Ready for Action: The 9 Best Energy Bars

In days of yore, energy bars were flat, grotesque masses of protein and carbohydrates cooked up in some laboratory by a cackling scientist with no taste buds. Or they were sugary things overflowing with empty calories that would pump you up for an hour before sending you into a sugar crash. Blessedly, they have improved markedly in the intervening years. Now they are genuinely enjoyable snacks that won’t wreck your diet and can put vital nutrients into your system for a more effective workout.

Just because there have been improvements in the industry doesn’t mean there aren’t a multitude of pretenders to the throne. Before you settle on a piece of fuel, check the ingredients. Quality bars will have plenty of carbohydrates (whole grains and oats are best) and/or protein (nuts and seeds) with a minimal amount of fiber. Dangerous ones will have sugar – or high fructose corn syrup – listed high on the ingredient list. They’ll also have partially-hydrogenated oils, aka Trans-fats. So that you don’t find yourself noshing on an unhealthy sugar-stick, we’ve found the 9 best energy bars.

Note: Even among the best bars, choosing certain flavors will still give you sugars you don’t want.

Clif Bar Original

Clif Bar Original

Pro: Multitude of flavor and content choices
Con: Often uses brown rice syrup

Pick and Choose: Clif bars are beloved the world over. Started by a small, family company they have become a sensation with good reason. The enormous variance that they offer in both their flagship products and more targeted lines gives you protein when you need it, carbs for those slow days, and meal replacements. While they are a good middle-of-the-road choice, many of them rely heavily on brown rice syrup, which can cause sugar highs and lows. Despite that, they tend to drop the fat content to the basement while amping up carbs and nutrients for better absorption. Just be sure to choose wisely and read the ingredients closely. [Purchase]

Strong and Kind Bars

Strong & Kind Bars

Pro: Low in saturated fat
Con: Contain glucose

Savory: Forget energy bars that are steeped in chocolate and fruit flavors. The Strong & Kind line has tastes like Hickory Smoked and Roasted Jalapeno that a man can really sink his teeth into. Based primarily around almonds and pumpkin seeds these keep saturated fat at an all-time low (often just 1.5 grams) and sugars to a minimum (about 6 grams). They don’t skimp on protein, usually offering around 10 grams per bar. Iron, calcium, and essential vitamins like A, C, and some forms of B give you the tools your body needs to help use each of the 200+ calories to maximum effect. Carbohydrate count is a little low on the S&K, so don’t plan on using these before running and biking, but the healthy fats pick up the slack for long-lasting energy. [Purchase]

Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars

Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars

Pro: Mostly vegan friendly
Con: Natural sugars abound

Purely Organic: Almost everything that goes into the Raw Revolution bars is truly raw, and all of it is 100% organic. No synthetics or unnatural additives here. Mostly they are built around a proprietary base that uses nuts, Chia seeds, brown rice proteins, hemp, virgin coconut oil, and flax to offer you a respectable level of complex carbohydrates with a wide range of variance depending on your needs. Protein tends to run on the low end so you’ll be better off using these for aerobics rather than muscle building workouts. Sugars can creep in thanks to the inclusion of agave nectar or dates, so be mindful of letting your sweet tooth be your guide. Calorie count is in the 150-250 range. [Purchase]

Rise Bar Energy

Rise Energy+ Bar

Pro: Very easy to digest
Con: High fiber

Pure and Simple: The Energy+ line from Rise is ideal for the person who wants to know exactly what is going into their food. Not only does Rise prize organic products, but they typically only have a few ingredients. When coupled with their protein and breakfast bars, these could be practically all you eat. The 26-grams of carbs you get is more than enough to get you moving to work or out on your snowboard for a little carving action. Sugar content is limited to that which is contained in the fruits used, which eliminates a drop-off later. Perfect for people with peanut allergies, soy intolerance, or issues with lactose. These are a hypo-allergenic option. [Purchase]


Powerful Yogurt Protein Bars

Pro: Includes probiotics
Con: No fiber

Power Pump: What began as a yogurt has now become a yogurt-based protein bar that amps up your energy with slow-release fats from milk and whey. Typically drifting at around 6 grams, the sugar content is minimal, while each bar can help you build a brick house body thanks to 20 grams of protein. The carb load isn’t going to set any records with only about 13-15 per bar, but it passes muster. A deep stable of probiotics will aid your digestion and avoid any troubles with utilizing the nutrients packed into each bar. Giving out tons of calcium for keeping your bones as beefy as your muscles, you’ll want to add some fiber to your diet, since there’s none to be found here. About 180-200 calories a bar. [Purchase]

Vega Snack Bar

Vega Snack Bar

Pro: Certified vegan and GMO-free
Con: Very little protein

Plant Power: Get ready to go green with these GMO- and gluten-free bars. Each one is made almost entirely of fruits and nuts for a certifiably vegan-friendly indulgence. 200 calories or less, Vega’s have at least 20 grams of complex carbohydrates coupled with loads of natural fats rich in omega-3s. A rich quantity of iron will help thicken your blood and allow your cardiovascular system to move nutrients to the places where they are needed most. Power lifters be aware, protein is in very short supply here, usually at only about 3 grams a serving, so muscle building is right out. Couple these with a protein-rich recovery bar if you need a jolt reinforced with the amino acids necessary to amp your pump. Built more for average snacking than heavy exercise. [Purchase]

Epic Bars

Epic All Natural Meat Bars

Pro: Contains real meat
Con: Low carbohydrate load

For Carnivores: High-quality meats aren’t just meant for cookouts and barbecues. You need them in your daily routine. When you’re on an endurance run, your body requires the muscle-building protein and easy digestions that only meat can provide. Epic’s savory flavors include bacon, turkey, pork, and even chicken with a little Sriracha for a bold taste that doesn’t make you feel like a squirrel. Fiber is kept to the 1-2 grams range with true animal protein in the 10-15 gram area. Best of all, these have a nice big dose of vitamin B, which is excellent for sustainable energy and for utilizing the 9-12 grams of carbs. Fruits and nuts are included in each 140 calorie bar, making them a well-rounded food. [Purchase]

Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bar

Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bar

Pro: Rich in healthy fats
Con: Expensive

Bug Juice: Exo takes an unusual – but welcome – approach to nutrition. They base their products around crickets; using the insects as a protein-rich energy source. This makes them paleo-friendly and the choice of meat-eaters who want something more intense than the vegetarian and gluten-free options. Carb content is on the high side, but where you’ll really be getting stimulation from these bars is the weighty fat content (20 grams or so). Great for active individuals, but those just looking to grab a invigorating snack should seek something a little lighter. Calories run towards the top of the scale with each bar offering about 300. [Purchase]

Bearded Brothers Energy Bars

Bearded Brothers Energy Bars

Pro: Extremely tasty
Con: Limited flavor selection

Quick Pick-up: Nearly 30 grams of carbohydrates make the Bearded Brother’s energy bars more than enough to get you ready to take to the streets in your favorite set of marathon running shoes. Created with fruits, nuts, and other natural ingredients they are completely free of GMO’s and 95% organic. It’s possible they’re also the best tasting bars out there with palette-pleasing tastes both sweet and savory. Everything about the company is planet-friendly, right down to their biodegradable wrappers. The high fiber content can be helpful for those who tend to slam protein shakes. With 200-250 calories per, there’s plenty of fuel for active eaters. [Purchase]