Protein bars are a staple at youth sports games and tournaments. Individually packaged and promising quick energy, they're often chocked full of ingredients that may or may not provide the best nutrition. Dragonwing Brand Ambassador Abby G. takes a look at these game-day go-to snacks and shares her discoveries.
Pre-Game/WorkoutAthletes need a snack that is 75% carbs and 25% protein to provide energy, and repair and build muscle during activity. Check the ingredient list and nutrition label of your favorite snack bar to know if it has the right balance of protein, fats, and sugar. Yes, sugar; it has a bad reputation if it is refined sugar, but not when it comes from natural sources and whole foods such as low-fat milk and dried fruit. The fiber in the fruit causes the sugar to metabolize slower, leaving your athlete feeling fuller and with more energy. Sugar from natural sources does not cause inflammation, an added, important benefit.
Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian, recommends the "rule of 5." Having at least 5 grams of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat results in a filling pre-game snack choice.
Post-Game/WorkoutPost-workout, these nutrients repair muscles, replenish the body's glycogen stores, and prevent muscle soreness. Athletes need to stay hydrated and consume similar healthy food with protein and carbs. Protein bars are a good fit since appetites may be temporarily dulled from a strenuous workout, or other options may be too heavy. Look for choices composed of whole foods. Micro-nutrients and essential fiber provide the body with the nutrients needed to repair muscles and replenish the body's glycogen stores. It also helps prevent muscle soreness.
Understand What You're BuyingOften the ingredients lists for bars are long and unrecognizable. After being refined and processed, these ingredients lose many of the nutrients essential to muscle repair. Know the difference between granola bars and protein bars. While granola, purchased or homemade, can be a healthy snack, it may not provide what your young athlete needs during their sports season and workouts. Want to know more? Check out these resources for making smart nutrition choices for your daughter's next workout.
- The Complete Guide to Nutrition
- Workout Nutrition Explained
- 7 Nutrition Tips for All Day Sporting Events
- Choose My Plate
- Forego bars loaded with refined sugar and apply Palinski-Wade's Rule of 5.
- Read labels and choose whole foods over processed or refined ingredients.
- Plan for healthy pre-workout snacks and recovery foods that provide steady energy and recovery nutrients.
Let us know what bars you've found best for pre and post-game, practices, and workouts.
Special Thanks to Abby G. for her research and for compiling great resources we can all use.