Want to give your workout a boost? And as a bonus, they can be packed into a delicious, convenient energy bar (recipe below) to power your workout and help you refuel afterward.
1. Peanuts. The most protein-rich nut of them all helps give this energy bar an egg’s worth of quality protein.
Pre-workout: A little protein staves off hunger without overtaxing digestion.
Post-workout: Protein helps repair muscles and stokes your body’s muscle-building machinery — especially when consumed within a half hour after exercising.
2. Brown rice cereal and oats. Both are rich in carbohydrates, the fuel your muscles prefer.
Pre-workout: The quickly absorbed sugars in the cereal and syrup provide a shot of “use-it-now” fuel, while fiber-rich oats supply sustained energy.
Post-workout: Provide a healthy amount of carbs to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
3. Dried blueberries. Dried blueberries are a tasty and antioxidant-rich alternative to raisins.
Pre-workout: The easily digested carbohydrates in blueberries fuel muscles, plus a little fiber provides staying power.
Post-workout: Polyphenolic compounds in blueberries may help combat oxidative stress in muscles — potentially preventing soreness and inflammation.
4. Chocolate chips. You probably don’t need a justification to add chocolate chips to your energy bars, but nonetheless there actually are some health reasons to add them.
Pre-workout: Antioxidants in dark chocolate help prevent muscle soreness later on. One study of bikers showed dark chocolate helped reduce oxidative stress in muscles — a component of muscle soreness.
Post-workout: Dark chocolate provides flavonols, compounds that can help improve blood flow, which brings more oxygen to replenish your hardworking muscles.
5. Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant form of omega-3 fatty acids that can help fight inflammation, a factor in muscle soreness. While not as potent as fish-based omega-3s in producing these benefits, they’re also (like exercise) good for your heart.
Homemade Energy Bars
Makes: 12 bars
Per bar: 167 calories
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 1/4 hours
1 cup lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup raw pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds
1/4 cup dried blueberries
6 dried apricots, diced
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
5 tablespoons brown rice syrup (or light corn syrup)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
Combine peanuts, crispy brown rice cereal, rolled oats, seeds, dried blueberries, dried apricots and mini chocolate chips in a large bowl.
Drizzle with brown rice syrup (or light corn syrup), and gently stir until thoroughly combined.
Spread in the prepared baking pan. Coat another piece of foil with cooking spray and place on the bar mixture, sprayed-side down. Place another pan on top and press firmly to compress the mixture. (Pressing before baking helps the bars hold together after baking.) Remove top pan and foil.
Bake until just beginning to turn golden at the edges, 20 to 24 minutes (metal pan) or 30 to 35 minutes (glass pan). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Carefully lift the baked square out of the pan by holding the edges of the foil and place on a cutting board, leaving the foil underneath. Cut in half, then cut each half crosswise into six bars. Let cool completely before lifting the bars off the foil.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)