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What Are the Best Ingredients for Energy Bars?

In this episode, I share my top seven ingredients for energy bars, as well as how to make your own energy bars and which superfoods can make your workouts better.

By
Ben Greenfield,
Episode #238

Whether you’re smack dab in the middle of a hardcore hundred-mile bike ride, on a long nature hike, or just need a quick pick-me-up before a morning or evening workout, energy bars can be a convenient way to get some easy-to-digest calories into your body to support physical performance. In a pinch, such as during a morning commute to work or when you’re on an airplane, they can be a decent portable meal too.

The prooblem is that many, many energy bars are simply blends of concentrate sugar, GMO wheat and soy, highly processed ingredients, heated vegetable oils, commercial dairy, and other ingredients that may be concentrated sources of calories, but frankly, aren’t too great for your body.

While there are certainly some decent bars out there that actually contain natural, organic ingredients, it’s really not that hard to make your own energy bars. Can you stir? Can you use a food processor or blender? Great. That’s all you need to make energy bars.

One of my favorite websites called “Greatist,” has a fantastic article jam-packed with specific recipes for “34 Healthy Energy Bars You Can Make at Home.” While that article contains all the instructions you need to whip up a batch of energy bars, in this episode, I'm providing you with a list of some of the best, most nutrient-dense ingredients to include in your homemade energy bars—or even to look for on the label of an energy bar you buy.

Without further ado, here are the Get-Fit Guy’s top seven energy bar ingredients

1. Cacao: Raw chocolate, also known as cacao, is a great energy booster. You can put a tablespoon of cacao powder into a morning smoothie or a handful of crunchy, raw cacao nibs into your energy bar recipe for a dose natural antioxidants and also cacao-based phenethylamine, which can increase focus and alertness.

Cacao is also a great transition ingredient if you are trying to move away from the use of unhealthy chocolate bars made from primarily milk and sugar. When selecting cacao, look for raw cacao if possible, preferably processed without alkali. You can even get your own whole cacao beans and grind them up yourself. 

2. Goji Berries: Goji berries are dark red, chewy, tart berries that are jam packed with protein (just 1/4 cup of goji berries provides 8 grams of protein!). Goji berries can also provide you with a significant calorie boost without adding a lot of bulk (a 1/4 cup also provides about 230 calories). Additionally, Goji berries are an especially rich source of beta-carotene.

The berries blend well, and also, to complement the crunch cacao nibs, offer a good chewy texture to energy bars. I’d recommend you be somewhat picky about where you get your goji berries from, and that you only purchase certified organic goji berries.

3. Maca: Maca is a root vegetable that originates in South America and is sold in the United States and most other countries as a nutritional supplement, considered to be a “superfood.” Maca is often taken to balance hormones, boost libido, and enhance sexual well-being. It's also used to increase energy and stamina. Maca actually has a little bit of scientific support for its sexual health benefits (such as the studies here, and here), but don’t count on it to be “nature's Viagra.” It may indeed help increase libido and it may help you feel your sexual health is improved or your hormones are balanced, but it’s not necessarily a cure-all for things like erectile dysfunction (which I discussed in last week’s episode on Kegel exercises).

When selecting your maca, try to choose organic, raw maca root powder, which usually comes in bags. Maca pills or capsules, on the other hand, only give you trace amounts of maca. Expect a distinct “nutty” taste from a good organic, raw maca root powder—a taste which can become overpowering if you use more than about 1-2 tablespoons in a serving of energy bar.

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