Among Bill Clinton's post-White House ventures, one of the more striking is
his campaign to reverse trends in childhood obesity. It's been remarkable for
its ambition, and for the scope of its potential benefits. But perhaps most of
all, it's been remarkable to see someone of Clinton's typically diet-oblivious
gender speak publicly about laying off the cheeseburgers.
Well they sure sound energizing. But are they actually any
better than a candy bar or a bottle of soda? It depends on the product and its
consumer, say experts, who note that the sheer variety make blanket statements
To get the full story, WebMD investigated the different kinds of energy
edibles, their ingredients, and general effects on the body. Some products
provide full nutritional information, while others closely guard the secrets of
their proprietary blends. But many of these products just haven’t been
studied very well.
We also asked the experts whether these products really add anything to our
lives. Are we all limping through life, suffering from an energy crisis
-- a crisis that unwrapping a power bar can resolve? Or does our obsession with
edible energy have very little to do with good nutrition?
Energy Bars and Gels
All energy bars, goos, and ices are not created equal. Some pack in the
carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. Others bring in vitamins and minerals. The
flavors are plentiful, too, with cookies and cream, cappuccino, lemon poppy
seed, and chocolate raspberry fudge appealing to the taste buds.
John Allred, PhD, food science communicator for the Institute of Food
Technologists, shakes his head at the mention of energy products. "They are
outrageously expensive for what you are getting," he says. "There's
nothing magical about the ingredients."
The same nutrients could be found in a banana, yogurt, or a chocolate bar,
which are cheaper options, Allred explains.
To be fair, the carbohydrate or protein composition of some energy bars and
gels may provide a more sustained charge than products that primarily use sugar
or caffeine. The power surge of sugar usually lasts about 30 minutes to one
hour, and caffeine about two hours. The rush from sugar and coffee is usually
followed by an energy low.
Energy bars and gels with carbohydrates will definitely provide a boost, as
carbs are the body's preferred fuel source. It's ideal if much of the
carbohydrate source is fiber, as the roughage takes longer to digest, providing
more sustained energy. This can be especially helpful for people involved in
endurance events. Protein-rich products can also provide staying power and
strength. The nutrient helps build muscle and regulates energy production in
Yet the bars, goos, and ices are no substitute for real food. "Energy
bars are manufactured products," says Cindy Moore, MSRD, director of
nutrition therapy at Cleveland Clinic. "What you're missing from any
kind of manufactured product are the benefits from nature -- the chemicals that
aren't vitamins or minerals, but are phytochemicals -- which are still
beneficial to our health."