Energy bars can be just the thing on a long ride. They can help you avoid bonking or even boost your performance. But the problem is most of them are just processed candy full of sugar without much nutritional value. Is there a healthier alternative? And when is the best time to eat energy bars to get the most out of them?
Before or after a ride?
The best timing depends on the type of athlete you are. If you’re an amateur cycling enthusiast or a fat adapted athlete, you will benefit from using energy bars after hard rides to replenish glycogen reserves. If you’re eating a high-carb diet or are a pro getting ready for an intense ride, you can use bars both before and after a ride. If you’re something in between, just consider that eating a sugar loaded bar before a ride primes your body to burn sugar and limits the amount of your own fat that can be utilized as fuel.
Eating on a bike
When it comes to several-hour-long rides or intense races, some fuelling in a form of energy bars is going to be very beneficial if not necessary. Around 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, or about 360 calories, is the maximum the average human body can absorb. So, if you want to maximize external fuel, that’s what you should aim for. Make sure to test it in training first because eating more than your body can handle will do more harm than good. And don’t forget to count the liquid carbs in your bidons into the total as well.
Which bars are the best?
There are so many energy bars on offer today that you could probably try a different brand every week for the rest of your life. The main problem is, many of these bars are just sugar bombs full of chemicals that taste good and have a long shelf life. They lack electrolytes or/and a balanced macro-nutrient ratio. It’s highly advisable to read their labels carefully and learn about what minerals and other substances they should and shouldn’t contain. But there might be another way of going about it.
Make your own energy bars
If you want to be sure your energy bar contains desirable ingredients only, you can always make them yourself. If that sounds like a good idea, then you’re in luck. This whole month will be dedicated to recipes for home-made energy bars. They are surprisingly easy to make and for the most part you only need dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and chocolate to make them.
To get the most out of energy bars, you have to find those that work for you (or make your own) and find the right time to eat them. Just don’t mistake them for proper nutrition or “healthy” candy. They are a functional food and that’s how they should be regarded.