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  Last updated: 1/25/2020

snacks and energy bars

Energy bars are a convenient source of Calories for use before, during, or after exercise. Most contain about 200 calories per serving/packet. Originally intended to be a convenient energy sources for refueling during workouts, markets have developed for bars before and after workouts, for women, for those trying to lose weight, for those on 40-30-30 diets, and for those on low-carb diets. Carbohydrate is the most important and usually main source of energy for during-exercise bars. Bars marketed for recovery (after exercise) often contain protein, generally about 20% of calories. Although claiming that protein enhances recovery, the science is light. The only mineral additive that has consistently been shown to be important for athletes is sodium. Other ingredients such as anti-oxidants, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs are of questionable value.

And of course there are the usual questions such as the following (fill in the name of any commercial product):

Q.I just read your article on "CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS - Optimizing Personal Athletic Performance - >ENERGY BARS, ENERGY GELS - ARE ADDITIVES HELPFUL??" and was wondering if you had come across the "Access Bar" from Melaleuca? I have been recommended this to help with training as it is supposed to help the body access the fat >supplies at the outset of exercise rather than glycogen. I have attached a link to a document that I found on this and was wondering what your opinion was. - MM

A.Putting up a lot of metabolism pathways on a webpage is a red flag that there may not be any real facts to back up the claims. They can can wow the reader, but the real question is whether they have tested 6 riders using this product with 6 using plain old coca cola or other enegy supplements you can buy over the counter. The later (a test in the field or under real life conditions) is the only way I know of to prove that the extra $$ you are spending are getting you any significant benefit on the bike.

The following are several interesting ideas for homemade snacks to take on that next ride. They not only can provide some taste variety, but they are definitely easier on the wallet than the commercial energy bars.The following recipes are generally low or non fat (except those containing peanut butter). However, palatability - improved with a little fat - is often important to keep one eating during a ride, so try to find the balance for your tastes.


For many years it was believed that a 2.5% concentration (glucose or glucose polymer molecules) was the maximum that could be tolerated without delaying gastric emptying and producing nausea. However a recent study of cyclists demonstrated normal gastric emptying with 6 to 8% solutions, and nausea occurred only when concentrations were pushed above 11%. The old standbys - fruit juices and cola drinks - have a sugar concentration of around 10% (a typical carbonated drink will contain 38 grams of sugar per 12 ounces with 140 Calories). Although sports drinks supplemented with glucose polymers can provide more Calories per quart at the target 10 - 11% concentration, studies have failed to demonstrate a performance advantage of complex carbohydrate drinks over those compoced of simple sugars if the same total Calories were ingested. The advantage of the polymers is the absence of a sweet taste and nauseating properties of high concentration glucose drinks, which can be a barrier to maintaining an adequate fluid intake.

Many people enjoy their own homemade versions of commercial sports drinks. The basic recipe is not complicated and homemade sports drinks can provide all of the same benefits when mixed properly. Gatorade (tm) is formulated to give the following per 8oz serving:

Alternatives to this commercial product can be made using one of the following recipes:

Recipe #1

Nutrition Information (per 8 ounces). The recipe will give a total of 124 grams of solute which in 2 liters water gives a total of 6.2% concentration. You'll notice that the amount of potassium is quite a bit higher than Gatorade, but the rest is pretty close. As excess potassium is eliminated from the body by the kidneys, and some experts feel a high potassium helps to minimize muscle cramps - and hypertension if taken long term - this is not necessarily bad. However, if you wanted to reduce the potassium to the level of a Gatorade product, another option would be to use 1/2 tsp. each of regular salt and the Morton Lite Salt. This would change the composition to:

Recipe #2 (if you wanted to reduce the amount of potassium, or simply didn't want to buy some Morton Lite Salt

Nutrition Information (per 8 ounces):

(you could substitute 2 tbs. of lemon juice for the orange juice and it would come out the same - or at least close).

Recipe #3 (using cups and quarts)

Nutrition Information (per 8 ounces):

Recipe #4 (if you prefer an all fructose drink)

Nutrition Information (per 8 ounces):

Recipe #5 Lemon-orange sports drink

Nutrition Information (per 8 ounces): LINKS

I have found several other links with suggestions you might want to review.

Questions on content or suggestions to improve this page are appreciated.

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