Here is an easy recipe to make some tasty energy bars for your workouts. They are dense and chewy, and taste like brownies. These bars are a bit of a departure from energy bars that are full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other wholesome ingredients — which is the kind of bar I typically prefer on slower paced bike rides, cross country skis, or hikes, where the low intensity makes it easy to digest the seeds, nuts, fats, and fiber in the bars.
I like these Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Bars for more intense workouts or intervals – when you need a burst of sweetness that goes down easily (kind of like an energy gel that actually tastes good). A lot of sugar is a not a great thing for inactive people or when you’re sitting around, but it’s definitely the preferred way to fuel intense workouts. I’ve expanded upon this a bit below (see Eating During Workouts).
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup oats (I used large flake)
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan, or consider using parchment paper for easy removal from the pan* (a new technique for me, but I’m sold! You’ll find some tips on how to do this here and a video here).
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, oats, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (sugar, almond butter, oil, vanilla, and egg). Stir until well-blended. Add flour mixture ¼ cup at a time. Batter will be stiff (wooden spoon recommended!).
- Spread/press batter in bottom of prepared pan. Wetting your hands will make this easier.
- Bake at 350º for 18-22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean (try not to overbake). Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 15 bars (or 16 squares).
For eating outside of workouts, this bar recipe is likely healthier than most cookies or bars. Whole grains (whole wheat flour and oats) replace the more typical refined white flour (and you probably don’t need to worry about the gluten in the flour). I also used this baking strategy, substituting almond butter for most of the butter. Almond butter provides heart-healthy fats instead of saturated fat, as well as protein, fiber, and minerals that many people don’t get enough of, as you can see in the graphic below. Peanut butter works in these bars too. (For comparison, I also show coconut oil, which is a popular fat in baking these days).
Nutrition Per Bar
- 135 calories
- 2.3 g protein
- 5.6 g fat
- 12 mg cholesterol
- 25 g carbohydrate
- 1.6 g fiber
- 71 mg sodium
- 120 mg potassium
- Iron: 5 % Daily Value
- Calcium: 3 % Daily Value
Eating During Workouts
An endurance athlete’s preferred fuel during exercise is muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Long endurance training or intensity sessions deplete muscles of glycogen, so it’s important to consume carbohydrates to replenish these stores with carbohydrate-containing foods.
Some foods that are good for us aren’t always the best thing to eat before or during intense exercise, which diverts blood flow from the stomach to the working muscles, which can interfere with digestion (this can lead to cramping, bloating, and nausea in some individuals). This graphic illustrates extremes of this concept (you can learn more about what to eat before working out here).
More Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts
- Sheila’s Quick & Easy Oatmeal Bars
- Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites
- Sesame Date Energy Bites
- Strawberry Banana Recovery Smoothie