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ENERGY BARS, FROM SPORTS TO SNACKS By Claire Saxton and Dr. Randy Ligh

products. They are available in grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, and many other places. Packaged Facts, a market research company, estimated the total U.S. retail sales in the food bars category to be $5.7 billion in 2011. (2) There is concern that consumers are not paying close attention to the ingredients and nutrition label. They may be falling prey to the marketing of a product, the taste of the product, or the hype created by celebrity endorsement. As with many other products, creative marketing is used to skirt food-labeling regulations. Energy bars can appeal to health-conscious consumers as a better choice than a candy bar, but it can be difficult for consumers to determine the right product and nutritional value when faced with so many options.

BACKGROUND

Once known as “performance food,” energy bars were originally developed for athletes to maintain their stamina during endurance events. Carbohydrate is needed for fuel as glycogen stores are depleted in order to avoid a drop in performance. However, the market has dramatically expanded, and products have been developed for before, during, and after athletic pursuits. Even more, people now gravitate towards these convenient foods for a quick and easy meal replacement or snack. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that snack consumption has risen in the last 30 years. In 1977, 41% of consumers reported eating no snacks daily while in 2007 only 10% of consumers did not snack at all. (1) The diversity and breadth of products available is astronomical. The traditional bars now come in a variety of sizes, texture, and nutritional compositions. Some popular categories are high protein or ones with natural ingredients. Since bars can be difficult to chew during running and other high impact events, gels and chews are commonly used during endurance events. However, their texture and taste generally make them less desirable as a snack food. Powders and tablets that dissolve into water, mainly with carbohydrate and electrolytes, are also useful for the running, hiking, and endurance athlete crowd. Again, these are less popular for the general population as their taste and availability is not as good as commercial sports drinks. Bars remain the most widely available and commonly eaten products. People of all ages and activity levels have become consumers of these Performance Bars Bear Valley Pemmican Bar Belly Timber Everyday Survival Bar Bonk Breaker Energy Bar Clif Bar Clif Mini Bars Clif Builder’s Bar Clif Luna Bar Hammer Nutrition Organic Energy Bar Hammer Nutrition Recovery Bar Honey Stinger Protein Bar Honey Stinger Stinger Energy Waffle PowerBar Energize Fruit Smoothie Bar PowerBar Performance Bar Probar Organic Whole Meal Bar

Calories per Calories from serving (1 bar) fat 400-440 110-120 310 130 250-255 72-81 230-250 20-50 100 15-25 270 70 170-190 25-50 220 80 330 126 190 90 160 63 210 30 230-250 15-35 350-390 150-180

42 | THE BULLETIN | MARCH / APRIL 2015

GUIDANCE

Consumers should be aware of their buying habits and be cognizant of what they are buying. READ the labels. Reflect on your age, gender, activity levels, overall diet, health concerns, limitations, and health goals. As general guidance, if the product is being used as a snack and not a meal replacement, the calories should not exceed 200-250. The product should also have no trans fats, and include fibers like inulin, chicory extract, and oligosaccharides, but these may not provide the same benefit as fiber from food. Ideally, bars with lots of added sugars would be avoided, but with current labeling it is not possible to tell whether “sugars” are from fruits or are added sugars. The ingredient list shows how many kinds of added sugars there are. There are numerous types of sugars that might be used, including fructose, glucose, honey, syrups, cane sugar, etc, and the earlier they appear in the ingredient list, the more of it there is (by weight). Natural

Total fat (g) 12 16 8-9 2.5-6 2-2.5 8 3-6 9 14 10 7 3.5 2-3.5 17-20

Sodium (mg) 80-90 50 170 100-250 60-95 230-310 120-200 18 80 27 55 100 200-210 30-90

Carbohydrate Dietary fiber (g) (g) 56-68 6-10 34 8 37 2 40-47 5 17-18 5 30 4 24-28 3-4 25-26 4-5 25 8 18 2 21 1 40 1 41-44 2-4 46-49 6-7

Sugar (g) 24-28 11 18 17-21 8-9 20 8-12 15-17 16 15 14 27 20-25 21-31

Protein (g) 16-17 11 8 8-12 4-5 20 10 9-10 20 10 0 6 9-10 8-9

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