Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but never underestimate the power of a snack. Having a little bite to eat before and after a workout is great for revving up your metabolism, fueling your body so it can function at max capacity, and aiding in the recovery process. A pre-packaged energy or nutrition bar might seem like an easy, on-the-go option but, before you load up on the snacks, you better make sure you’re doing so wisely! There are many bars out there that are deceptively unhealthy, many with enough sugars and carbs to rival a candy bar!
To help you snack smart, we asked two registered dietitians which bars have their seals of approval. Take a peek at their picks below—and as always, read nutrition labels.
The Best Snack Bars Pre- and Post-Workout
Health Warrior Chia Bars
“With chia seeds as the main ingredient, these bars are packed with omega-3 fats, protein, and fiber. The omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory and can help with muscle recovery. At just 100 calories, they pair well with a piece of fruit for a snack or a sweet treat after dinner.”
—Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CSCS, author of Three Steps to a Healthier You
“These are my favorite of all time. What makes it the best? The super straight just eight ingredients does the trick! I love it for its simple message and no bogus packaging. It’s gluten, soy, and dairy free. It has no added sugar or sweeteners, and its sole source of protein is egg whites. Plus, it’s high in fiber. Sea salt chocolate and coffee chocolate are my two favorites. It’s an ideal recovery choice post high-intensity workouts (spin class, cross-fit, running, or squash, to name a few) as it provides good combination of carbohydrates (along with dietary fiber) and protein to replenish stores and provide adequate energy.”
—Pooja Vyas, MS, RDN
“These bars use a base of grass-fed meats including bison, turkey, pork, beef, lamb paired with dried fruit and seeds to offer a unique savory bar. Similar to a soft beef jerky, these bars are low in sugar and pack 10-15 grams of protein plus complex carbs and fiber for a great post-workout snack.” —Rumsey
“Now these bars are special. Why? The creators and founders are Registered Dietitians. Legit! They are well-balanced, nutrient dense, free from allergens, and without any artificial flavors. They’re gluten free, vegan, and non-GMO. They’re soy-free and provide good fats (from nut/seed butter), antioxidants (in the dark chocolate flavor), and low glycemic carbs. They’re an ideal pre-workout snack—eat them about 1-2 hours before to avoid GI discomfort—due to their high carbohydrate and fiber content, which increases energy to thrive during any type of workout and keep you full for longer. Due to their low glycemic and high fiber value, they become an ideal snack for diabetics (or as matter of fact, for anyone who is on a weight maintenance goal) as it manages/controls blood sugar levels during workout and exercise.” —Vyas
Kind Bars Nuts & Spices
“With a wide availability, KIND bars are easy to find when on the go. Whole nuts, seeds and legumes are lightly sweetened to create bars high in fiber, protein, and healthy fat. The nuts and spices line bars have five grams of sugar or less.”
“Individually wrapped, they are literally delicious! A complete plant protein/vegan bar (sprouted and whole grain) along with MCTs, no artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or protein isolates. They’re USDA organic and a non-GMO product. They also are soy, dairy or any allergen free, making it easier for individuals with dietary or allergy restrictions. They come in five different flavors and contain 10 ingredients or less. Chocolate coated nuts and sea salt is my favorite! Moderately balanced, this snack bar can be a great post workout or pre-workout (eat two hours before) alternative or a mid-day snack on rest days.”
“This brand has an array of bars and products starting from traditional bars, bites, fruits and greens bar, nut and seed bar, and organic with superfoods bars. There’s a quite versatile range of inciting flavors. I love the easy-to-read ingredient list (nuts, fruits, seeds, and dates- for sweetener) as it does the trick for anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s a non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and kosher product. This bar is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fiber. Could possibly be a pre-workout snack as it provides enough calories to thrive any cardio class, let it be spin class, zumba, or one-hour run on treadmill. It’s ideal for any endurance runner or long distance swimmer too, as to quickly refuel for instant calories post workout.”
Luna Protein Bars
“The highlight of this bar—it’s low glycemic value. Soy protein isolate is the first ingredient. It contains soy, milk and nuts, so it’s not suitable for people with dietary and allergy restrictions. However, it’s gluten free and packed with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants (certified cocoa use). It’s an ideal pre-workout snack or mid-day snack and is a suitable alternative for athletes with diabetes for its controlled carbohydrate content.”
The most important rule when it comes to snacking—know what it is you’re munching on. Vyas says to always look for eight to ten ingredients—or less. When it comes to an ingredient list, the shorter the better, and If you can’t pronounce something, it tells you that the product isn’t in its (most) natural form, she adds.
Lastly, she says to look for a good balance of carbohydrates and protein. Aim for no added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, or sugar alcohols, and aim for whole grains or 100 percent whole wheat as the first ingredient, and be on the lookout for a bar with more than three to four grams of fiber per serving.