Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gear Review: ZonePerfect All-Natural Nutrition Bars


Energy bars have come a long way. I think we all remember when "energy bar" meant a Powerbar, which, at the time, was a gluey tasteless sticky brick. That humble Powerbar has evolved into the mighty (and now much better tasting) Powerbar Performance, Powerbar's flagship energy bar and one of a huge selection of athletically-oriented food from that company. The Powerbar Performance is, in my opinion, the gold standard of energy bars, to which I compare all other energy bars. Of course, if I'm visiting my family for the holidays, the chances of my mom having a supply of Powerbars is pretty slim. Luckily for me and my pre-run snacks, she does keep a few boxes of ZonePerfect All-Natural Nutrition Bars handy. So, how do they stand up to my usual Powerbars?

My mom had three flavors of ZonePerfect bars: Fudge Graham and Cinnamon Roll from the Classic series, and Strawberry Yogurt from the Fruitified line. (She also had Chocolate Coconut Crunch from the Classic series, but no way was I voluntarily eating anything with coconut involved).

All of the ZonePerfect bars use a 40/30/30 ratio, which means that approximately 40% of the calories come from carbohydrates, approximately 30% come from protein, and approximately 30% come from fat. Since all three ZonePerfect bars that I reviewed have between 200-210 kcal per bar, each has 6-7 grams of fat (3.5-4g saturated), 22-25 grams of carbs (1-3g fiber, 15g sugar), and 15 grams of protein. According to the website, this is supposed to be an ideal carb/protein/fat ratio for weight loss or maintenance. Personally, I prefer a higher carbohydrate bar for my pre-workout snack, since my diet in general is much higher in carbohydrates (I seriously eat between 70-85% of my calories from carbs), because carbs are your body's primary energy source. I also prefer something a little lower in fat and don't need quite that much protein. The fiber is also unnecessary before a workout, though I doubt it's enough to cause serious problems for most people, unless you're very sensitive to fiber. For comparison's sake, the Cookies and Cream Powerbar Performance (my old standby) has 240 kcal, with 3.5g  fat (0.5g saturated), 45g carbs (1g fiber, 26g sugar), and 8g protein.

However, because of the high levels of protein combined with the carbs, ZonePerfect bars do make a good post-workout snack. The ZonePerfect bars also have a multitude of vitamins and minerals (which you can find on the website), which further leads me to believe these are meant as a snack bar rather than an energy bar (since you can't really process those vitamins while you're running hard). The ingredient list varies from bar to bar, with some featuring more unrecognizable ingredients than others. For example, the Cinnamon Roll ingredient list looks pretty benign, while I have no clue what a few of the things in the Strawberry Yogurt bar are. They do claim to be all-natural though, so this may just be my lack of knowledge about what certain ingredients are. One other thing to note is that the protein comes from soy, if that's a concern for you. Also, all of the bars are pretty small, so don't expect them to fill you up.

First up is the ZonePerfect Fudge Graham nutrition bar. This bar was by far the best tasting of the bunch. You can definitely taste the chocolate and graham, and there are little pieces of marshmallow in there too. Obviously it doesn't taste like a s'more that you'd make over a campfire, but it's just as good as any candy bar that tries to mimic the taste of a s'more. I could easily sit and eat this flavor like candy. How tasty are these? Tasty enough that after my run, I finished off the rest of the box (which was like...another five of them. Sorry Mom!). I wouldn't hesitate to buy these on my own to eat as random snacks during the day or as my post-workout "I need food NOW and plan on eating before I bother to shower" snack.

Zone Perfect Fudge Graham nutrition bar. Oops...this is completely out of focus, sorry!
Zone Perfect Fudge Graham nutrition bar
Zone Perfect Fudge Graham nutrition bar cross-section
Nutrition information for ZonePerfect Fudge Graham

Ingredients for Zone Perfect Fudge Graham:
Soy Protein Nuggets (Isolated Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Chocolate Flavored Coating (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel & Palm Oils, Cocoa [Processed with Alkali], Nonfat Dry Milk, Sorbitan Monostearate, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor), Corn Syrup, Milk Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Marshmallow Pieces (Sugar, Corn Starch, Fructose, Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavors, Salt, Soy Lecithin), Fructooligosaccharides, Milk Protein Isolate, High Oleic Sunflower Oil and/or High Oleic Safflower Oil, Glycerine. 
Less than 2% of the Following: Fructose, Natural Flavors, Water, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin. 
Vitamins & Minerals: Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Magnesium Oxide, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Ferrous Fumarate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, and Cyanocobalamin. 

Next is the ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll nutrition bar. This bar wasn't bad, though it's a little sweet. There's some cinnamon taste in there, but it doesn't taste like a cinnamon roll at all. It tastes like you'd expect a cinnamon flavored energy bar to taste. It's not terrible, but it's not great either. I wouldn't hesitate to eat it as a snack if I'm hungry and it's sitting in the cabinet tempting me, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it either. The Cinnamon Roll also has the most benign looking ingredient list.

ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll nutrition bar
ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll nutrition bar
ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll nutrition bar cross-section
Nutrition information for ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll

Ingredients for ZonePerfect Cinnamon Roll:
Soy Protein Nuggets (Isolated Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch, Rice Flour, Malt, Salt), Yogurt Coating (Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Nonfat Dry Milk Solids, Yogurt Powder [Cultured Whey Protein Concentrate, Cultured Skim Milk, Yogurt Culture], Soy Lecithin, Salt, Natural Flavor), Corn Syrup, Milk Protein Isolate, Fructose, Almonds, Palm Oil, Glycerine, Water. Less than 2% of the Following: High Oleic Safflower Oil and/or High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin. Vitamins & Minerals: Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Magnesium Oxide, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Ferrous Fumarate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, and Cyanocobalamin. 

Finally, we've got the ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt nutrition bar. The strawberry was pretty fake tasting and the bar was overly sweet. Definitely my least favorite of the bunch, but not so bad that I didn't finish the bar that I started. There are little pieces of red in the bar, which I guess are supposed to be strawberries, but a peek at the ingredient list tells me they're actually strawberry flavored cranberries (there are strawberries in there too, but they're way down at the bottom of the ingredient list, so chances are, the red things are cranberries). Based on the name, it sounds like it should theoretically be the healthiest of the bunch, but the nutrition facts are pretty similar to the other two, and the ingredient list is the longest. This one is actually my mom's favorite though, so obviously my taste buds aren't the be-all, end-all (who knew?). That's probably a good thing, because it's the box I'm least likely to house on her.

ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt nutrition bar
ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt nutrition bar
ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt nutrition bar cross-section
Nutrition Information for ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt

Ingredients for ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt:
Soy Protein Nuggets (Isolated Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Yogurt Flavored Coating (Dried Cane Syrup, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Nonfat Milk, Nonfat Yogurt Powder [Cultured With Nonfat Milk], Soy Lecithin, Modified Corn Starch, Lactic Acid, Vanilla Extract), Corn Syrup, Sodium Caseinate, Gum Arabic, Strawberry Flavored Cranberries (Sugar, Cranberries, Citric Acid, Natural Strawberry Flavor with Other Natural Flavors, Elderberry Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Oil), High Oleic Safflower Oil and/or High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Fat Replacer (Dried Fruit [Plums, Dates], Grape Juice Concentrate, Fructose, Glycerine), Glycerine, Strawberry Pieces (Fruit [Apple Puree Concentrate, Strawberry Juice Concentrate], Invert Sugar, Sugar, Glycerol, Dextrose, Wheat Fiber, Palm Fat, Pectin, Malic Acid, Natural Flavor, Elderberry Concentrate). 
Less than 2% of the Following: Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Citric Acid. 
Vitamins & Minerals: Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Magnesium Oxide, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Ferrous Fumarate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, and Cyanocobalamin.

So, how do they work? Well, they work pretty much like any other food you'd eat before a workout. Getting in a few calories before you work out is a good thing for most people, since it tops off your liver glycogen and allows you to push a little longer and harder (no perverted jokes!), and these bars accomplish that. They're also effective as post-workout recovery bars. However, I would stick to a higher carb, lower fat/protein/fiber bar for before higher intensity workouts, and the ZonePerfect bars won't be replacing my Powerbar Performance bars for pre-workout snacks anytime soon, at least when I have to buy my own energy bars (although I might pick up some of the Fudge Graham ones for after workouts and for random snacks!).

ZonePerfect bars can be found at many grocery stores and health food stores, and generally range from $0.99-$1.50 or so depending on where you buy them. They can also be found in six and twelve count boxes.

Full disclosure: The ZonePerfect All-Natural Nutrition Bars were purchased by my mom, and I ate them while I was visiting her for the holidays, so there's nothing really to disclose, other than the fact that I'm a mooch. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of ZonePerfect, my mom, or anyone else.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, Becki! We wanted to let you know that advances in nutritional science research has demonstrated that the benefits of balanced nutrition can be achieved by following a variety of nutritional profiles similar to 40-30-30 but not exclusively 40-30-30. Therefore, the ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars have been updated to reflect this insight. A high protein intake remains the core of the bar. For more details, check out http://zoneperfect.com/nutrition-program. Hope this helps! ~Brittany @ZonePerfect

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for checking out my blog, Brittany! And thanks for the information...I will forward it to my mom too, since she's a huge fan!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Why should you take a Take vitamins? Their experience has been a lot of analysis low on the matter of supplements. You had better also be conscious of the simple point that numerous of these analyses are finished several supplements, which shows that they volitions change in good quality and overall performance.

    ReplyDelete

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