Recovery Bars?

Marketing is a huge business and some of the big brands out there with huge budgets really know how to push our buttons and get us to buy things that we don’t really want or need. Nutrition supplements are no different including all these recovery/energy bars you find in chemists and supermarket shelves. But are they worth their money and do they really do what they say they do? In most cases I really doubt they do.

The other day, my good friend Donna, from Run Donna Run asked a question about them on her page. I gave her a brief answer, but here is the full, long winded version so you too don’t get caught out by these marketing geniuses.

Most recovery bars are as they would suggest, designed to help you recover from a heavy training session. If you think about what our bodies really need after a training session, either running, cycling, weights or swimming, it’s all the same. We primarily need some carbs to restore our muscle glycogen levels and some protein to help repair the damage you caused to the muscles. You take care of these two things and you will be far more ready to head out on your next training session fully recovered so you can do it all again.

So let’s take a look at the aforementioned bars. I am talking in general here as I don’t want to single out any brand here but I have looked at many of them and they all seem to be quite similar. The most common ones contain high levels of protein which is a great start. But what is the source of the protein? If you are going to take a protein supplement, you are better off with whey protein as it is the most bioavailable. The most common one used is soy protein. Which I am not a fan of and you can read this article to find out my reasons why.

But what about the carbohydrate content? Most of the ones that contain protein, have no carbs so to make them taste good, they need to add alternatives. I’m not a fan at all of artificial sweeteners, but most of the time they use ones that are classed as non nutritive as they don’t actually provide any calories, but still naturally derived.

A good example is something like maltitol or similar sweeteners like malitol, sorbitol or anything else ending in ‘ol. They are a fermented sugar called a sugar alcohol which is unable to pass through the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. So if it can’t get through there and into your system, it doesn’t count as calories and certainly has no effect on your blood sugar. Which after a training session is not what you want. I’m not a fan of sugars, but it’s actually what you need after a hard session.

But the real issue here comes back to the fact that we don’t digest these sugar alcohols and they sit in or GI tract for extended periods of time. What they do here is ferment and any time there is a fermentation process, there is gas and it has to come out somewhere. Do I really need to explain where? So the result is either discomfort from all the gas build up (bloating) or your partner having to sit far away from you to avoid all the smells you are creating.

So are recovery bars good for recovery? I prefer to stick to real food that has real nutrients just like the ones from the Runners Kitchen. They do a great protein bar with some carbs in the right proportions. Check them out…

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

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