Disclaimer: I was contacted by Extend Nutrition and provided free samples of their product to review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that my approach to pre-race and pre-run nutrition has been somewhat varied, and maybe even a little checkered. I’ve experimented with bagels, eggs, Luna bars, combinations of scones and waffles, yogurt (that one didn’t turn out so well…) … so many different things that I can’t even remember all of them. And yet, after all that, I have yet to find the perfect pre-run fuel for me.
So, when a rep from Extend Nutrition reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their protein bars, I figured it was worth a shot! I received samples of three flavors of their Anytime Bar – Mixed Berry, Chocolate & Caramel, and Cookies & Cream:
Extend Nutrition products feature a “Nutra9 Blend” of proteins, fats, and carbs that is designed to help stabilize blood sugar for 6-9 hours, which is not only helpful for sustaining energy during exercise, but also for controlling food cravings and managing symptoms of diabetes. The Anytime Bars are high in protein, low glycemic, and either low in sugar or sugar-free, depending on the flavor. (Extend Nutrition also offers crisps, drizzles, and shakes, and all their products are gluten free and kosher.)
I was so excited to try out the bars before running to see if they’d be my running-fuel grail, but… alas. I received my samples just before my trip to Europe, where I managed to stress out my metatarsal and have been unable to run since. Boo.
However, I have tried each of the flavors that were sent to me – both before exercise and simply as a snack – and I have some thoughts to share.
(TLDR – I’m a fan! But do read on for the fun bits!)
Mixed Berry: Work Snack
- 150 calories
- 12g protein
- 1g sugar
- 2g net carbs
Mixed Berry was the first Anytime Bar I tried. It was afternoon, my stomach was growling, and luckily I had packed the bar with my lunch just in case I got peckish before my long commute home.
Full disclosure: I was worried that I wouldn’t like these bars. Any protein bars I’ve tried have all had that weird, hard-to-describe soy-protein taste that tends to overpower whatever flavor the bar is trying to be. So my expectations were pretty low.
Upon opening the bar, I was pleasantly surprised to see real bits of berry and a light icing drizzle – nothing too over-the-top. I took a bite… no weird soy-protein taste. I took another… still nothing weird, just tasty berriness. I wolfed it down and honestly enjoyed the whole thing. This was the first protein bar I’d tried that didn’t taste like a protein bar… it just tasted good.
As for controlling my blood sugar and sustaining my energy, I couldn’t really feel anything different, other than I didn’t feel fainty during my commute home. Whatever that was due to, it was a plus.
Mixed Berry Anytime Bar = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for not feeling fainty.
Chocolate & Caramel: Pre-Workout Snack
- 130 calories
- 10g protein
- 0g sugar
- 0 net carbs
More full disclosure: after enjoying the Mixed Berry bar, I was worried I wouldn’t like the other two flavors, since they’re both sugar-free. Me and fake sugar don’t get along too well, because the fake-sugar taste ends up being all I can taste. I can’t drink diet soda for this reason, or any of those squeezy water enhancers like Mio that look so cool.
But, in the interest of a fair review, I grabbed one of the Chocolate & Caramel bars before my last gym visit. Drew and I got home from work, changed, and went straight to the gym, which is usually a recipe for making me a bit fainty during my workout. I busted out the Anytime Bar during the car ride over, and – again – was pleasantly surprised:
The bar was covered in a thin layer of chocolate, and had a layer of caramel inside. It was very chewy and a little rich, but not too overpowering. And – to my delight – it tasted neither of fake sugar nor of that weird soy-protein thing I don’t like! In fact, it was delicious.
I gave Drew a bite — Drew, who can’t drink Nuun because it tastes too much like fake sugar, even though it doesn’t taste like fake sugar at all to me, and who doesn’t like protein bars very much — and even *he* thought it tasted “really good.” He even asked for another bite, and proceeded to steal half the bar from me. If any of you knew Drew, you’d know just how glowing a review that is coming from him!
And it gets better. I spent my entire gym visit on a stationary bike, pedaling quickly on the lowest resistance setting possible to spare my metatarsal, and I felt like I could go forever. Even while keeping my RPMs above 100. Even with regular sprints of RPMs hitting 120. I’d say I felt like Super Woman, but that might be a little hyperbolic. Essentially, despite not having eaten more than the Anytime Bar since my lunch 6 hours prior, I had energy to burn. And I didn’t feel fainty at all, despite the gym being as hot and stuffy as ever.
Chocolate & Caramel Anytime Bar = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for Drew’s approval, thumbs up for energy and lack of fainty feelings… bonus thumbs up for caramel
Cookies & Cream: Breakfast
- 140 calories
- 10g protein
- 0g sugar
- 0g net carbs
My usual breakfast routine on workdays is pretty pathetic. If I remember, I grab a cereal bar as I’m running out the door, which I may or may not remember to eat. More often than not, I forget to eat it, or forget to grab one at all. Sometimes I buy a cheeky danish when I buy my morning coffee. But, usually, I don’t eat breakfast. This leaves my stomach growling like Chewbacca by 10am or, if I remember a cereal bar, the growling doesn’t start til 10:30.
Yesterday, I grabbed a Cookies & Cream Anytime Bar as I was running out the door. I ate it during my walk from the T to my office. Like the other two flavors, it was delightfully devoid of both fake sugar and forced proteiny-ness, though I didn’t like it quite as much as the Chocolate & Caramel flavor.
Bar eaten, I went about my morning as usual. I got coffee, I tackled emails, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. And I didn’t get hungry. In fact, I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t getting hungry because, well, I wasn’t getting hungry. My stomach wasn’t doing its almost-daily Chewbacca impression. I was able to stay focused on work because I wasn’t daydreaming about pastries.
I usually eat lunch around noon, sometimes earlier if I’m particularly peckish. Yesterday I didn’t eat until 1, and even then I found that I wasn’t ravenous and that I couldn’t eat both sandwiches I had brought (sauteed veg in a multi-grain pocket… I’m working on this whole healthy, no-pastries-for-lunch thing!). I was totally satisfied after just one sandwich, whereas the day before I had devoured both, plus a Greek yogurt, plus stray snacks that were hanging around the lunch room. My hunger was totally managed. Chewbacca had been tamed!
Cookies & Cream = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for taming Chewy!
All in All
I’m totally digging these Extend Nutrition bars, and I can’t wait to try them out as fuel before a long run… whenever that happens. Luckily the “best before” date on these bars isn’t until 2017, so hopefully I’ll be back to running by then! Although, I may scarf down the rest of my samples before then. They’re that good.
And, honestly, I’m not saying that just because they asked me to review the bars; had I found them on my own, I’d be just as amazed at how much I like them, given my feelings about the protein bars I’d tried before.
In addition to the flavors I got to try, they also offer Yogurt & Berry, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rich Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Apple Cinnamon, not to mention the crisps, drizzles, and shakes. You can scope out their products on offer here, and find out where to buy them here.
And now, how about a Giveaway??
The folks at Extend Nutrition, in addition to being awesome enough to send me free samples, also offered a $25 gift card for their products to one lucky reader.
All you have to do is leave a comment telling me a) your favorite pre-run snack or b) which Extend Nutrition product you’d most like to try (or both a and b!) and I’ll select a winner using a random number generator.
This giveaway will be open until Friday, October 9 at 11:59pm Eastern.
**Please note: only US residents of the lower 48 states are eligible to win**
Happy running, and happy snacking!