January 14, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bars

I eat Zone Perfect Dark Chocolate nutrition bars, mainly for the protein intake but also because compared to most other Zone bars, they seemed to be less plentiful in sugar content and higher in protein.

However, I am now wondering if these are not the best option for me?
I eat one about an hour prior to walking/running.

Sometimes I follow up my walks/runs with some light weights, so I feel like I need the protein more on those days.

Are there other nutrition bars that I should be eating for protein instead?

-- Annemarie F.
(location withheld)

I would much rather you choose a different pre-workout snack, for a variety of reasons.

A Zone bar is basically a candy bar with a little extra protein as well and a variety of vitamins and minerals tacked on so it can be advertised as containing "19 vitamins and minerals."

In theory, the same could be said for Doritos if Frito Lay decided to fortify their nacho cheese flavored chips.

I much prefer you get nutrients from foods that naturally contain them.

Keep in mind, too, that a single dark chocolate Zone bar has as much sugar as three Oreo cookies.

As far as pre-workout foods go, they should be high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat. Hence, a Zone protein bar isn't the best choice.

The key is to choose high-quality carbohydrates. Refined varieties that offer little nutrition (pretzels, Skittles, animal crackers, etc.) are not the best options.

However, something like an apple, a tangerine, a handful of baby carrots, some plain oatmeal prepared with water, or a toasted slice of 100% whole grain bread are good snacks to eat 45 - 60 minutes before exercising.

Even if you do some weight training, protein is a nutrient that better suited after exercise, not directly before.

Ideally, a post-exercise food should contain a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Some examples here would be two or three celery stalks with a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter or one low-fat mozarella string cheese accompanied by a handful of grapes.

The important thing is to always keep caloric intake in mind.

Too many times I see people doing light exercise (i.e: walking at a fast pace on a treadmill for twenty minutes) and erroneously thinking that has to be followed up by a high-calorie protein shake that doesn't accomplish much (other than tack on a few hundred calories).

When it comes to optimal nutrition, think "real food" first.

As far as I'm concerned, Zone bars belong in the "sweet treat" category.

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