Sunday, November 7, 2010

When good advice is bad advice

Ever have a situation where people are giving you what seems to be good advice -- sensible and maybe even scientifically supported -- but it just doesn't work for you?

I'm going through this right now with protein bars. Dr. Awesome is not a fan of protein bars and, honestly, I can see why.

Even though they are called "protein" bars, most of them have more carbohydrates than protein. They also tend to have a lot of sugar. If they don't, they are full of sugar alcohols. MacMadame and sugar alcohols do not mix, at least not in the quantities that appear in most of these bars. They also tend to be high in fat.

In short, they are a glorified candy bar and are to be avoided, right?

So I've been avoiding them lately. When I last ran out of my current preferred brand (Luna Protein), I did not replace them.

And that's when the trouble began. Since then I have not been eating as well overall -- too much junk, too many carbs, not enough protein.

I think the issue is that I tend to be a "grab and go" kind of person. I don't eat a lot of foods that require a lot of preparation. Really, it's kind of a miracle that I eat pistachio nuts considering you have to deshell them first! I will warm up leftovers for lunch and, for a while early post-op, I went through a cooking or baking phase. But that phase is long gone.

In my current environment, the protein bar works quite well for me. Yes, I could make myself a peanut butter and (no sugar added) jelly sandwich (one piece of bread) for my afternoon snack. But I rarely get around to doing that. Having a protein bar at that time works great. It's a solid glob of calories -- it's hard for me to get in a lot of calories at lunch because I just can't fit in a lot of solid protein and veggies -- and the macro-nutrient ratios are right on for the last meal before exercise. Finally, I just don't crave a lot of sugary junk food when I am having a protein bar every day.

The only real downside is the sugar -- over 20 g and I tend to have a carb crash. (Yes, some of these "protein" bars have as much as 30 g of sugar.) That and sometimes I get a bit carried away and have two or even three of these things a day. That mostly happens on weekends -- I used to do things like eat three Nestle's Drumsticks on a Saturday because I was too lazy to be bothered to make a lunch or dinner -- now I grab a protein bar instead.

But the consequences of eating three protein bars a day are actually pretty good. I have less carbs and fat and more protein overall on days when I have a protein bar. I manage my calories pretty easily, too.

In short, protein bars work for me.

Would it be better if I made myself a substantial homemade snack every afternoon? Sure. Would it be better if I made my own protein bars so I could control the sugar content? Absolutely. But right now, store-bought protein bars are better than the alternatives.

I think I'll buy me some tomorrow when I'm at Sports Basement for this month's SVTC meeting!
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