Are energy bars good for running?

man eating energy bar
Is that energy bar really what you need?

Running for sport or fitness can increase your overall energy. But in the short term, it can temporarily zap your vigor. So wouldn't it be great if there were a food that could help restore or enhance your energy levels before, during or after a run?

Well, there's no magical power booster, but there are energy bars that can provide you with quick and convenient delivery of calories (calories are units of energy, after all) for extra fuel. As an added bonus, bars that contain high-quality protein (such as whey and soy) can assist your body in muscle building and injury repair [source: Young].


The problem, however, is in choosing the right energy bar for you. Different runners have different needs. Sprinters, for example, may benefit from high-sugar bars to get a helpful energy jolt before a run. Long-distance runners, on the other hand, need to keep their energy at a more consistent level and should consume bars with a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these snacks are not created equally. Even though there are scores of brands that make sometimes-astonishing health claims, very few energy bars offer any real nutritional value -- and some may even be bad for you. So here's what you should keep in mind when selecting energy bars for running:

  • Look for bars with at least 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of carbohydrates.
  • Stay away from high-protein bars if you're a long distance runner.
  • Seek out bars made with dried fruits, whole grains and soluble fiber, when possible.
  • If a bar's packaging makes big nutritional claims, be sure to read the fine print.
  • Remember that energy bars have low water content -- unlike, say, fruit. So you should drink water when consuming one.

Energy bars are convenient, but they can also be expensive. Keep reading to learn about alternatives to the snack.


Energy Bar Alternatives

Running is a pretty inexpensive sport -- invest in a water bottle and a good pair of running shoes, and you're pretty much good to go. However, your wallet can take a hit if you start using energy bars on a regular basis [source: Clark]. If you'd like to find a cheaper food to replace energy bars some, or all, of the time, there are alternatives.

Many granola bars, although not specifically created and marketed for energy building, do have filling, moderate- to high-carbohydrate content. And much like energy bars, they're individually wrapped and ready to take with you anywhere.


Another portable source of energy (although much more perishable) is fruit. Bananas and apples, in particular, are great choices because they're easy to tote and eat.

Believe it or not, sweets can also be beneficial (in terms of energy, that is). Chocolate will give you a boost -- although it's messy in warm weather. Sweet tarts and gummy bears are options. So are rice crispy treats. When it comes to getting an energy spike, runners have been known to eat anything from graham crackers to packets of honey.

The key to choosing an energy food that works for you is to experiment. Eventually you'll happen upon one you enjoy that also gives you the boost you need.

On the next page, you'll find lots more information for runners.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Clark, Nancy. "Pros and Cons of Energy Bars." Run the Planet. 2005. (Aug. 27, 2012)
  • Rundurance. "Are energy bars good for you?" Jan. 24, 2010. (Aug. 27, 2012)
  • Silverstein, Clara. "Foods for Energy." Runner's World. August 2004. (Aug. 27, 2012),7120,s6-242-301--8433-0,00.html
  • Young, Sally. "Running Times Guide to Energy Bars." Running Times. April 2003. (Aug. 27, 2012)