There’s only one problem with getting into fitness: inevitable weakening in the face of the supplement craze. As I watch my fellow triathlon trainees squeezing gels into their mouths, it’s easy to give in to the notion that I need the stuff. I continually have to remind myself that real food should be enough for any body. Beyond the protein (powder) shakes that help me meet my protein requirements minus much meat, there’s no creatine, glutamine, ecdysterone, 5-HTP, or anything else I can’t pronounce or made up of more numbers than letters in this body.
This is why I have been combing blogs and books, and experimenting with combination after combination of natural ingredients to bring you a collection of the best homemade energy bars. This is why I will continue to experiment, posting the worthy results under this new series. I hope you appreciate the results: many craisins were harmed in the process.
Most of the popular commercial energy bars are chalk full of weird ingredients, and taste like chalk to boot. Exceptions are Larabars and most Clif Bars, which will cost you a (however chiseled) arm and a leg to consume regularly. Making a whole pan of your own is a matter of less than 5$ and 10 minutes in the kitchen. Stock up on oats, pressed barley, coconut, honey, peanut butter, nuts and dried fruits, and you’ll have everything you need on hand to whip up any number of my bars. Keep them on the counter for a week, or wrap ’em in foil and freeze them for that 3-week away hike.
I like to alternate recipes to keep me from getting bored. Some bars are baked, which tend to be lighter and crispier, while the unbaked ones resemble the chewy commercial type. The baked ones are more cookie-like, while the pressed ones tend to be sweeter and more intense.
The unbaked ones (like the recipe I am sharing today) need a lot more sticky binder than you’d expect to keep them from falling apart. Please don’t make the mistake I did and try to cut down on the peanut butter! If you’re worried about fat issues involved in 1 whole cup of peanut butter, cut the bars into small cubes…that’s all you need for a quick jolt on the trails anyway!
These bars are dense and satisfying, perfect mid- or post-workouts over an hour long. (Before a workout you’ll want to have some more complex, or slow-burn carbs for sustained energy.) They are sweetened with all-natural ingredients–honey, dried fruit, and natural peanut butter. Honey is made up of fructose and glucose and is a simple, or single-molecule sugar. This means that it enters your bloodstream quickly–translating to more energy bang for your buck.
Athletes take note: carbs (formerly known as sugar) are your friend and fuel. And heck, they’re a lot cheaper than filling up your car. Remember that it is also important to consume simple carbs after a workout, when your muscles are needing to restock their glycogen stores. (See this article for more information than you care to read here.)
All that aside, they’re just plain tasty and convenient. And they fit perfectly in laptop bags, glove compartments, and even dainty purses.
Whole Grain Energy Chews
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped up
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ cup honey (may use less, but with each reduction you risk the bars not holding together as well)
¼ tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350, and toast the oats, almonds, and pumpkin/sunflower seeds on a baking sheet until just golden and fragrant. (Watch carefully, they burn quickly!)
- Add the fruit and seeds to the oat and nut mixture. Mix well.
- Bring ½ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add cereal, stir and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 2 minutes.
- Add peanut butter, honey, salt and vanilla to the pan and return to medium low, stirring often for 7 minutes. The mixture should start to shine and pull away easily from the sides of the pan. Stir constantly to avoid it sticking to the bottom. Do not overheat.
- Add the warm peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture, and combine thoroughly. Press very firmly into an 8×8 glass or metal pan (place a piece of foil that matches the size of the pan on top and press with your hands.) Leave to rest for at least 2 hours. Cut in 36 small squares and freeze indefinitely, or refrigerate/wrap and keep at room temperature for up to a month. Since the ingredients are all non-perishable, they will likely go stale before they go “bad.”
Nutritional information per 1/36th of a pan (one small square, fits perfectly in a bike bag!): 80 calories, 2 grams fat, 13.5 carbohydrates, 1.7 grams dietary fiber, 2.5 grams protein.
adapted from Whole Grain Gourmet