Endurance sports, also called 'endurance', are activities that require long efforts with prolonged muscle fatigue. Per those who practice sports such as cycling and mountain biking, marathon, demanding trekking and mountain climbing, sky-running, cross-country skiing and the like, it is very important to know how to measure one's strength and above all to know how to evaluate one's energy reserves and know how to replenish them. to avoid running out of energy, sugar cramps, cramps and ultimately problems that may hinder the continuation of the activity.
The fundamental characteristic of endurance sports, as far as the effort of our organism is concerned, lies in the long aerobic activity to which we subject our body, with peaks in the anaerobic metabolic phase that can be repeated and can exacerbate physiological fatigue.
We have dealt with the biological meaning of 'aerobic phase' and 'anaerobic phase' in our article on heart rate.
Recall here that aerobic metabolismit is the energetic system put in place by our body to produce energy and which allows us to keep the production of lactic acid limited, within values that our body is able to dispose of, avoiding its accumulation. In the aerobic phase, the human body produces energy by burning lipids and carbohydrates, drawing on the reserves of these elements, reserves which must therefore have been accumulated before sporting activity or which must inevitably be reintegrated during activity. In particular, during sports that require prolonged muscular efforts, our metabolism enters the phase of prevalent consumption of carbohydrates / sugars ( glucose aerobic energy system) and in the long run it may need to replenish the sugar reserves. In addition to energy needs, in endurance sports it is also very important to maintain good hydration, but we will talk about this in a specific article on our blog.
Energy bars are an excellent solution to reintegrate in our body the substances that allow us to prolong aerobic sports activities and give the right amount of energy even for frequent anaerobic efforts.
The fundamental characteristics of energy bars
Energy bars must offer the following benefits:
- integrate sugars that give a rapid but continuous glycemic restoration. With carbohydrates with different glycemic index (simple sugars and complex sugars)
- provide, for each individual bar, an adequate calorie content, but not excessive in order not to burden digestion
- ensure good digestibility; occupying the body in the digestion process weighs down and takes away energy from the rest of the body, which is why the energy bars are optimized not to burden digestion
- do not require and do not stimulate the excessive use of water, since dehydration is another problem related to endurance sports, the bars must not be excessively salty (any reintegration of salts is optimized with other solutions such as water-soluble supplements ..)
- allow easy consumption during sports activities, even during a competition; the packages must be easily 'discardable', of adequate size and weight; they should not be sticky or melt due to the heat (unfortunately this can happen often, keeping the bars in pockets that overheat easily ..)
The main substances contained in energy bars are carbohydrates in different forms and with various characteristics.
Food science has today brought to high levels the knowledge on the functioning of our organism and on food raw materials from which to draw the most significant ingredients for the energy reintegration action.
Among the various ingredients of energy bars available on the market today, we find above all the following substances:
- glucose and sucrose (common sugar)
- fructose: it is a simple sugar, easily digestible and assimilable, very caloric, very sweet
- maltodextrin: it is a complex carbohydrate, digestible more slowly and for this reason it is absorbed for a long time
- Vitargo®: is a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) and is a patented and registered formula; it is highly effective in restoring glycogen reserves
- creatine : it is a supplement with various characteristics
- caffeine : it is a substance with a stimulating effect, it stimulates the nervous system and can lead to an increase in the blood supply to the muscles
Other substances that often complement the action of the food supplement in the form of a bar are:
- amino acids and branched chain amino acids
- various vitamins;
vitamin C helps protect cells from oxidative stress; vitamin B6 contributes to the physiological energy metabolism
DIRECTIONS the energy bars
Energy bars provide the sugar reserves that our body consumes in endurance sports.
The amount of bars to consume and when to use them (before, during, how often, etc.) are variables that may differ from person to person, depend on one's physiological metabolism and also on different tastes and uses.
Generally, the best way to take advantage of this supplement is to consume an energy bar (or half a bar) about half an hour before the start of the sporting activity, in order to store a good reserve of sugars and be guaranteed not to have disorders due to digestion (even if the bars today are still optimized to not burden digestion).
Per very long and tiring activities, the bars should also be consumed during the activity. The most common methods suggest the use of energy bars during activities that last at least two hours, in which case it may be useful to consume one bar (or half a bar or lower parts) every 90 minutes; for some bars, shorter times are also indicated, up to a minimum of 45 minutes (the weight of the single bar and the caloric intake vary).
After the activity it is then useful to take substances that facilitate recovery, but for this phase we refer to a future blog article.
How to choose an energy bar
The vast market of food supplements now allows us to have a wide choice of types of energy bars. Which is the best energy bar is impossible to tell; each single type can offer various characteristics with differences in weight, caloric intake, additional substances. Last but not least, it is also important to evaluate the taste (which is undoubtedly an important but very personal factor ..). As main guidelines we suggest the following aspects:
- The best bars to replenish energy and therefore sugars for endurance activities are energy bars ; The protein bars are optimized for other benefits, such 'as meal replacement bars or fingers for special diets; for the purpose we are dealing with in this article, that is energy reintegration during endurance sports, we recommend the exclusive choice of energy bars. A valid alternative are energy gels , which offer carbohydrate supplementation in liquid / gelatinous form
- Per various advantages, we suggest the choice of non-coated bars (chocolate or other ..); they guarantee not to melt and become sticky, and are generally better digested.
- The size (therefore the weight) is a personal evaluation; there are those who prefer large cuts (60 g or more), others small (less than 40 g); the most common average cut of an energy bar is 40 g. It is then possible to consume the whole bar in a single moment or break it and consume it at regular intervals, or even consume it slowly in small bites throughout the sporting activity. Per this aspect we recommend trying, experimenting and evaluating what best suits your tastes.
List of energy bars
Here is a list of energy bars of various brands and with various specific characteristics.
The intent of this list is not to give a ranking on the quality and performance of the individual bars, which is practically impossible; instead we describe for each model the objective characteristics (ingredients, weight, caloric intake), possibly accompanied by the information provided by the producers and by subjective considerations deriving from the comments collected from the vast clientele of IAFSTORE.
We emphasize that food supplements are not intended as a substitute for a healthy and varied diet; IAFSTORE recalls the importance of following a healthy lifestyle and a balanced natural diet. Per a correct sporting activity (especially at a competitive level) and to better evaluate the specific personal physiological characteristics and food diets or the simple use of supplements, it is always better to contact specialized centers and qualified trainers.
Per each listed product it is recommended to carefully read the ingredient and nutritional data present in the product sheet, with attention for any food intolerances.
The following list contains only a part of the vast range of bars available on the market.
You can view the full list of energy bars available on IAFSTORE by clicking here.
To see all the specific information of each individual product, you can view the IAFSTORE.COM card by clicking on the image of each listed product.
We list a maximum product per brand; many manufacturers supply more than one type of energy bar: by entering the product sheet it will be possible to see any other bars produced by the same brand.