Besides a chocolate bunny and marshmallow chicks in your Easter basket, that rascally rabbit may have left you an assortment of energy bars, like my favorite from Cliff Bar here, white chocolate and macadamia nut. After all, he knows that spring means more trips into the backcountry and, with that, the need for portable energy food on the trail.
There are as many energy bars on the market as their are candy bars, but it may surprise you to know that many of these options are packed with additives and preservatives that can be tough on your stomach. Plus, the sweet nature of more than a few of these prepackaged bars, leaves you wondering if the candy bar wasn’t a better option. Having consumed my share of energy bars I can testify to the stomach issues, and often I choose a six pack of Oreos. Okay, not the best nutritional option, but they sure do taste good.
As you can probably tell, in the past I’ve subscribed to the “eat shit stay fit” policy of hiking in the alpine, but as I am getting older, I am finding that better nutrition plays a big role in my performance on trail. So begins my quest for better fuel and viable alternatives to the grocery store option.
Making Bars at Home
With all the bars on the market, making your own may seem like overkill, but if you have the inclination and the time, you can come up with something really tasty and much better for you. Having perused the web for recipes, I’ve come up with several that I plan on trying over the next few months. That is, if my wife allows me back in the kitchen after the first attempt.
Allen Lim’s Cashew and Bacon Rice Cakes (That’s right. Bacon!)
- Cook two cups of Calrose or other medium-grain sticky rice.
- While the rice is cooking, fry eight ounces of bacon till crisp, then wrap in paper towels to remove grease. Crumble bacon.
- Drain the fat from the pan. Lightly beat three eggs in a small bowl and gently scramble in same pan, over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Then add in 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 c up nut butter, and 1/2 cup raisins. Mix well and press mixture into a 9-inch-square pan to about 1.5-inch thickness.
- Cool thoroughly in fridge, then cut into ten individual cakes and wrap in parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy carrying on a ride.
Allen says the savory combination of bacon, cashews, and nut butter is a counterbalance to all the sugary options on the market, and the extra protein is optimal for long training sessions. You can check out his other recipes in his book, The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Energy Bars
Combine 1 cup natural-style peanut butter and 1 cup honey in a large nonstick pot and warm up over a low heat until runny and mixed.
Mix in 3 cups dry uncooked oatmeal (and protein powder if using).
You don’t want to cook it, just heat it up enough to stir everything together nicely.
Press into a 9x9-inch pan.
Let cool, then cut into 16 equal bars.
Wrap each bar in foil and store in plastic bags. - No need to refrigerate as the ingredients are natural.
I am curious to investigate how these perform on trail. Seems like they could get a bit messy, but peanut butter and oats seem to good to pass up. For other interesting recipes, check out 15 Homemade energy bar recipes.
Build-A-Bar, Making them on the Web
For those of you who just hate the idea of mucking about in the kitchen, or simply would rather spend your free time outside, rather than preparing to go outside, there are a number of really interesting online companies offering you the ability to custom build your very own bar. Most will wrap them up, box them up, and ship them out within a few days. Here are a couple worth checking out.
You Bar’s Bar Builder allows you to customize eight different aspects of your very own nutrition bar: base; protein powders; nuts and seeds; dried fruits and berries; sweeteners; seasonings, chocolate and other tasty additions; grains and cereal; infusions (vitamins, greens, fiber, stevia). Once more, it keeps a running update of nutrition facts as you create your bar, which is very handy. You Bar ships in boxes of 13 bars. Your standard baker’s dozen.
Element Bar’s Bar Builder takes a slightly different approach to the bar building process, offering you a bit of guidance from the beginning before you start adding ingredients Great if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. So, step one allows you to choose from oaty, chewy, crispy, datey, or fruit and nut categories. After that, you have similar opportunities to add fruits, nuts, sweets, and boosts (protein powders, fiber, etc.). Element Bars also keeps a running update on nutrition, so you can really understand what you are getting and the impact your decisions make on nutrition.
I plan on giving all of these options a whirl, and I’ll let you know what I discover in the process, but if you have any recipes or experiences with build-a-bar on the web, please share them here or on Facebook.
– Stay Wild.