packs a punch.

  • Ingredients- all organic and recognizable. 9
  • Texture- feels like a cookie. 8
  • Taste- 7 words! 34 flavors. peanut toffee buzz. carrot cake. 10
  • Functional- again. Hikers, runners, lifters all use this product.
  • Price- typically $1 a bar. Easy to stock.
  • Total Score- 9

Looks like its still a split decision.

Final words about the matches: If you are looking for energy, you will win every time with Clif and Kind. If you want to try something new, I'd definitely give Perfect Bar a try. Look for it the refrigerator section in HEB or Whole Foods.

A thing to remember about energy bars: It is best to enjoy 30 minutes before your workout just in case of cramps. Raw energy bars are stored in the refrigerator, but you leave them out for a few hours like in your gym bag. Most important. If you have food allergies, scrutinize every bar for these foods. Your life does depend on it and they are notorious for nuts, seeds, chocolate and other foods.

Add these to your grocery list

Best foods for runners to eat before and after a run

Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

I'm looking in my email inbox. One thing is clear (other than I really need to delete some emails), race season is beginning. There is the Hot Chocolate Run, the Bayou City Classic, and Run Like a Diva Marathon. I'm getting totally excited thinking about all the medals I can get. Then, I think about last running season. My habits were pretty sloppy last race season. There is a reason why you haven't seen my finish line picture. My nutrition was shotty. So I went to my friend, Google, and did some research on the best foods for runners. Here is what I found:

As an experienced runner, what you eat before you run is of the utmost importance. It is no fun to run out of steam due to not eating. It is also no fun to eat the wrong thing and get gassy. It is no fun to eat something that makes it hard to move and slows your time down. Once before a long run of 16 miles, I grabbed a plum from my fridge in haste. I forgot that a plum is really a prune. I got what they call runner trots (that's diarrhea) around mile 11. And that's really no fun. So what are the best foods to eat before a run or a race.

Banana

Bananas are full of potassium which help regulate the body's muscle contractions and prevents cramping. It also has enough starch to provide the glucose (where energy comes from) for your run and is easy to digest earning the name Old Fait.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal

If you are in the mid point of training for a half, full marathon, or a spartan race, you will have long strenuous workouts and runs. Oatmeal makes a perfect choice to get you through. Like the banana, it is easy on the stomach and is full of carbohydrates to get you through your workout. It's a wonderful source of protein and because it has a low glycemic index, it provides sustained release of energy thus making sure you finish strong.

Nut Butter

Nut butters, like peanut, almonds, and cashews are great to eat before and after your run. Nut butters are full of fat and protein making you feel fuller longer. What's cool about that is you can eat less and you won't run the risk of cramping and sluggishness that comes with eating too much. Pair it with Ezekiel Toast (bread made with all the ingredients found at Ezekiel 4:9) to have a light meal made from complete plant protein. And its quick and easy to make. Just add honey to taste.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are great to consume before your workout, whether it is running, cross fit, or lifting weights. They are full of protein like the name suggests. If you are on a specific diet, they work well into your daily calories and nutrients. They come in amazing flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough and salted caramel. Chose a plant based protein powder over whey for running. It sustains you without weighing you down and is easy on the stomach. I recommend AdvoGreens Salted Caramel by Advocare.

Eggs

One of the best things ever created was the egg. Eggs are an inexpensive solution to many dietary problems for runners especially. Forget about them being a complete protein, but a little goes a long way. One egg over Ezekiel toast before a run will last until the end. After a run, you can enjoy an omelette to not only fight hunger, but inflammation. Also, eggs are full of Vitamin K which promotes bone health. Let's just say, the egg is awesome!

Some foods are great for runners to add to their overall diet.


Sweet potato

Runners need their carbs. You can't just eat Doritos and think that's going to cut it. Instead try adding sweet potato to your diet. Sweet potatoes are good carbs meaning they don't cause your sugar to spike which is great for runners because you can last a lot longer on the track. They are also full of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and iron. You can eat them stuffed, in a hash, or baked them as fries with salt and vinegar drizzled on top.

Yogurt

Yogurt is also great for runners as it helps boost your immune system by its many strains of probiotics. Nothing can ruin a training schedule than getting sick over and over again. Yogurt is another great source of protein as well as calcium. It is a very diverse food. You can enjoy it off the spoon, as kefir, or as a smoothie with your favorite fruit. I'm thinking a berry, banana blast with pineapple (pineapple is great for preventing injuries).

Avocado

I can't have enough reasons to eat avocado. Avocados are a runner's best friend. Avocados have as much as 60% more potassium than bananas. Because of their high fat and fiber content, they keep you feeling full for longer. They possess Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other anti-inflammatory properties. This reduces muscle and joint soreness and assists in recovery between workouts. Although amazing by themselves, avocados are great on sandwiches, with eggs, and just about anything.

Legumes

Like eggs, legumes are an inexpensive solution to many dietary problems for runners. They are a complete protein-carbohydrate combination that will give you sustained energy and helps repair your muscles. They are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and will fit into a vegan, vegetarian, and a meat eaters diet. Think lentil stew or a bowl of chili to satiate your hunger after a long run. I would wait to enjoy after the run. They could cause gas.

So next time you go to the grocery store, be sure to include these items on your list. Better yet, pick out a couple of recipes to try out.

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