What are your energy bar choices for the hill?

  • Creator
  • #30216
    Rebecca Dent

    It has been a little quiet here on the nutrition forum so I would like to take the opportunity to ask a question to all you uphill athletes.

    What energy bars do you prefer to take on your training sessions, mountain days, crag sessions, ski tours etc? and why?

    Do you buy them or do you make them?

    Has anyone tested the Uphill Athlete recipes on page 310 of ‘Training for the New Alpinism’? These are great recipes, are quick and easy to put together, pretty durable and hold together well when out on the hill (see pictures attached of the protein chocolate heroes recipe). I actually added some whey protein to this mix for those longer days, but you could also add a plant based protein powder if desired.

    Here in Europe/UK preference is certainly turning towards the more natural/real food based bars e.g. hard bar, trek bars, pulsin, luna bars, as well as items such as gu waffles, honey stinger waffles, power bars.

    There is an awesome website called http://www.outdoorfood.club that helps you find your bar of preference depending on activity, training requirements etc with added recipes to make your own bars, gels and hydration drinks. Its quite a new website and requires some patience when navigating, but is great for new ideas for snacks for the hill.

    Rebecca (Dietitian-Uphill Athlete)

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Posted In: Nutrition

  • Participant
    derekosborne22 on #30229

    Hi Rebecca,

    I’m not a great fan of energy bars, maybe because they didn’t really exist when I started going into the mountains, and maybe that’s why I don’t actually eat a lot when exercising even on a long day. I remember back in the mid 70’s doing an epic 19 hour route in Chamonix on some oatcakes and cream cheese – dinner that evening was needed!!!

    On a single day out, I tend to just raid the fridge and make a sandwich with whatever is there, and add a banana and/or apple. If I’m going to be out for several days in a row I tend to make sure I have a nice salami sausage and a chunk of hard cheese, both of which I nibble across the days with either a nice whole meal bread or some oatcakes. I also will make sure I have a good supply of dried fruit and nuts, and possibly a banana or two. That works for me (maybe I’m naturally fat adapted) but I do eat well at the end of the day.

    As an FYI, I also road cycle a fair bit through the summer months and will often do and easy 4 – 5 hours without anything other than water, but if it’s a hard fast run of greater than 3 hours I’ll use up to 4 energy gels with caffeine. Once home I always start rehydration immediately with semi skimmed milk and take on some food – usually whole meal toast with sardines or mackerel.

    I’ll be interested on your views of above – don’t hold back :-)))


    PS …. none of above is competitive other than against myself.

    Rebecca Dent on #30240

    Hi Derek,

    I’m excited to hear your feedback, thanks for your detailed insights and experience. I really love your food choices and actually think they are very good ones, simple uncomplicated and for your longer days your choices are providing a great mix of fats and carbs for fuel and calories, with some protein. A food first approach is always the preferred starting point. When you are naturally fat adapted because you are aerobically fitter from spending long durations at a lower intensity, I would agree you do tend to need to eat less during these days. I think also for big days it perhaps is to be expected that nutrition intake may be sub optimal (due to weight allowance, practicalities of stopping to eat regularly slows you down, or may not be possible if you are on a technical route, environment and access to food) and that recovery at the end of a big day/trip as you highlighted is key.

    Regarding your cycle vs your running intake, again it sounds good to me, when you start to get into the higher intensity zones regardless of your level of fitness when you start to work anaerobically (zone 3 and above) your muscles require carbohydrate as a fuel source and so it makes sense to add in gels with caffeine. These are well researched sports nutrition principles you are applying here, glucose and caffeine for a performance boost. Your post run recovery foods are also spot on, with milk being effective and aiding recovery providing a source of protein and carbs along with aiding rehydration followed by a further nutritious intake of oily fish.

    I’m interested to hear peoples choices for the mountains because there seems to be an abundance of new products cropping up all of the time, which may or may not cause confusion or over complication of our nutrition intake or may in fact be helpful.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Anonymous on #30261

    I’m too lazy to make my own and too cheap to buy brand name… So I like the convenience of medjool dates for most outings and sometimes halva for longer sessions, especially in the winter. The dates, in particular, give a nice 30g/hour CHO drip (per your recommendations).

    Rebecca Dent on #30262

    Thanks Scott! It seems that real food is winning out over shop bought bars. I was listening to a podcast with Mark Twight at the weekend and he talked about carrying halva on his alpine climbs. I am yet to taste it and it’s one to try out this Winter. Nice work on the dates and the 30g/hr CHO drip.

    John S on #30292

    I tend to not eat fancy energy bars, though I will eat generic cereal/granola/museli bars. (choose the name appropriate to your nationality)

    My go to food involves pepperoni sticks, chucnks of cheddar, flour tortillas with peanut butter and either small chuncks of chocolate or chocolate cream cheese. I also like homemade slices -usually savoury or one with dried fruit that isn’t too sweet. I generally carry something a bit faster acting – such as chocolate – but may not eat it.

    I like stroop waffles if I’m working a bit harder but I refuse to pay more than 2Euro a 10 pack. 😉 Cheap cookies are an alternative.

    I can’t remember the last time I had a gu, but a couple of years ago in Peru while I was still acclimatising I struggled with eating fattier/heavier snacks, so was suplementing with chocolate syrup.

    And I just find dried fruit and nuts more hassle than they are worth for while I am on the go. I do like them in my breakfast though.

    Mariner_9 on #30309

    I normally take 2-3 candy bars (e.g. Snickers) or some cookies for a day-trip (harder ones that aren’t dust by the time you summit). Simple carbs are ideal in this situation (‘train on fats, race on carbs’), these don’t require any prep time and are available at any gas station on the way! Energy/granola bars often have as much crap in them as candy bars and I find proper foods (e.g. sandwiches) harder to digest when on the move all day.

    EDIT: I like Scott’s medjool dates idea!

    Rebecca Dent on #30319

    Thanks John for your preference of hill snacks. Not uncommon food choices and similar to others who have posted. The key as you have mentioned is what you feel you will manage to eat on the hill, taste, quick source of energy and hassle free eating are some of the things that influence our choices. Cost also seems to be a big influencer, if heading into the hills on a regular basis paying for pricey shop bought energy bars will add up.

    Thanks Mariner_9 let me know if you test out Scotts idea of medjool dates, they are great as a source of carbohydrate. I would also agree that some of the bars you can buy have an ingredient list that is not dissimilar to a chocolate bar.

    TerryLui on #30376

    Hey Rebecca, great topic! Just to mix the response variety up a bit 😉
    Here are 2 bars I go to:
    -Pro bar – https://theprobar.com/collections/meal-bar/products/superfood-slam (or any other of the fruity/nutty options)
    -Lara Bar

    Otherwise I usually bring some combination of the below:
    -Anything wrapped in a tortilla (PBJ, egg/avocado/cheese, shredded chicken/avocado/veggie/sauce, etc)
    -Sausage & cheese
    -Home roasted nut mix (incl. sesame sticks, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans)
    I find the above does well in surviving abuse and doesn’t break your teeth when cold (cuz you know…living in Canada and all LOL)

    Will have to try the dates!

    Rebecca Dent on #30377

    Hi Terri,

    Thanks for your great response. Lara bars and PRO bars are popular with Uphill Athletes I have worked with on custom nutrition plans. Tortillas do hold up well and can be squashed and survive a bashing, you have some good fillings there. Some strong favourites coming out re the cheese, halva and nuts.

    I was thinking of posting a topic the closer we get to Winter on which bars / foods tend to resist freezing up and breaking your teeth in the colder temps.

    Let me know how you get on with testing the dates.

    Jan on #30447

    As this thread seems to deviate from the original “bar topic” anyway, I may add my food choices for multi-day outings:

    during the day:
    – 150 grams “granola cookies
    – 150 g Cashew nuts
    These two choices add up to a 50:50 mix of carbs/fats, which I find to work well during low intensitiy. The Cashews also have a lot of magnesium which should help. Easy to grab a handful of it every now and then.

    for dinner:
    175 g potato chips, crushed for less volume, with 25 g of whey protein mixed in.
    Also a good mix of fat (for sleeping warm in the tent) and carbs (for filling up the glycogen stores). The extra protein really seems to help, it seems I have less muscle pain in the morning. No stove needed.

    I use the same during winter, works fine at least to -25 °C/-13 °F.

    I like the halva idea, will probably try that during some multi-day running trips I have planned.

    psathyrella on #30479

    I agree with most folks that given perfect fat adaptation and zero laziness that bars would be unnecessary. I try to get as much of the macros appropriate to the activity as I can from something real, tasty, and full of veges. But reality being what it is, I eat a lot of bars as well. For me there’s four main use cases for bars/gels:
    1) Sugar + complex carbs for strength training. For time-limited morning strength workouts (couple hours bouldering or general strength in the gym), where discovering 20 min in that I didn’t eat enough dinner would derail the entire session, getting a mix of simple and complex carbs from a bar is nice insurance. Usually regular clif bars (on top of a complex-carb-ey meal). Sucrose from candy seems less effective than maltose in (many) bars.
    2) Concentrated protein for recovery, either just after a gym session, or at the end of a longer day. Most good real-food sources of protein either have too much fat mixed in with the protein (fat is great generally, but is largely just extra calories from an immediate recovery perspective), are perishable, and/or hard to transport. For instance nut butters, chicken, tuna, and low-fat cottage cheese. Trader Joe’s whey protein powder is great, although I’ve moved to “Pure Protein” bars since they’re a bit cheaper and don’t require a container/mixing/cleanup.
    3) Laziness food. If neither 1) nor 2) apply, I want to get a roughly even mix of fat/protein/carbs, and while this category is the easiest for which to use real food, I really like always having a stash of “Balance Bars” with me as insurance against poor real-food planning. This usually takes the form of either not bringing enough real food, or misjudging the macros in the real food (e.g. my bag of nuts and dried fruit turns out to in fact contain only nuts). Clif Builder’s Bars also work for this, but 290 calories is really an inconveniently large unit (Balance Bars are more like 200).
    4) portable caffeine. It’s kind of dumb to get so much sugar when I really just want the caffeine, but clif mocha shot gels are tasty as @$#$! and packed with lovely drugginess.

    Mariner_9 on #30496

    Good point on fat adaptation. I tend to eat bars when out if I feel myself fading, or force myself to eat something before a descent for safety’s sake.

    Was re-reading Kiss Or Kill this week and got the impression Twight was pretty negative on caffeine due to the diuretic effect.

    briguy on #30498

    This isn’t as easy as a bar and it does require refrigeration or a cooler, but this is my go-to fueling for long races. Works for me for marathons and upwards (I usually max out with 6-7 hour events though).

    Overnight oats:

    My recipe is simply a half cup of steel-cut oats, with a half-cup of high-quality milk.

    Add a third-scoop/serving of protein powder (too much and powder overwhelms the milk).

    Flavor with raisins and a squirt or two of honey. Any dried fruit works here.

    Let sit in the fridge or a cooler overnight.

    Eat that at least 2 hours prior to the event if relatively high intensity (marathons or Pikes Peak Ascent, etc). Can eat closer to the event for lower-intensity work (training runs or longer races like 40 milers etc).

    Rebecca Dent on #30567

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for the link to granola cookies, there is a good mix of ingredients in here for a quick source of energy and a slower release from the oats, with fats to boost the energy intake. An interesting choice for your end of day meal of potato chips, a new on me but will certainly help refuel you with carbohydrate. Recovery at the end of a big day is key to your performance and effort the next day and so it is great to read you add whey to your evening meal, this will certainly be aiding your recovery. Great too your choices are durable at low temperatures, a question I get asked a lot as the Winter months arrive.

    Let me know how you get on with the halva during your multi day trips. I am going to be testing it too.

    Rebecca Dent on #30568

    Hi Psathyrella,

    I think we all have a tendency to be ‘lazy’ when reality hits. It would be nice to always have the time to make our own bars but sometimes the shop bought ones are good for convenience and there is nothing wrong with that.

    When it comes to your big days, your main event you have been training for I would actually in fact encourage intake of bars (food) as carbohydrates to give you an additional source of energy (and a mix of foods including fats and perhaps proteins). The point of fat adaptation is not to then avoid eating but to make you more metabolically efficient, maximising the use of both fuel sources and helping you optimise your performance (go further for longer). It does however reduce the demand for carbohydrate as a fuel source resulting in you can actually get away with taking less food which is an advantage especially when you are limited by weight and access to food.

    I really like your approach to strength training and use of sugars/carbohydrate, it is the same as I recommend to custom nutrition plan uphill athletes.

    In terms of your protein for recovery, research has in fact shown that full fat milk shows greater muscle protein synthesis than the lower fat versions. It is suggested that perhaps the fat has a role to play in aiding protein uptake to the muscles. Also fat is good for the recovery of muscle triglycerides (the fat used within the muscle during endurance exercise). The extra calories are also useful from fat especially if you have carried out a fasted session. It is great to read your protein bar option as I am always looking for ideas for quick easy non faff recovery options for those that don’t want to take powder or it is not practical to take powder.

    It is great to know the difference in your use for builders bars and balance bars. I like your feedback on the clif mocha shot gels, it is really important to find foods you like to eat out on the hill. The sugar will be doing you some good too as well as the caffeine.

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