by Chris Hague
I used to think that it was impossible to fuel cleanly while training. For years, I searched for the holy grail of sports nutrition: the perfect sports bar. I wanted a bar that would not have a laundry list of complex ingredients, minimized refined sugar, easy to chew and eat, and tasted good all the while giving me sustained energy without crashes or the need to constantly refuel.
I also wanted something convenient and easy to pack. Sweet potatoes, nut butters, rice balls, and chia gels are great, and I have used them to great effect during long zone 2 rides but when I am in the middle of a hard 30 minute race pace interval, these options are hard to chew, swallow, and pack. It’s hard to focus on your race when you are trying to grab and chomp down on a handful of trail mix. Shifting gears too becomes impossible when you have peanut butter all over your fingers.
This more natural fueling strategy is also time consuming. Some nights after a hard day at work, I simply do not have the time or energy to make my secret recipe rice balls. To be honest I’d rather spend that 30 minutes training then in the kitchen baking. While it’s tempting to just reach for the soy, gluten, wheat, and dairy filled bars that promised better performance and strength, I knew that I did not want to pollute my body with refined crap (not to be too graphic I think some animal refuse is more nutrient dense then some protein and granola bars). In my mind, I am a high performance race car with a V12 engine, leather interior, and a candy apple red paint job and therefore deserve and need to fill my tank with high octane fuel and not with a urine/ethanol mix. (Note: in reality I am more of a 4 cylinder Honda Civic hybrid than a Ferrari but we can always dream right?).
I was almost ready to throw in the towel and just reside myself to the glorified candy bars, when I heard about Amrita Bars. After I first went gluten and wheat free at the beginning of November, I found it challenging to find a good bar that met my performance needs. Bonk Breaker and Hammer bars were good but the former only lasted two bites and sat like a brick in my stomach while the latter had a greasy almost slimy covering. After trying Amrita bars, though, I was immediately hooked. Their motto may be “real food to fuel your passions” but I would describe them as “and addictive bar to fuel my addiction.”
For one, the ingredients are all pronounceable (even to a non chemists). Here is the ingredients to the Apple Cinnamon flavor (my personal favorite since it tastes uncannily like real apple pie):
Ingredients: Organic Date, Dried Apple, Cranberries (With Apple Juice Concentrate and Sunflower Oil), Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Organic Chia Seeds, Shredded Coconut, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Agave Nectar, Maca, Cinnamon, Vanilla extract, Himalayan Pink Salt.
Raw, Plant-Based, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Non-GMO.
You cannot get much realer or cleaner than that! I especially liked this flavor because the cinnamon helped soothe my stomach.
The nutrition profile is also very appealing:
If you are worried about the sugar content note that those sugars come from the organic dates and not the typical brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, or maltodextrin that fill many other bars out there. Unlike Kind bars and Lara bars, which I have also tested extensively, I found these bars much easier on my stomach and much easier to digest most likely due to the lack of nuts. The energy balance between carbs and fat gave me a nice pick me up and then a sustained energy fix. Moreover, it does not leave me craving for more; rather, it satisfies me, which is important during races because over-fueling can be as disastrous as under-fueling.
Most importantly, the taste is excellent. It does not have a processed machine made taste but tasted like it came out of mom’s kitchen with a crisp, refreshing flavor.
Honestly, I was dubious about using them in a race because of the high fat content but these bars worked so much better than what I used to use. They did not melt in my bento box, nor stick together to form a giant ball of sugary, gooey mess. This past weekend, I used these on my first half of the racing season, Ironman TX 70.3, during the bike leg to great success. I took in about one bar every 30-45 minutes without any energy crashes or stomach distress. I honestly think that these bars fueled me to a sub 2:30 bike leg (a personal best) followed by a 1:20 run split!
As my own fitness progresses over this season, I am looking forward to see how Amrita bars can enhance my performance and recovery.
As far as which flavor is the best, I would recommend the variety pack at first to find out your favorite flavor; I personally like the apple cinnamon before and during training sessions and the chocolate maca after. See their full selection at http://amritahealthfoods.com/. (Drop my name and you will get free t-shirt or a BPA free water bottle!).
If you are looking for a great tasting and truly healthful, real alternative to the overly processed, glorified candy bars that dominate the sports nutrition market, I highly recommend Amrita bars.
Full disclosure: I am an Amrita Bar ambassador but am NOT receiving any kickbacks or monetary compensation (or bars for that matter) for the publishing of this review. I was a fan/addict of Amrita Bars and was in the middle of writing this review BEFORE becoming an ambassador. And yes, I actually do use these in training and practice. Even if I was not ambassador, I would still publish this review.