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Energy Bars in the Wilderness . Energy Needs. We need a certain amount of energy to provide for our daily needs. Exercise can greatly influence this level. A person who is at a desk or in class all day would need about 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day.

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Energy Bars in the Wilderness

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energy needs
Energy Needs
  • We need a certain amount of energy to provide for our daily needs.
  • Exercise can greatly influence this level.
  • A person who is at a desk or in class all day would need about 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day.
  • A person who backpacks for 5 hours, strenuously hikes up to a peak for 2 hours, and then lounges around camp the rest of the day would need about 3,500 - 4,000 calories.
  • Energy bars are a convenient form of calories, especially in the backcountry.
energy calories
Energy = Calories
  • A calorie is a measure of energy the body gets when it catabolizes carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
  • For backcountry and wilderness activities, we recommend the following calorie ratio:
    • 70% of calories from carbohydrates.
    • 15% of calories from fat.
    • 15% of calories from protein.
  • All foods provide energy simply because they provide calories.
  • Thus, energy bars don’t necessarily make you more energetic than ordinary food, but they do provide calories in a more convenient and portable form.
  • Another advantage of eating energy bars is that they are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
4 general categories
4 General Categories
  • Energy/Carbohydrate Bars
    • Provides carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and vitamins to supplement a regular diet.
  • Protein Bars
    • Energy bar with extra protein—about 20-35 grams.2
  • Diet/Weight-Loss Bars
    • Based on different diet plans—many follow a low calorie or carbohydrate diet.
  • Meal-Replacement Bars
    • Generally contain the nutritional equivalent of a low-calorie meal—300-400 calories.2
energy carbohydrate bars
Energy/Carbohydrate Bars
  • Energy/carbohydrate bars are the best type for backcountry use because the majority of their calories come from carbohydrates.
  • Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our bodies because they are more easily and quickly broken down into glucose than fat and protein.
  • Also, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for prolonged high-intensity exercise in extreme conditions such as high altitude, cold, or heat.
  • Energy bars with organic whole-food ingredients provide the most healthy and balanced nutrition.3
the glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI)is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels.

Carbohydrates that break down rapidly during digestion have the highest glycemic indices.

The Glycemic Index
  • Such carbohydrates require less energy to be converted into glucose, which results in faster digestion and a quicker increase of blood glucose.
  • Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have low glycemic indices.
energy supplement bars
Energy/Supplement Bars*

≈70-15-15 calorie ratio * Values may vary slightly for different flavors of the same bar

energy supplement bars8
Energy/Supplement Bars
  • The Clif Bar and Odwalla Bar! are good energy bar options because they are made with raw, organic, whole-food ingredients and are rich in carbohydrates.
  • Also, the Clif Bar has a good ratio of calories from carbohydrates-fat-protein (65-17-18).
energy supplement bars9
Energy/Supplement Bars
  • The Power Bar was designed to keep endurance athletes from “bonking”—that is, to prevent glycogen depletion in the muscles.
  • Most of the Power Bar’s calories (~75%) come from high fructose corn syrup and other high GI carbohydrates, causing a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.
  • Because of its high glycemic index, the Power Bar is a good choice for backcountry use.
  • On a long hike, eat a half or quarter of a bar as necessary to sustain blood glucose levels, rather than eating the whole bar at once.
protein bars
Protein Bars
  • Protein needs increase with exercise, whether it is strength training or endurance training.
  • The recommended dietary amount for protein is about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day.
  • Strength or endurance athletes may want to increase their intake up to 10%—0.4 grams per pound per day.
  • Energy/carbohydrate bars contain sufficient amounts of protein for backcountry activities.
  • Excess protein intake causes the body to need an increase in hydration and also leads to an increased oxidative effect.
  • In addition to containing more protein than necessary, many protein bars contain excess fat.
protein bars11
Protein Bars*

* Values may vary slightly for different flavors of the same bar

protein bars12
Protein Bars
  • The Odwalla Bar! Super Protein is a good option because it contains more organic ingredients than most protein bars, it is low in saturated fat, and it has a good ratio of calories from carbohydrates-fat-protein (55-20-25).
diet weight loss bars
Diet/Weight Loss Bars
  • Diet bars are based on different diet plans, such as restricted calorie diets or restricted carbohydrate diets.
  • Diets that restrict calories or carbohydrates should not be followed while in the backcountry.
  • Diet/weight loss bars are not a good choice for backcountry use because almost all of them are low in calories and/or carbohydrates.
diet weight loss bars14
Diet/Weight Loss Bars*

* Values may vary slightly for different flavors of the same bar

meal replacement bars
Meal-Replacement Bars
  • If you use meal-replacement bars to replace meals, do not replace more than one meal per day.
  • Also, when replacing a meal with a bar, look for a bar with higher protein—about 15 - 20 grams.
  • Bars with whole-food ingredients (dried fruits, whole grains) more closely resemble the nutritional value of a meal.3
  • It is recommended to supplement your “meal” with some fresh fruit or vegetables for more balanced nutrition.5
  • In the backcountry, meal-replacement bars are also good snacks (rather than meal-replacements) because they are very high in calories and carbohydrates.
meal replacement bars16
Meal-Replacement Bars*

* Values may vary slightly for different flavors of the same bar

meal replacement bars17
Meal-Replacement Bars
  • The Probar is one of the best meal-replacement options because it is made from organic, whole-food ingredients, most of which are uncooked, making them easier for your body to digest.
  • Energy bars are a great way to boost your calorie intake in the backcountry, but don’t depend heavily on bars for high-quality nutrition.3
  • Whether using bars as a meal replacement or snack, supplement them with some fresh fruit for more balanced nutrition.5
  • Choose a bar with a high amount of carbohydrates. The higher, the better.
  • Bars with organic, whole-food ingredients are usually the best option.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water with energy bars— at least 12 ounces per bar.5
  • Choose bars low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Bergeron, Emily. “Before You Grab That Energy Bar, Read the Label.” Environmental Nutrition Jan. 2003: 5.
  • Brand Patel, Nancy. “So Many Choices…How on Earth do I Pick a Nutrition Bar.” Vegetarian Times Jun. 2005: 26-29.
  • “Energy Bars, Unwrapped.” Consumer Reports Jun. 2003: 19-21.
  • Liebman B, Schardt D. “Bar Exam.” Nutrition Action Health Letter Dec. 2000: 10-13.
  • Turner, Lisa. “Bar None.” Better Nutrition Aug. 2001: 38-42.