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- Nutrition bars are packed with all the nutrients you need so you can fuel up on the go without stopping for a full meal.
- The Untapped Maple Waffle is the best energy bar you can buy because it is sensibly portioned, all natural, and so delicious we wanted to eat waffles even when we weren’t exercising.
Whether you train at the gym, on the trail, or out on the road you’ll need to fuel your workout if you plan to be sweating for more than an hour or so. Even if you only train during your lunch break, it can be hard to balance eating and exercising to make sure you feel fueled up not full up.
Energy and nutrition bars make a great choice for athletes, adventurers, or anyone who can be too busy to sit down and snack. Gone are the days of the putty-like bar that required a significant jaw workout before you could swallow it, today’s energy bars use natural ingredients in delicious combinations and deserve a place in every pantry.
We’ve picked our favorite bars to stuff in our pockets for bike rides and keep handy in our gym bags and glove compartments.
Here are the best nutrition bars you can buy:
- Best nutrition bar overall: Untapped Maple Waffle
- Best pre-workout nutrition bar: Honey Stinger Organic Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack Bars
- Best filling whole food nutrition bar: Bonk Breaker PB and J
- Best nutrition bar for sensitive stomachs: Picky Bar
- Best nutrition bar for digestibility: Science in Sport Go Energy Bar
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best nutrition bar overall
Why you’ll love them: These Untapped Maple Waffles are just the right portion size, use natural ingredients, taste great, and have a solid nutritional composition.
Ten years ago, I was making a living racing bicycles in Belgium. If there’s one thing that bike racers know, it’s snacks. When races top out at over 130 miles, you really need to bring along something to chew on.
Back then, Untapped wasn’t around, and we’d roll over to local bakeries to buy stroopwafels, a kind of flat caramel filled waffle, to stuff in our pockets before races. On cold days, we’d warm the waffles up on top of our pre-race cups of coffee and enjoy a moment of delicious indulgence before several hours of riding over cobbles in the snow.
Ted King, one of the founders of Untapped was also a pro cyclist and has now retired in Vermont. It only makes sense then that he has combined his need for snacks with the local maple syrup to produce untapped waffles.
King brings years of experience eating sugary things out of packets to the company, which might be why their serving size is exactly right for a mid-exercise snack. Many bars are a bit large to eat all at once, and end up in our gym bag or backpack gathering lint. These waffles, at 140 calories each, are a perfect single serving.
These Untapped Maple Waffles are so delicious you’ll struggle to store them in your house for long. The delicious maple syrup based filling seems to be a favorite of purchasers on Amazon, one of whom said he could eat them "all day long."
Expert testers agreed, with one saying "I would rather have a maple waffle in my pack than any other energy bar on the market." These waffles only use natural ingredients and are organic and vegan, making them a healthy and delicious choice for nearly every diet.
I’m not getting paid to race bikes anymore, which is a good thing because after a few years of doing so I was running out of bones to break! If I was to make a return, as Untapped’s Ted King has done, it would be with a pocketful of these breakfast treats.
Pros: Organic, vegan, and natural, delicious, sensible portion
Cons: Can be hard to eat if you don’t have water, fewer calories per dollar than other options.
The best nutrition bar for a pre-workout snack
Why you’ll love it: This Honey Stinger Organic Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack bar tastes more like a treat than a healthy snack, but the natural ingredients and salty-sweet taste make it a great choice for health-conscious adventurers and athletes alike.
If you ever find yourself in a supermarket before a triathlon, century ride, or marathon, you’ll notice there’s not a jar of nut butter left to be seen. Peanut, almond, and other nut butters are the kind of protein and healthy fat packed fuel that endurance athletes crave.
Honey Stinger must have noticed this, because the company took those nut butters, sandwiched them between two crackers, and sprinkled on a little sea salt for the perfect pre-workout snack.
During a workout, nutritional wisdom suggests that you should stick to easily digestible carbs to avoid GI distress. But in the hours leading up to the workout, you’re going to want something that sticks with you a little more in order to keep hunger from ruining your performance.
This is where snacks like the Cracker N’Nut Butter bars come in. They make a great mid-morning snack if you exercise at lunchtime or a good breakfast choice if you tend to be rushing out of the door in the morning.
On a recent bikepacking trip in the Laguna mountains, I started every day with one of these bars and a cup of coffee and found myself comfortable riding an hour or two until I could find something more substantial to eat, and that’s never the case when I eat more sugary bars.
On Amazon, one happy shopper declared them a favorite snack for long bike rides, and another said they were "by far the most delicious ride food I have ever tried." Snews declared them "crazy good" and noted the respectable 5 grams of protein and 9-12 grams of sugar.
The bars are also certified kosher and organic and don’t have any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. With peanut butter and milk chocolate, Almond butter and dark chocolate, and Cashew butter and milk chocolate to pick from there is a flavor for everyone.
Pros: Delicious, a balanced snack
Cons: The chocolate coating can melt in high temperatures, higher fat content than some people can tolerate during exercise
Buy a 12-pack of Honey Stinger Organic Dari Chocolate Almond Butter Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack Bars on Amazon for $26.40
The best filling whole food nutrition bar
Why you’ll love them: Bonk Breaker’s compressed whole food bars might look like a traditional energy bar, but the list of ingredients features healthy pantry favorites in delicious combinations.
Who among us has not felt the sort of hunger that yearns for a PB&J only to find themselves tragically distant from the nearest jar of Skippy? Well, you need suffer no longer! Bonk Breaker’s delicious Peanut Butter and Jelly energy bar contains real peanuts and delicious strawberry jam, but unlike the sandwich we all love, it isn’t going to get squashed in your backpack.
Bonking, if you were wondering, is the state you find yourself in when you underfuel for a long workout and are suddenly hit by an incredible hunger, sense of dizziness, and often a feeling of impending doom. I should know, I have found myself crying in a gas station parking lot more than once in my life. Luckily, consuming some carbohydrates and having a short rest is all you need to banish your bonk.
Jason Winn, the founder of Bonk Breaker, discovered what bonking was when he began training for an ironman triathlon. Unsatisfied with the bars on the market, he wanted something portable, delicious, natural and calorie dense. What he came up with was a home baked energy bar that used the same recipe as these bars today.
Bonk Breaker bars still have the taste and texture of a homemade snack and, unlike some of the bars we tried, don’t require a massive effort to chew and swallow even when you’re gasping for air.
Bonk Breaker mage a huge range of flavors but each bar only uses 9-12 ingredients. They’re all certified gluten free and dairy free and use fresh natural products. The bars themselves have a soft and chewy texture that should leave you full up but not bloated or stuffed.
We loved the easily portable Bonk Breaker bars, which didn’t crumble or get crushed even when we stashed them in our carry on for a long flight. Much like the coaches at Carmichael Training Systems, we loved that the bars didn’t stick to the wrapper on warm days or get too stiff to bite in the cold. The cookie dough like texture and trustworthy ingredients made this a go-to for us on cold days and during long hikes and bike rides.
Pros: Short and natural ingredient list, portable and calorie dense, filling enough to serve as a meal replacement
Cons: Hard to digest in intense exercise, not suitable for people with nut allergies
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