Intake: The Bar Exam

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Intake: The Bar Exam
By Dana Sullivan

First there was PowerBar. Now nearly two dozen sports energy bars are contending for a place in your pack. They're all portable; the trick is to find one that's palatable, too.

Beyond taste, sports nutritionist Alice Lindeman, an associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Indiana University, has some recommendations for getting the most bang from your bar: The makeup of the PowerBar (see below) is a good standard; Lindeman advises against bars with much more than 250 calories or four grams of fat. You don't need it, and the excess is hard to digest. The same goes for fiber: More than three grams can cause gastric upset. Lindeman recommends drinking at least ten ounces of water per bar.

Here's how some of the most popular bars compare. Note that the makeup of several of these companies' bars varies from flavor to flavor.


BTU Stoker
Cocoa, Apple Oat
Made from all-natural ingredients and sweetened with digestive-system-friendly brown rice dextrin, so you don't have to down as much H2O.

Clif Bar
Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate, Apple, Cherry, Apricot
If you're on a restricted diet or have some common food allergies, this might be your bar. It contains no wheat, dairy products, or refined sugars.

234-250/44-50/10/less than 2*
Chocolate, Vanilla, Citrus
It's exceptionally crunchy, so you don't have to gnaw at it, and it seems to have a higher tolerance for cold than the other bars.

Nameless honey-fruit blend
Zero fat--and nearly zero flavor. Lots of grains though, and its low calories make it an option for a light workout.

Chocolate, Vanilla Malt, Apple Pie, Very Berry
It's soft and cakelike, which is appealing until it gets mashed in the bottom of your pack. It has extra minerals, such as selenium, an antioxidant.

Apple Cranberry, Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge, Honey Nougat, Vanilla Nut
Since it's low in calories, this might be a good choice on a day when you've had a light lunch and need a pre-gym boost.

Apple Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Malt Nut, Mocha, Wild Berry
There's not much to say here, except that the progenitor got it right the first time. The two new flavors are welcome--the mocha's outstanding, and the banana tastes like banana bread.

Mountain Berry, Chocolate, Peanut
With only two grams of fiber, it's easy on the tummy. The mauve color of the Mountain Berry bar is off-putting, but the flavor is decent.

Tiger Sport
Berry, Chocolate, Coffee, Vanilla
Arguably the best tasting of the bars. Made with chelated minerals (minerals coated with amino acids) to prevent stomach upset.

92/23/less than 1/less than 1*
Just banana
No water required, no aftertaste, and a neat, biodegradable wrapper that should win awards. But it doesn't travel well.

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