RK Tip of the Week|My energy bar made me gain 7lbs…& other truths about bars

Posted on October 7, 2009


We are a fast-paced society aren’t we? The average American spends less than 30 mins preparing a meal on any given



day. The typical time an Italian spends preparing a meal is 43 mins. Italians also spend 4% more of their income on food than Americans do. Obese Americans make up 30.6% of the population. The % of Italians who are obese – 8.5%. Do you think there’s a correlation between the amount of time and money we spend on food & preparing it to how heavy we are? Americans spend less time & money on the most vital thing (next to water & oxygen) for their health than Italians & we have significantly more people who are obese. So why are we talking about Italians when my title states that my protein/energy bar made me gain weight?

Because I’m theorizing that the energy bar you consumed for your mid-morning snack today, while fast & efficient like Americans, probably took your waistline a little closer to a typical American one vs. a typical Italian waist.  Today’s tip is going to break down why energy/protein bars can be troublesome & how you can find ones that will be helpful in your quest to be optimally fit, trim & strong!

We, as pros in the field, tell you to eat every 4-5 hours, get plenty of protein in, stay away from junk food! And it almost seems natural to turn to the hundreds of energy/protein bars out there & say “giddeup!” & dive right in! Especially when they make flavors like “double mocha white mousse espresso peanut crunch”!!

Here’s rule #1 on energy/protein bars: if they can make it taste like 2 or more flavors at once, there probably isn’t very much natural about that bar. Think about pleasing treat flavors that can be homemade: apple pie- tastes like apples, peanut butter cookie- tastes like peanuts, and when you make those treats at home, you can do it with a few ingredients, right? Can you make a “double mocha white mousse espresso peanut crunch” at home with simple, natural ingredients? Not unless you count all the different candy types you’d have to melt together to make that treat at home. My point is this; just like my rule for you about grocery shopping & if something has more than 6-8 ingredients you put it back- if the flavor of a bar has multiple different flavors going on at the same time -chocolate -white chocolate -espresso -etc., there is no way it could have been made from ingredients that came directly from the earth. Which does mean that your body will be more likely to create inflammation & store fat.

Which brings us to point #2 on energy/protein bars: The point of the energy/protein bar is to supplement the real food you are eating with something that is also REAL, to either get enough calories in to ensure a weight loss or gain, depending on your goal, or you are eating the energy bar because you work a job that does not allow for frequent meal breaks, so it is something you can keep in your pocket to nibble on in the middle of a long shift. What is NOT the point of an energy/protein bar is to replace the food you’re eating or to take away from the total quantity of real food you are eating. So, if your bar is made up of chemicals & fake sugars & fats, is that taking you closer to “real-food” or further from “real-food?” Just like you are keeping an eye out for crappy unnecessary chemicals in the meals you prepare, you MUST be doing the same for your energy bars. Read your labels, if there are chemicals or words you don’t recognize, you should put it back, unless you want that bar to start making you fat.

As a fitness pro, I’m totally for the idea of supplementing, however, there is a right & a wrong way to supplement with bars. Back before I went organic/whole food/serious about nutrition on myself, I chose bars that as long as the fat was low & protein was high, I didn’t feel like I needed to look at anything else. So I happily consumed a bar a day along with all my other food which was typical healthy food. After I started working with a naturopathic chiropractor & learning about how much more I could be doing for my health, I took all bars out of my diet & started focusing on getting enough calories & protein through real food & real food bars – which are Nature’s delight that I will tell you more about below! – and shockingly, seriously, I was shocked!, I dropped 7lbs off my frame instantly. I made no other changes to my workout or nutrition, the only thing I did different was switch to real food & took out those chemicals & fake things my body had to deal with in those bars. Aside from all the proof I got in feeling better, being more energetic, having better sports performance- dropping that weight/body fat was proof enough for me to know never again to bring that junk into my diet. Not even if I’m in a gas station & it’s a protein/energy bar or the roasted nuts- I’ll take the roasted nuts anytime!

Here’s why I dropped the weight without the bars.

-Not eating bars made me find more real food. Real food is filled with nutrients like carbohydrates, fats & proteins that my body recognizes. That means it can break it down and use it more easily.

-Not eating bars allowed my body to not have to fight through the chemicals that were in my other bars. Here’s the ingredients list for a typical bar: PowerBar Trisource™ Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Soy Protein Isolate), Brown Rice Syrup, Chocolatey Coating (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Cocoa Powder, Whey Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, Lecithin And Natural Vanilla Flavor), Maltitol, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glycerine, Alkalized Cocoa Powder, Natural Flavors, Lecithin, Fructose, Oat Fiber, Unsweetened Chocolate, MINERALS: Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Iron (Ferrous Fumarate), Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Chromium Aspartate, VITAMINS: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Pantothenic Acid (Calcium Pantothenate), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Hydrochloride), Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12.

How many ingredients do you count? How many are natural i.e. straight from the ground source? Gross when you think about it huh? Your body doesn’t know what to do with that! So if it doesn’t know what to do with it, it will be more likely to become inflamed & increase body fat stores. And by the way, those vitamins they add in- they’re synthetic so you won’t really absorb those too well either.

-Adding in a real-food bar every now and then helped me get more of the “good fats” into my body that actually can help the body lose fat.Good fats are things like coconut oil, olive oil, & cashew or almond nut butters. They will show up on the bar as higher fat, obviously, but since they are fats the body can use (& probably get too little of when we’re trying so hard to watch our fat intake) that it helps our body to heal, lower inflammation & let go of body fat stores.

So what is a “real-food-bar?” It is any bar that has taken real food i.e. dates, almonds, cherries & cold-pressed them together to make a bar shape. No heating is done to these bars as that makes the oils in the fat go rancid & alters the state of the nutrients in such a way that they are rendered useless for the body. Essentially, a real food bar still gives you real, unaltered food, just in a convenient bar-pressed shape. The top brand out there for real food bars is hands down, LARABAR. These little powerhouses serve up clean burning energy, delicious taste (my personal fave being the peanut butter cookie since it actually tastes like a peanut butter cookie!) & less than 6 ingredients in each one! My peanut butter cookie bar has only 3 ingredients that were cold-pressed together: dates, peanuts, salt. That’s it. It doesn’t get much closer to real food without sitting down to actually eat a handful of peanuts & a cup of dates. A real food bar will give you healthy fats from either nut butters or coconut oil, protein in its’ natural state from nuts, soy, or hemp, and carbs/sugars that come from fruit like dates, cherries, or bananas to name a few.

You may look at the little LARABAR and wonder how this is supposed to fill you up. And that is where your thinking on bars must change – a bar is not meant to “fill you up.” It’s meant to fill-in the gaps in your day where you simply can’t take time to sit down to a plate of something. And usually, you’ll eat the bar as part of a snack that also contains a piece of fruit or some veggies. The idea of energy bars are not meant to replace anything, they are meant to support your nutritional practices & help you get even more good stuff in your diet.

So if your protein/energy bar is not supporting you, kick it to the curb, try a LARABAR & realize that we don’t need our snacks tasting like double mocha anything…although LARABAR & their Jocolat line come pretty close to it!…if you want a double mocha, go eat a real one & enjoy it. Then get back on track with some real food!