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Energy Bars, Drinks, and Gels for the True Athlete

May 23 2012

By: Debra Meszaros-CSN

Energy Bars, Drinks, and Gels for the True Athlete

There is an increasing availability, of a wider range of sports performance products flooding the market lately, as companies of all types realize the potential of this market. Although it is nice to have so many options: powders, bars, gels, drinks and shots, confusion is sure to follow if one simply believes every label they read.

How can you determine what is the best option for you?

First, understand ingredient lists and nutrition labels. Ingredients on a label are written in a specific order, from what has the greatest concentration in the product to what is the smallest concentration. If sugar is listed within the first few ingredients then guess what? What you are about to consume is mostly sugar. Although the last few ingredients are less concentrated they tend to also be the worst of the ingredients. You will usually find all the chemicals, preservatives, color dyes, and artificial flavorings listed at the end of an ingredient label, but that doesn't mean it is okay to have a little poison in your product! Watch for repetitive groups of ingredients like sugars. Often there will be multiple sugars in a product like, fructose, syrup, corn syrup, fruit concentrations, honey, high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, cane sugar, and agave to name a few. Always attempt to find products with the least amount of sugar grams; I like to stay in the single digits as far as grams are concerned. The objective is endurance, long term energy not a sugar high. If a product seems low in sugar, check the label to be sure that artificial sweeteners (sucralose, neotame, aspartame, etc.) have not been substituted for sugar, as they are even worse than actual sugar.

Second, are GMO (genetically modified) ingredients. The top two GMOs in the United States are corn and soy. If you are unfamiliar with GMOs do some Googling. Personally, because of my education about the human body and experience working in labs on a cellular level, there is a grey area that exists around GMOs and whether the body utilizes genetically modified foods correctly. Roundup, an herbicide widely used in the agricultural industry, is commonly placed into GMOs and present in the GMO foods you would consume. Again, it doesn't mean a little bit of poison is okay to have in your food! My suggestion is to avoid performance products containing corn and soy. You will find many inexpensive protein bars are soy based, so be prepared to spend a little more to get a true performance product.

A simple rule of an ingredient label is if you cannot pronounce the word, it is probably not good for you!

Third, understand that as far as nutrition labels are concerned, that RDA values are the minimum need of the body, of a particular nutrient, to not show a deficiency of that nutrient. This is not the maximum you should consume in a day but actually a minimum. As an athlete your body's requirements will be much higher than the average person. When it comes to fats and sodium, they are not necessarily enemies of an athlete. Quality fats from coconut oil and Omega 3s are assets. Sodium, if from a source like sea salt, can be advantageous to the athlete in proper proportions.

What REALLY makes a product good?

Quality ingredients and balance!

As far as sports nutrition goes, bars need to have a adequate amount of grams of protein. The amount of grams of protein per serving should be double digits and contain quality fats, both which the body will use for recovery and sustained energy. Sugar grams should be low, preferably under 12 grams.

Gels have been one of the newer products to gain popularity and I support the use of them for quick "loading" and "reloading" energy when there is really no time for the digestion of whole foods. Carefully select your gels since many gels have sodium benzonate (a preservative) and if you want to stay clear of chemicals, read the labels. Companies like Sequel Naturals and Ignite Naturals produce some quality, clean products.

The energy drink market is one flooded with loads of inferior products and labels containing deceiving, creative marketing buzz words. When it comes to choosing an energy drink, it can be a difficult task to find one worthy of consumption. Caffeine and sugar laden energy drinks rob your body's performance regardless of the "promise" they state across the label. Be educated and spend your money wisely.

-2012 Debra Meszaros All rights reserved; no duplication without permission
DISCLAIMER: When you read through the diet and lifestyle information, you must know that everything within it is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. I am making no attempt to prescribe any medical treatment. You should not use the information here for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. The products and the claims made about specific products have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Confirm the safety of any supplements with your M.D., N.D. or pharmacist (healthcare professional). Some information given is solely an opinion, thought and or conclusion based on experiences, trials, tests, assessments or other available sources of information. I do not make any guarantees or promises with regard to results. I may discuss substances that have not been subject to double blind clinical studies or FDA approval or regulation. You assume the responsibility for the decision to take any natural remedy.
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