Sweet-Tooth Friday: Superfood Energy Bars
Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday! This is Christine and instead of my normal frilly-healthy-dessert post, today we are getting down and dirty with homemade vegan superfood energy bars.
An energy bar fit for fueling workouts
There has been a lot of talk about natural running fuel here lately. Matt’s series of posts on pre, during, and post workout nutrition got me thinking about the original homemade energy bar recipe I created in the early days of Sweet-Tooth Fridays. For those bars, my goal was to get away from the crazy-processed and overly sugared “health” bars on the market and create something actually nutritious from whole, real food— not corn syrup and soy.
And the result was a hit, both in taste and nutrition. We’ve made these bars again and again, and I’ve been known to tuck them into my workout bag for a pick-me-up snack. But now Matt has risen the bar with his research so I decided to give my old recipe a makeover, meshing it with ideas from the 5 essentials of pre-workout nutrition and elements of Thrive’s Raw Chia energy bars.
What makes them super?
I decided to leave beans as the backbone ingredient in my new bars, this time opting for adzuki beans instead of white. I also left the dates in as the main source of sweetness since I now know that they have a high-GI for immediate energy. Then I added agave nectar as suggested since its low-GI provides for sustained energy later on.
I wanted to lay off the “starchy” forms of carbs in my new bars after learning that they require extra energy for digestion before their sugar can be used as energy for the body. So I swapped the wheat flour, oats, and cereal with the less starchy pinole and puffed millet (yeah it’s the same puffed millet from my vegan ‘rice cripsy’ treats!)
To make up for the dry ingredients I removed, I also added hemp protein, which is listed in the “superfoods that go the extra mile” category. Do you think I stopped there? Nope! I threw in flaxseed and chia seed, and even maca root to help the adrenal glands recover. Don’t forget the salt for electrolytes!
I was hoping to make bars that fit with the 3:1 carbs to protein ratio, but couldn’t quite do it without adding significantly to the fat content. The protein here comes mainly from nut butter, chopped almonds, hemp protein and beans, and is assisted by the flaxseed, chia, maca, and pinole. My only other option was adding soy protein which I wasn’t willing to do, so I let my bars stay at a good 4.7:1 carbs to protein ratio (which does fall within the recovery food ratios anyway.)
Matt offered the option of using caffeine as a way of improving performance, but I’ve never run with caffeine before and was nervous about it. I intentionally left a significant amount of water as the liquid part of this recipe so that it can be up to you whether to brew it as yerba mate, green tea, or even coffee if you want. I made mine with water and they tasted great, so don’t think you’ll be missing out on flavor if you stick with water.
Finally, with a dash of cinnamon for antioxidants and a squeeze of lime as an acid neutralizer…voila! New and improved superfood energy bars!
Homemade Vegan Superfood Bars
- 2 cups cooked adzuki beans
- 1 cup (about 15) fresh medjool dates, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups water (may substiute yerba mate, green tea, or coffee)
- 4 tbsp agave nectar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup natural nut butter (I used cashew but almond, sunflower seed or peanut butter is fine)
- 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 3/4 cup pinole, or stoneground cornmeal
- 1/4 cup maca root powder
- 1/2 cup hemp protein
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups puffed millet
- 1 1/2 cups chopped raw almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with baking spray or 1 tbsp melted coconut oil.
Mix together the pinole, maca root powder, hemp protein, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
In a food processor, puree the beans, dates, and water. Stir the agave nectar, cashew butter, applesauce and lime juice into the puree. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry. Fold in the puffed millet and almonds.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan; bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool, then cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition facts approximated for 1 bar/whole pan
Calories from fat: 112/2679
Fat: 8 g/201 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g/18 g
Protein: 6 g/143 g
Sodium: 84 g/2008 g
Total carbs: 28 g/675 g
Sugar: 15 g/369 g
Fiber: 5 g/129 g
And yes, I drizzled these with a confectioner’s sugar icing that’s not accounted for in the nutrition facts–once again, decorating baked goods is a compulsion!
I’m packing these bars along for this weekend…I’m running my first race, the Shamrock 5k here in Baltimore! I’ll be wearing my NMA shirt with pride. Wish me luck and let me know how you like the new and improved bars!
See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!
About the Author: Christine Frazier writes vegan recipes through lots of research, trial, and error … now she is applying the same theory to her other passion, writing stories. Follow along as she deconstructs bestsellers and learns how to write a novel.
Nice! I love how you incorporated all of the different elements. They came out look very tasty too. Good luck at the race!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Those are great, so much better than processed store bought crap. I love that you used adzuki beans too, they are my fave!
Good luck, Christine! I will think of you as I run my first half marathon this weekend. No time to make these before I go, though. 🙁
.-= Nicki´s last blog ..A Sunny Spring Walk =-.
Wow! I’m really excited to make these bars! They look great! I don’t have access to adzuki beans or maca powder. Any other suggestions??
I just bookmarked the page!!
.-= Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete´s last blog ..Sprung A Leak =-.
I’m going to have to try these bars ASAP!! Been vegetarian for 8 years and getting pretty tired of the same old bars everyday. They look amazing! Have fun on your Shamrock 5k!!!
These look great! Silly me for never thinking of making my own energy bars. I make a version that has oats, peanut butter, etc., but I love how you added in a whole host of yummy and healthy ingredients. I’m making these next time I go hiking. 😀
.-= Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down)´s last blog ..Work Those Quads! =-.
I have passed your blog/recipes on to so many people and now I just need to work on making some myself 🙂 Nice work, thanks for all the great info.
.-= Leanne Shear´s last blog ..the best possible way to make working out work for you =-.
Quick question – would it be better to eat these before or after a run? It seems like they incorporate aspects of the pre-run energy and the recovery recommendations you made. Thanks!
How long would these keep in the fridge? 1 week, 2 weeks?
Yes they look very inviting!
Agave seems to be getting a bad press lately…
I’m so happy to hear cinnamon is high in antioxidents, I have some everyday for breakfast.
Thanks for the recipe!
These are SO GOOD!! We made them last night for the two of us and will be eating them all week. It’s so nice to have something delicious, nutritious and REAL to grab and snack on pre or post-workout. Way to go!
You know, many of your recipes seem really good, especially the ones for the energy bars. I just wish more of them did not require cooking/baking the superfoods. It may just be me, but I worry that the core nutrients of ingredients like Chia, Hemp seeds, or Maca may essentially be ruined by baking them at say 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I have the same concern about some of Brendan’s recipes in thrive. Many require baking or “lightly frying” items containing these and other superfoods. I am not a “die-hard” raw foodist. I just wonder if maybe we aren’t losing something by focusing more on the taste that comes from baking as opposed to the nutrition of the unbaked ingredients. What for example happens to raw hemp seeds when they are heated to a high temperature? Many oils begin to produce carcinogens. That concerns me. Again, this is just my opinion. Overall, I still appreciate your posts.
Chris,,,your bars look sososo tasty…..
Has anyone tried this recipe with sprouting the beans? Or would they not be wet enough that way?
AMAZING!! I have been eating NMA meals for a while and just got around to trying these bars (I usually make the standard energy bars but am trying to go a bit more gluten & wheat free). These are FANTASTIC!!! Thank you! 🙂
I’ve made these a few times and really enjoy them! I have added some oats for texture and they are great! How suitable are they to eat ‘on the run’ though instead of an energy gel – how long would it take for the energy to be released – presumably longer then a gel so do you ‘pre-empt’ a low? Any ideas much appreciated.
I’ve also eaten dates stuffed with a mixture of chia seeds and ground almonds whilst out running, but again not sure about the timings of the energy being released? Tasted good though!
Thanks for the recipes.
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