PowerBar Energy Bites – Mostly Marketing Sound Bites

Powerbar is a high end brand owned by Nestle Nutrition and sold mostly in sports shops. It positions itself as an athlete’s friend. What started as bars has expanded to gels, protein supplements, and now “Energy Bites”.

From PowerBar, here are Energy Bites’ key features:

  • Provide More Energy to Muscles with C2MAX
  • Personalized sports nutrition
  • Packed in a convenient resealable pouch
  • No preservatives or artificial flavors

The top right corner of the package promises “11 grams PROTEIN per pouch”.

Sounds promising. Indeed?

We took a look inside the label…

What you need to know:

A resealable pouch comes with 8 energy bites, divided into 2 servings, although you can easily down the whole thing in less than one minute.  A serving has 150 calories, 3 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein.

Wait a minute, 5 grams of protein? The front of package promised us 11 grams. How can this be? Welcome to the tricky double standards of food companies. The 11 grams are for an entire pouch, which includes 2 servings!

But 2 servings are 300 calories!

The 16 grams of sugar equate to 4 teaspoons. For half a bag.A whole bag would be 8 teaspoons of sugar.

Sodium is 125mg or about 5% of the daily value.

Here is the ingredient list for the Chocolate Flavor version:

C2 MAX ENERGY BLEND (EVAPORATED CANE JUICE INVERT SYRUP, MALTODEXTRIN, SUGAR, FRUCTOSE), ALKALIZED COCOA, WHEAT FLOUR, OATS, MILK PROTEIN ISOLATE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, COCOA BUTTER, CRANBERRIES, CHOCOLATE, 2% OR LESS OF NONFAT MILK, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, SOY LECITHIN, PGPR — AN EMULSIFIER, NATURAL FLAVORS, SALT. CONTAINS MILK, SOY AND WHEAT INGREDIENTS. MADE ON EQUIPMENT THAT ALSO PROCESSES EGG, NUTS AND PEANUTS.

The first ingredient, scientific sounding “C2 Max Energy Blend” is a fancy way to say that the main ingredient in this product is a mix of 4 sugars – cane juice, table sugar, fructose, and maltodextrin. Big deal.

Alkalized Cocoa is is mellower in flavor and darker in color compared to regular cacao. Unfortunately the alkalizing process removes many of the antioxidants that chocolate provides.

The various protein sources (whey protein, milk protein isolate, soy protein isolate) are very popular with bodybuilders as low calorie protein sources.

High Oleic Canola Oil has longer shelf life than regular canola oil (which manufacturers prefer). It achieves this through a higher percentage of oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat) and a lower percentage of polyunsaturated fat (alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid). Nutritionally there is no difference compared to regular canola as both “poly” and “mono” are unsaturated fats.

Vegetable Glycerin – is a sweetener (0.6 times as sweet as table sugar) that is not metabolized the same way as sugar (does not raise blood sugar levels)

PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate) – is an emulsifier and a cheap replacement to cocoa butter. It is used in fractions of a percent and has a side benefit of reducing the fat content of chocolate products. PGPR is made from castor beans.

Natural flavors – a commercial secret guarded by companies – is a blend of flavorings used to enhance the product’s taste.

Conclusion – while nothing in this product is dangerous or inherently bad for you, this is an overly processed collation of very cheap ingredients sold at a high price point by branding itself as an optimal energy / protein solution for athletes. Not really.

What to do at the supermarket:

Save your money and buy lowfat milk and bananas instead. One medium banana is 105 calories, 14 grams of sugar and 1 gram of protein.  A cup of 2% milk is 122 calories, 12 grams of lactose (sugar) and 8 grams of protein. Together, these 2 simple products give you a better, more nutritious, and cheaper solution. See table:

Banana + Milk Energy Bites Pouch
Calories 227 300
Saturated Fat 3 grams 3 grams
Sugar 7.5 tsp 8 tsp
Fiber 3 grams 2 grams
Protein 9 grams 11 grams
Hundreds of additional nutrients Yes No

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  • http://www.feedyourheaddiet.com Ken Leebow

    That product does look like a sure way to “pack on the calories”, however, I do recommend making a protein bar part of a regular diet.

    There are many on the market and I recommend this one … http://bit.ly/bPwW78

    Put ‘em in the ‘frig and they taste almost as good as ice cream. Going to the movie? Take one with you … you’ll save a lot of money and you’ll be full!

    Happy healthy holidays,

    Ken Leebow
    http://www.CircleofDisease.com

  • Bill McNye

    The only time I use a energy bar, or the like, is on a long hiking trip (several days). They are easy to eat while walking and are light. Lately though, I have started to pack more nuts. They just taste better.

  • http://bakerymanis.wordpress.com andrea devon

    instead of buying into the corporate hype about needing evermore protein from dubious denatured sources, simply make a delicious energy bite at home using fresh nuts, real (raw) cacao, and other healthy whole foods. check out some easy recipes for raw treats here on my blog: http://bakerymanis.wordpress.com/category/raw/.

  • http://www.chefmike.ca Chef mike

    Nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the buying public when trying to sell them anything….

  • http://foodiefitnessfanatic.wordpress.com Alexa@Living La Vida Pura

    150 calories, mostly from sugar? That sounds like a completely reasonable quick-shove-it-in-your-mouth-and-run-another-8-miles snack. I’m not kidding – a runner who’s training long distances has absolutely no intention to stop and eat a whole banana and drink a whole glass of milk halfway through their run. These are heavily processed, but when used for their REAL purpose (refueling for a long period of exercise), they’re perfect.

  • Joe

    I think you are missing the point of this product. It is designed to pack in the calories. It’s a lightweight, easily digested calorie source, delivered in small doses or “bites”. The combination of sugars, simple and complex (C2MAX), enable maximum calorie uptake by your body. The different sugars utilize different receptors. Eating just one sugar source creates a bottleneck, and you reach an energy intake plateau. More energy to muscles, better performance and endurance. On a hike or bike ride, I can eat one “bite” every 10 min to maintain a constant (and yummy) level of energy intake. Obviously there are other ways to get calories in your body, but to suggest an endurance athlete should somehow eat a whole banana and gulp down a glass of milk right before or during activity is kind of silly.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

      @Joe and others – We’re not worried about endurance athletes consuming this or gulping down gatorade and other sugary stuff. But honestly, what percent of the people buying these products are endurance athletes ?
      Let’s be very generous – How many people buying these products work out more than 5 hours in a week, or for a session longer than one hour?
      Most people just don’t need this, and can definitely have a piece of fruit and milk before or after. The “during” is so short that aside from water they can survive without munching on something.

  • Joe

    Any athlete who participates in any activity that lasts more than an hour should be eating and hydrating. At practice, btwn sets, at halftime, on the sideline, on the golf course, at the gym, etc. It’s just an easy product to throw in your gym bag or golf bag or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I love nuts and fruit, but they aren’t always the most practical solution. I agree that if you’re sitting at a desk all the day, you shouldn’t be cranking down energy bites all day.

  • Mari

    Energy bar punk’d by milk and banana. ha.

    @Joe – Are you really reading this blog, and trying to defend the crappy ingredients in this product as something that couldn’t actually be improved? This product uses cheap, chemical ingredients to give you something that could be produced in a way more nutritionally and less hazardous way to the body. I’m not sure “milk” and a “banana” are the perfect replacement for it, but surely, no one should ever need to buy this bar for it’s nutritional or caloric content who has access to a grocery store.

  • http://www.TheLivingGreenSolution.com Lane’

    Is the same true with other PowerBar’s? I’d assume so, but I’m not an expert when it comes to nutrients. I know a TON of my friends eat them – none of which are athletes (far from it). As with anything else, they’re convenient.

    With these Energy Bites – who *really* can eat just one every few minutes (or 10) like Joe? He may have good discipline but not many people do – look at our obesity rates.

  • bill

    Could you be a bit more specific when you say ‘Hundreds of additional nutrients’. I’ll give you a break and ask you to only name 100 instead of 200.