You just arrived at the gym and are starving. You check in, glance over at the bars and gels, and pick one based on the wrapper color. Shame on you!
No doubt, you’re not trying to get your nutrition from bars, but if you ever find yourself staring at the shelves in confused indecision, here are some guidelines.
During your Workout
High carbohydrate content, Two grams or less of fiber and ideally with B Vitamins are the types of bars you want to have during your workouts. Watch out for unrecognizable ingredients and sugar alcohols (sucralose, xylitol, mannitol), as these are hard hard to digest.
Being as simple as possible, you could aim for a bar with around three to nine grams of protein, at least 15 grams of carbohydrate, and no more than 13 grams of fat.
Be mindful of the calories consumed not going beyond 350. You need blood flow to the muscles, not to the stomach. Additionally, you’ll want to keep fat consumption to a minimum during the workout, as fat slows digestion, slowing the uptake of carbohydrates and proteins. Opt for chews, gels and bars with sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, date and coconut nectars, brown rice syrup or stevia. Hydration should be ongoing during your session with approximately six ounces of water or electrolyte drink every 15 minutes.
Immediately after your session you should optimize your nutrition. Drink eight ounces of water within the first 20 minutes post workout. Your body is most effective at replacing carbohydrates and promoting muscle growth and repair the first 40 to 60 minutes after exercise. This continues for the next 12 to 24 hours.
Within the first 30 minutes after a workout, consume around 20 grams protein to optimize recovery. This helps usher carbohydrates back into muscles and provides the amino acids necessary for rebuilding. You also need to consume carbohydrates, a carbs to protein ratio of 3:1 is ideal: If you have 20 grams of protein then you’d need 60 grams of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates with little fiber are best and, again, avoid sugar alcohols (xyliyol, mannitol) and opt for ones derived from real food like honey, maple syrup, date and coconut nectars, brown rice syrup or stevia. Fat hardly maters at this point in terms of the bar.
Remember, real food is optimal post workout, but recovery powders and bars high in good protein like organic, grass-fed whey concentrate and hemp protein are the ones recommended. Pea proteins can actually be very hard for people to digest and assimilate and soy proteins should be avoided.
Fat slows the overall digestive process, but it is a necessary macronutrient. You do not need a large amount of fat from energy bars. Focus on getting macronutrients from real food. However, when it comes to bars, the easiest-to-digest fats are from coconut oil and coconut manna (a blend of oil and meat). Seed and nut/nut-butter-based bars contain a good source of anti-inflammatory fat in the form of Omega-3s. These are great for joint and soft tissue health. Palm oil contains carotenes and vitamins and is good for reducing free-radical damage and inflammation, but is controversial for its role in deforestation.
Appropriate refuel and rehydration – Hydration should be continual throughout climbing and training, and continue after with the use of electrolytes and/or recovery drinks.
Promote muscle repairs and growth – The body is most effective at replacing carbohydrate and promoting muscle growth and repair the first 30 to 60 minutes after exercise. This continues for the next 12-24 hours.
- If you train/climb multiple days in a row you MUST maximize recovery in that first hour after.
- Consume 20g of protein directly after workout.
Boost adaptation from the session – Nutrient-dense foods in the correct ratios will promote proper recovery, allowing for adaptation to the new stress of the session.
Support immune function – Good fats and proteins will continue to support good immune function, supplying good energy for the endocrine system, allowing the body to perform and function at high input without taxing the system.