Why I Gave Up Energy Bars

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Recently, I gave up energy bars. This was a big decision, since bars formed a big part of my life. Almost every day I’d go into Whole Foods, buy some kind of caffeinated beverage, and then just stand there, looking at the bars. Sometimes I’d pick one up and look at the ingredients. Sometimes I’d buy one. Sometimes I’d buy three.

And now those days are over.

Before we talk about why I gave up bars, however, let’s talk about the different types of bars there are, and the different types of goons who eat them.

We’ll start with a guy who just eats Clif Bars. I don’t know if this kind of guy exists but if he does he probably: a) has very little imagination, b) works in finance or similar field, c) is really into bike riding and/or hiking. I could rant all day about people who like hiking. I mean, JUST hiking. Like people who go into the mountains and just walk around in them a bunch and then get in their car and go home. “Oh, man, what a sick day we had. Can you believe those views? And we like totally worked up a sweat. God, it’s so good to hit the trail.” But I’ll save that rant for another blog post.

Then there’s the guy/gal who just eats Lara Bars. This is sort of me. Lara Bars are/were definitely one of my go-to bars. But beware the person who ONLY eats Lara Bars. Like, they would never get any other kind of bar. The first thing you’ll probably notice about this person is they don’t wear deodorant. They’re wearing those loose-fitting, hippie parachute pants. They probably have an eyebrow piercing or at the very least a nose piercing. They’re 96% vegan. They talk a lot about certain movements and yet spend most of their days just like everyone else, driving around and consuming. They have a more varied interest set. Sure, they like hiking, but they also do yoga, climb, and then wildcard activities like kayaking and maybe the occasional surfing. They’re kind of fun to hang around and maybe even pretty attractive, but they’re also insufferable, too. Mostly they just smell like campfire and camphor oil.

Lastly there’s the person who gets things like Builders Bars and bars focused on improved recovery after lifting weights or other performing other strenuous activity. Beware this person, not just because of their questionable taste in bars, but because they’re probably a criminal. This is the same kind of person who graduated from drinking energy drinks like Ballz when they were younger. This person also coincidentally works in finance, but wears flashy suits and has a nasty streak. This person doesn’t usually read books but when they do they’re books like Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday (which they don’t finish, of course). Maybe even secretly something by Jodi Picoult.

And then there’s me. Like I said, I’m kind of a Lara Bar guy. But I’m also kind of a Clif Bar guy. Hell, I’m even a Power Bar guy, if I can find them. There are a ton of other bars I like too and I’m open to pretty much any kind of bar. I like Perfect Bars, GoMacro bars, Kind bars, Primal Kitchen bars, any kind of self-professed paleo bar as long as it doesn’t have sugar alcohols. Basically, being a bar guy, my favorite thing to do is go to Whole Foods or any other place that has a lot of bars, and check out the offerings. Read the ingredients. Read the nutrition facts. And this last one is the perfect segue for talking about why I gave up bars, because the long and short of it is this: I gave up bars because of their ingredients, because (almost) all of them have one thing in common: Too much sugar, too many carbs.

There was a time when I would eat five Clif Bars a day. It was a very specific week a couple years ago, and it was the week I was riding my bike from LA to San Francisco. When in the town of Carmel, California I met a guy who was also riding his bike, though he was riding south. We ate some pastries outside a cafe and he even bought me a coffee and somehow the conversation turned to diet. I told him I’d basically just been living off Clif Bars. And he said, “Hey, when the furnace is hot enough, it’ll burn anything.”

Which is true. When the furnace is hot enough, it’ll burn anything. But most of us don’t go through the day with our furnaces burning very hot. Most of us, in a typical day, barely turn our furnaces on. Sure, we might turn them on for the 20 minutes we go on a run, but the rest of the time they’re just sitting there, distinguishable only by the faint glow of the pilot light. And here’s the thing: ENERGY BARS WERE MADE FOR FURNACES RUNNING AT FULL BLAST. If you’re gonna eat a Clif Bar, you better be exercising, and exercising strenuously. Like, you better be on a 10-mile hike. Like, you better be running from the cops. Like, you better be coding so hard your little fingers are starting to bleed. Otherwise, energy bars are superfluous. You don’t need them. And taking in that many carbs and sugars when you’re just sitting around means that in a couple hours (or less) you’re going to crash. Which is funny, because for people running marathons, energy bars are there so they DON’T crash (or at least that’s what they claim). But for most of us who are just sitting around all day crying, energy bars are too much. Too much sugar, too many carbs. Take the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clib Bar, for example. It has 20 grams of added sugar. 20 GRAMS. That’s about half the daily recommended intake of sugar for a man. In one little bar. It doesn’t make you feel good. It makes you feel like crap.

So lately, as I’ve experimented more with my diet and things like lowering the amount of carbs I consume/not consuming carbs until later in the day, I’ve realized there’s no place for bars in my life anymore. Or at least that place is reduced. I used to get bars every morning before I’d go climbing. But then I realized they were actually making me feel MORE tired. I was crashing after eating them. Now I do the opposite. I keep my meals light — especially the carbs — before I go climbing, because I’ve found that makes me feel lighter, stronger, and more energetic. I would love to walk around in the forest all day just shovng Peanut Toffee Buzz into my mouth, reveling in the caffeine, but that would be a perfect way to feel like crap and get fat. I’m sorry to break it to you, but most energy bars are basically candy bars, i.e. you’re kidding yourslef if you think they’re good for you.

So now what do I do when I go to Whole Foods if I don’t stand there gazing at all the bars? Well, I still get my caffeinated beverages. And to be perfectly honest, often times I still look at the bars, because I’m hoping one day there will be a bar that’s somehow lower in carbs, lower in sugar, but without a bunch of weird ingredients or sugar alcohols. Except, oh wait, I found it. It’s called: A handful of nuts, or,  a couple pieces of beef jerky. It doesn’t taste quite as good, but it’ll get you up the mountain a lot more effectively. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into.