An RD Picks the Best Bars For Fitness Fueling

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
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An RD Picks the Best Bars For Fitness Fueling

Fitness buffs love bars — granola bars, protein bars, energy bars, snack bars and meal-replacement bars are all frequently consumed by on-the-move athletes. About 99% of the reason is due to their portable, no-fuss ability to deliver nutrition and calories on the fly.

While bars can be a convenient option to toss in your gym bag, there are so many options that picking the right one can be tricky. Some are loaded with nutrients, others are closer to a candy bar than a nutrition bar. So how can you tell which is which?


Consider the following factors when choosing the right bar for your needs:



The reason you’re consuming the bar makes all the difference in choosing the right one as different needs require different nutrients. If you need to fill the gap between lunch and dinner, give yourself a healthful snack with a balanced bar. If you’re trying to fuel a hard workout or sustain an endurance effort, choose something with low-fiber and high-carbs. Finally, for a recovery snack, a protein-rich bar will be your best pick.



When it comes to the ingredient label, there are two things to be aware of: what’s in the bar and how many things are in the bar. Look for ingredients you recognize as actual food like whole grains, dried fruit, nuts, possibly vegetables — even animal proteins like bison. If there are too many strange, unfamiliar and unappetizing-sounding words in the ingredient list, leave it on the shelf and try another. When it comes to bars, stick with the old saying ‘less is more’ as fewer ingredients generally provide a healthier, whole-food product that’s likely easier to digest.



While not as crucial, it is important to consider how easy the bar is to eat. Some bars fall apart easily which isn’t ideal for eating mid-workout. Chocolatey bars can result in a big mess if temperatures rise; alternatively, some bars meant to have a chewy consistency can be impossible to bite into during very cold workouts.


From endurance-fueling to protein-recovery to meal replacement, these are a few to consider:

  • Picky Bar
  • Trailnuggets PRO
  • PowerBar Plant Protein Bar
  • Pro Bar
  • Mammoth Bar

These tips should help you navigate the overcrowded market of bar food and determine what is best for your needs. Don’t be afraid to experiment by trying different types; when you find one you like, order in bulk and make it part of your fitness-fueling routine.

About the Author

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.


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