Energy bars, sports bars, protein bars - they're generally promoted as healthy snacks that can also boost sports performance. But are they really necessary - and would an apple or a tub of yoghurt do the job just as well or better?
Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably but there are some differences:
Unless you're doing endurance exercise, there's no need for these products at all, Reid explains. Yet because of the way they're marketed, these products are often seen as a healthy snack or a way to give you an edge at the gym - but they may just be adding extra kilojoules, especially if you're doing a short workout.
Instead, choose a healthier snack such as a small handful of nuts with a piece of fruit, a glass of low-fat milk or a tub of low-fat yoghurt with some wholegrain cereal, or a tuna and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread.
These healthy snacks are based on lean protein (lean meat, poultry, fish, low fat dairy products, legumes or nuts) and quality carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables and fruit). Reid says this is a good foundation of any eating plan for athletes and others who do a lot of exercise of higher intensity and for longer periods of time, to ensure they have enough fuel.
Compared to a sports drink, a sports bar is a more concentrated form of carbohydrate and is a source of protein to help athletes top up during endurance events or recover in between events.
For more information on exercise nutrition and hydration, see Food for exercise.
Sports Dietitians Australia
Australian Institute of Sport
Australian Institute of Sport. Sports bars. [online] Bruce, ACT: Australian Sports Commission. [last updated January 2007, accessed 26 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/
Personal communication, Caitlin Reid, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Aug 2010.
Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Dairy and sports performance. [online] South Melbourne, VIC: SDA. Feb 2011 [accessed 14 Jun 2011] Available from: http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/
Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA).Eating and drinking during and after sport. [online] South Melbourne, VIC: SDA. Aug 2010 [accessed 26 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/resources/upload/file/Eating and drinking during and after sport Aug 10.pdf (PDF, 328Kb)
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