Protein bars are a convenient way for dancers to optimize post-performance recovery windows, especially when their next meal surpasses the hour after dancing. Bars can also provide easy snack options prior to dancing.
But your protein bar should not replace full meals nor make up every snack in your dancer meal plan. Including 1-2 bars per day is harmless and for some dancers, may be very beneficial (2 is a bit much, but if your day is jam-packed and you didn’t have time to prep additional snacks, that second bar is likely warranted). I’ve previously discussed the role protein plays in a dancer’s diet (you can read about it here). I’ve also discussed how dancers can decipher between countless snack bars in this article. But what about protein bars? This article will guide you directly to a bar that works best for your dancing.
What makes a great protein bar for dancers?
Convenience and accessibility are often your priority when it comes to including a protein bar in your day. It’s likely that your schedule doesn’t lend time for a sit-down meal or you’re traveling. The nutrition profile of your bar comes next. This is where we can optimize your choice in a way that best supports your dance performance.
I’ve previously discussed the importance of balance in a dancer’s meal plan. Now let’s apply it to your protein bars. Here are a few tips to consider when looking for a protein bar that will best support your needs as a dancer:
- Look for energizing ingredients such as sources of carbohydrates.
- Spot a source (or multiple sources) of fat (to help with satisfaction).
- Don’t judge a bar by just its protein content: more isn’t always better.
Sources like whole grains (oats, wheat) and fruits (dates, dried bananas, raisins) off quick-acting sugars to stimulate insulin and enhance protein utilization.
Consider the fat incorporated into the bar. Nuts, seeds, and nut butter balance are rich in essential fatty acids like omega-3s. Not only do fats promote satisfaction, but these unsaturated fats help to alleviate inflammation after intense dancing.
Protein supplements are often added to bars. Though not necessary, these additives can be part of a dancer’s meal plan. You can learn more about the role of protein supplements in a dancer’s diet here. Examples include soy isolate, whey isolate, eggs, pea protein, and brown rice protein. Bars with protein additives will often contain up to 10 grams (or more) of protein per bar. But remember: more isn’t always better. Excessive intake of high-protein foods can lead to dehydration. TTP Tip: aim for a bar with 20 grams of protein or less.
Additional tips for a dancer’s protein bar choice
Many protein bars come packaged with claims of being “low in sugar,” “low calorie,” and “paleo.” Oftentimes, these bars turn to ingredients like artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, maltitol) & synthetic fibers (inulin, chicory root) that can cause stomach discomfort and gas while dancing.
Last, trial options with different spices like cocoa powder and cinnamon. These enhance flavor and interest. My personal favorites are LARA bars, which incorporate flavorful options while utilizing a base of dates and nuts. For an in-depth list of TTP favorite bars for dancers, check out this article.