Walk into any grocery store, and you'll see that "clean" energy bars are everywhere. They have their own aisles... they're even on those pesky shelves right next to the checkout, staring you down as your stomach grumbles.
Eventually, you give in and buy one thinking to yourself, "at least it's not a Snicker's."
We hate to break it to ya, but—as Jared describes in the video below—chances are that healthy energy bar is more similar to a Snicker's than you think.
It's more than likely full of sugar and starch. And if it doesn't include sugar, it probably has some sort of artificial sweetener to make it taste palatable. It's probably also packed with cheap protein that can cause a host of gut issues. Or, if the bar you've chosen actually is healthy, we'll bet it either tastes like cardboard, falls apart in the heat, or is very likely to chip a tooth when it gets cold.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues with these so-called “healthy” energy bars...
But before we dive in, a brief history on the origin of energy bars.
The Origin of Energy Bars: Straight From Outer Space
The first energy bars were actually made for astronauts. Pillsbury (yep, the Pillsbury dough boy folks) created Space Food Sticks in the 1960s, modeling them after the small "space food cubes" eaten by astronaut Scott Carpenter on board Aurora 7 in 1962.
In 1970, Pillsbury filed a trademark for Space Food Sticks, then repackaged and advertised them to consumers as a “nutritionally balanced between-meal snack.”
Space Food Sticks faded from the market as the space program was removed from government focus, and thus energy bars didn’t appear back on the scene until 1986 when Canadian marathoner Brian Maxwell founded a company you may already be familiar with: PowerBar. Maxwell claimed to be “creating the perfect energy bar, to help athletes survive long-distance events without running out of glycogen."
...and we all know what happened next: a host of flashy energy bar and processed health food marketing companies from Clif Bar to Muscle Milk emerged to form the nearly $9 billion food bar market that now exists today.
A market unfortunately primarily comprised of a host of chemical cocktails neatly packaged in plastic and full of a host of nasty compounds.
Let's look closer at some of the many issues with these "food bars."
Three Things To Look Out For In Energy Bars
No. 1: Preservatives
Preservatives such as BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, sulfites, sodium benzoate, and other chemicals are very often found in modern energy bars to improve their shelf life and make them "edible" for years and years.
The health consequences of consuming food preservatives range from mild to severe, and include but are not limited to headaches, allergies, asthma, skin rashes, and even cancer.¹
Preservatives are added to food products to improve a company's bottom line, not your health.
No. 2: Cheap Protein
Most bars are also using proteins from cheap sources, like soy for example, which can cause allergies, autoimmune reactions, constipation, bloating, and other unpleasant reactions. But hey, at least it's inexpensive!
Soy is often touted for being a great plant-based source of protein with an amino acid profile similar to meat, but there are issues with modern soy products that actually block your body's ability to absorb this protein.
Soybeans naturally contain anti-nutrients like saponins, phytates, trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens, and phytoestrogens that cause digestive woes and block the digestion of plant proteins in the gut.²
And then, of course, there's the fact that over 90% of all soy in the US is genetically modified.³
No. 3: "Guilt Free, Low-Carb" Sweeteners
IMO is a key "natural" ingredient in many so-called high-protein, low-carb energy bars. It's advertised as a “prebiotic fiber,” allowing bar manufacturers increase the amount of dietary fiber on the nutritional label, thus lowering the net carbohydrate content. Voila: low-carb!
Many "healthy energy bars" also contain IMO because it is sweet-tasting enough to make an energy bar palatable while having fewer calories than natural sugar.
The problem is that IMO syrup (how it's commonly found in bars) is not a completely indigestible prebiotic dietary fiber, as claimed.⁴
Another problem is that IMO syrup isn't really “natural,” as many bar labels claim. While IMO occurs naturally in some foods, it is not economically feasible to extract it from whole foods on a large scale.
Now, on to the good stuff...
How to Create the Perfect Clean Energy Bar
Step 1: Minimize Preservatives
It turns out that the only preservatives really necessary to make a bar shelf stable can indeed be a few simple ingredients such as sea salt, chia seeds, and vitamin E contributors like almonds and tocopherols (a family of vitamin E compounds naturally found in foods like nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables).
Sea salt is about as natural as you get with preservatives, having been used for thousands of years before those convenient refrigerators came on the scene.
Additionally, almonds are dense with tocopherols and vitamin E (a natural preservative due to its antioxidant effects), chia seeds' overwhelming antioxidant stores allow them to hold up extremely well (two to three years at least) and skin, joint and gut nourishing gelatin is stable over a two year period.
By simply using real food such as salt, almonds, chia seeds, and gelatin, you can create a bar with decent shelf stability and no artificial preservatives.
Step 2: Use Non-Allergenic Proteins
Here are a number of protein options that are not only natural, but actually good for you!
Gelatin is a well-researched ingredient that has been actively studied for its benefits for the gut, joints and skin.
Gelatin is highly bio-available, provides a full spectrum of long-chain amino acids for muscle support and serves as the building block of connective tissues such as bones, cartilage, skin, and tendons.
Another fantastic and hypoallergenic protein source is something called "kaniwa," a plant-based protein with a higher amount of protein than quinoa.
Best of all, kaniwa is a perfect protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own.
Additionally, kaniwa has a slightly crunchy texture, making it a perfect ingredient for an energy bar to give it added mouthfeel and "crunch".
Pea protein supplies a unique array of amino acids such as high amounts of lysine, arginine, branched-chain amino acids, enzymes, and other vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Not only is the plant-based pea protein (unlike peas or legumes themselves) very low in gut-irritating lectins and phytic acid due to the highly effective hydrolysis process used to extract the protein from the peas, but it's also a complete protein.
Step 3: Create Stable Energy with Healthy Fats
Healthy fats really are the key to stable energy, all day long. And when you combine clean protein with those fats, well, that puts the "energy" in energy bar! Here are a few amazing sources of fats, as well as another unique health properties.
White Chia Seeds
Harvested from the Salvia hispanica plant, white chia seeds pack a protein content of up to 25%, dietary fiber up to 30%, and significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Hence, chia seeds have garnished the coveted title of "superfood."
As a matter of fact, Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them energy and endurance, and claimed that a single spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours.
Chia actually means “strength” in the Mayan language, and they were known as “runners food” because runners and warriors would use them as fuel while running long distances or during battle.
Loaded with protein, healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber and antioxidants, almonds support performance and satiety while adding a crunchy texture. Their high oleic acid content also makes them perfect for nervous system and cell membrane support.
A single ounce of cocoa nibs has a whopping 9 g of fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. They also contain contain antioxidants, magnesium (64 mg in a single ounce), potassium (more per ounce than bananas), iron, and other mood-enhancing nutrients.
Once thought of as unhealthy because of being a "high saturated fat" food, we now know that the fat in coconut is different from most other fats.
Not only is it an extremely stable saturated fat, but it is also an extremely rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are burned easily as a slow-release form of fuel and do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats.
Instead, MCTs are sent straight to the liver and converted into energy and ketones.
Step 4: Use Small Amounts of Healthy, Natural Sweeteners
Most energy bars do not use healthy OR natural sweeteners, fearing a rising calorie count on their label. But, at this point, we all know that calories are NOT the only thing that matters when it comes to health or your waistline, right?
What matters is the quality of your calories.
- Where are they coming from?
- Are they natural, fairly unprocessed sources?
- Are they nutrient-dense?
This is why we are firm believers that unless you are following strict, long-term keto for specific health reasons, a little bit of natural, healthy sweeteners can definitely fit into a healthy diet.
And organic honey, one of the most nutrient-dense, natural sweeteners, is one of our favorites (many of the reasons are outlined in this article).
Another very cool thing about honey is that it, along with grass-fed gelatin, serves as an all-natural binder. That means that when you combine these two into a bar, there is no need for that nasty IMO syrup, or any other artificial fillers or binders.
Step 5: Sneak In Extra Nutrients and Antioxidants
In addition to protein, there's one other important component to look for in an energy bar: high sources of natural, full-spectrum antioxidants without high amounts of synthetic antioxidants (the latter have been shown to actually blunt the physiological response to strength training⁵).
Organic honey, almonds, cocoa nibs, kaniwa, white chia seeds, and chocolate liquor all contain antioxidants and flavonoids. These benefits are best delivered in their full-spectrum, natural format from whole food sources and not from supplements.
There is also another antioxidant-rich ingredient perfect or energy bars that hasn't been mentioned yet: sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate crunch to the texture of a bar. They are also a source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and even more dietary fiber.
Step 6: Maximize Flavor Naturally
All these natural ingredients are great, but how do you actually make a bar taste good without adding taste enhancers like high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, sucralose, or gas and bloating-inducing sugar alcohols like erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol?
By using.. add this one to your vocabulary... Organoleptics.
Organoleptic properties are the aspects of food, water or other substances that you experience via any of your senses, and this can include taste, sight, smell, and touch.
When organic honey is combined with slightly bitter cocoa nibs, the result is a perfect chocolate flavor. The chocolate liquor and coconut flakes provide a slightly sweeter effect, but all in a very subtle, non-overwhelming way. Then the white chia seeds, kaniwa, and almonds give the bar a natural, nutty crisp.
This results in a bar that is incredibly flavorful and extremely well put together from a taste, sight, smell and touch standpoint—without artificial flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or "natural" flavors added.
Step 7: Real-Life Testing
And finally, the truth is, most modern energy bars aren't tested in the trenches before making it to shelves—no matter how tasty or healthy they really are.
Rarely do companies put their food products through rigorous, real-life testing to ensure they won't freeze into a tooth-chipping brick or melt into a giant, greasy pile of goo.
You probably know this if you've ever packed a bar in your bag on the ski slopes, tucked it into your pocket during a long run, or left it in your car on a hot summer day.
It's not only important to have an energy bar that actually keeps you satiated, tastes delicious, and doesn't rot your gut or spike your blood sugar—it also needs to be able to keep up with your rigorous, adventurous, active lifestyle.
Because, if it doesn't, what's the point?
Thus, The Creation of a *Truly* Clean, Healthy Energy Bar
And that, folks, is how the Kion Energy Bar came to be.
By combining all the health-promoting ingredients you just read about, we created a clean and guilt-free energy bar.
It's jam-packed with a unique blend of ingredients that support energy, performance, gut health, and ideal body composition... without preservatives, cheap protein, ingredients you can't pronounce, or excess carbohydrates.
The Kion Energy Bar has a balanced macro nutrient profile and ingredients you can feel good about, including:
- Cocoa Nibs
- Chia Seeds
- Coconut Flakes
- Chocolate Liquor
- Organic Rice Protein
- Pea Protein
- Sesame Seeds
- Cocoa Powder
- Cocoa Butter
- Sea Salt
- Organic Honey
And, yes, it's been tested "in the trenches." The Kion Bar has been out for three-hour long bike rides in 90+ degree heat, in a sauna for hours, and subjected to a 38 degrees below zero winter morning. No greasy goo or frozen bricks.
I love the balance and benefits provided by this bar. Not too sweet, a great flavor finish with the cacao nibs, subtle texture with the kaniwa, and outstanding health support with the cleanest ingredients. Whether for healthy protein and fats or low carb, I strongly recommend this bar. -John C. (verified buyer)
Finally: a tasty, appetite-satiating, nutrient-dense bar that can withstand the rigors of living a limitless, exciting life. Kion Bar is a stable source of energy without causing sugar crashes and delivers a big, tasty punch of mouth-watering, chocolatey-salty-coconut flavor.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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