A few weeks ago, a colleague here at Cooking Light wrote a blog on homemade energy bars, which really piqued my interest. The recipe was a riff on Kind bars, which I really like to eat, along with their other popular friend, Cliff Bars. Here is the problem with Kind bars and Cliff bars: They are expensive, especially if you eat them during the long routines where you need extra calories and nutrition to get you to and through a workout. Which brings up the question,
Do you eat because you work out, or do you work out because you eat?
Most of us are both types throughout our weeks. There are days we need 2,000 calories and days we need 3,000 calories. Same goes for our student-athletes in schools: The right types of nutrition are essential for those before- and after-school practices. Sometimes school lunches don't provide the energy student-athletes need, and they could use an extra boost from something besides Mountain Dew.
I need food when I train on my road bike for hours on end. Let's be honest: A salad with a lemon vinaigrette and grilled chicken isn't going to cut it on those days. Eating healthy is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and Cooking Light does a phenomenally good job giving readers the tools to live healthy. But sometimes, we just need the extra boost in our diets from time to time.
8 things I need in my energy bar:
- Needs to be delicious. (If you have eaten a Gu, you know what I mean. There is a reason the package isn't see-through.)
- Have the right mix of carbohydrates, calories, fat, and sodium.
- Has to be easy to eat. (Try biking at 15-20 mph while eating loose granola. It's like a dog trying to drink from a hose.)
- Easy to make. (If I'm training, it means I need to make a lot of them.)
- Can be made very quickly.
- Cheap. (If life isn't expensive enough...)
- Have a crunchy texture. (That helps solve the delicious problem and the food boredom problem.)
- Can be made with ingredients I can pronounce and are fairly common.
(My) Homemade Energy BarA few of these ingredients may be tougher to find in a small, traditional grocery store. All can be bought through Amazon and are not very expensive when bought locally or in bulk. For goji berries, find them in your Asian grocery store. They will be a lot cheaper there, and you will get lots of them. You can sub the barley for any puffed grain (even rice crisps if you're in a pinch). Sunflower seeds can be used for pumpkin seeds, and flax seed can be omitted entirely.
The honey is the only tricky part, but it really doesn't take long. If you don't cook the honey, it will make the bars too sticky. Did you know that honey will actually absorb moisture out of the air? Because honey is hygroscopic, it has to remain sealed when not being used.
- 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (5 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup puffed barley cereal (5/8 ounce)
- 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (2 3/8 ounces)
- 4 ounces dried goji berries
- 4 ounces dried banana chips
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (1 3/8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed (3/4 ounce)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup honey (7 1/2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup water
- Cooking spray
- Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to combine.
- Place honey and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until a candy thermometer reaches 280º, stirring frequently. Pour honey mixture evenly over almond mixture, tossing to coat thoroughly.
- Spread almond mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Press mixture down firmly. Use your body weight to press the bars down, using either your hand or a small metal pan. Pressing down the bars helps them compact down and makes them more portable. Let cool 15 minutes.
I wrote this so you can measure out all the ingredients using a digital scale. A scale makes putting it all together a breeze with quick measuring and no measuring spoons to clean up.
When I’m spending 2-5 hours pedaling away, these are perfect for me. I can reach back into my jersey, grab one, and toss it in my mouth. I'll eat one every 20 minutes and it keeps me rolling through the whole session. Tweak these the way you want them and make them your own, just as I did. The small size is perfect for an afternoon snack or to toss in a lunch box, too.
I tried pressing these into small muffin tins, but they were too much food to eat at a time. Way better to cut them into the size you want rather than trying to eat big pieces. It was a little like playing the game Chubby Bunny back in high school, not good eats.