[14:00] History of Energy Bars
[19:00] Shocking Things Ben Discovered in the “Health Bar” Industry
[33:30] First Thing Ben Looked for in Creating an Energy Bar
[37:00] Utilizing “Real Food” vs. Unnatural Ingredients
[44:30] Why Chocolate is essential to the Perfect Energy Bar
[54:00] Coconut and Chocolate in an Energy Bar
[58:00] Naturally Sweetening energy Bars That Don’t Result in Sugar Crashes
[1:09:30] How to Naturally Add Antioxidants to an Energy Bar
[1:30:20] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, what’s up, y’all? That’s actually not how we talk up here in Washington, but at some point in my life, probably because some of my family is from Southeast over in the US, I picked up the word “y’all” in my vernacular and I just haven’t dropped it and I make no apologies, y’all. So there.
Hey, this podcast, like all my podcasts, is brought to you by me, or more specifically the company I’ve created called Kion. It is the only place you need to go for mind, body, and spirit balance. I have everything there from the anti-aging serum that I smear on my face every day to the oregano oil that I smear in my mouth when I travel on airplanes or in buses or in subways, the Kion Flex that I don’t smear on myself because it’s a capsule, but it’s the complete shotgun for anti-inflammation when you don’t want to pop ibuprofen. Everything is over there! Even a bunch of supplements that I didn’t design, but are instead brought to you by some of my trusted partners like Thorne, for example. You get amazing prices on Thorne products, discounts you’re not going to find anywhere else on everything from things like their prenatal vitamin to their multivitamin to their SGS meal replacement formula that literally heals your gut from the inside out, and a lot more. So everything, everything that I’ve talked about, you can get over at getkion.com. That’s getK-I-O-N.com.
This podcast is also brought to you by our excellent friends over at Joovv. I’m standing in front of a Joovv light right now. This is a form of what’s called photobiomodulation. Photobiomodulation is therapeutic light to do things for your body like enhance muscle recovery, collagen synthesis, skin health, relieve joint pain and inflammation, if you pull down your pants in front of it, guys, you can get increased testosterone and sperm production if you’re trying to make little ones. There are so many benefits to these Joovv lights that I simply can’t even say them all in the 60-seconds that I’ve been allotted to say them all. Ultimately, a lot of devices out there simply don’t work, but Joovv has FDA approved electrostatic coded, LEDs that have passed rigorous third-party testing for therapeutic light, you can put them on a door, mobile stand, tabletop, travel with them, lean them against the wall. I have two. I’ve got one behind me and one in front of me on my standup desk and so I can just flip them on and do photobiomodulation anytime I want. It’s called the Joovv. You spell that J-O-O-V-V and to check them out and to get a special bonus that the Joovv team is giving away to all of my listeners, you go to Joovv.com/Ben. That’s J-O-O-V-V.com/Ben. Now, if you use the code BEN at checkout, they are throwing in a very unique bonus. Go over there to see what I mean. J-O-O-V-V-.com/Ben. [3:20] ______ yourself with some of these lights and let’s go talk to Angelo.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Chocolate for me is a food of the gods. So, I don’t know it you feel similarly about chocolate, Angelo.” “You know, tribes like the Hadza tribe, when they’re out on a hunt, they will stop, drop everything, drop their weapons, and turn to this as the primary fuel source because it is so tasty, so high in minerals, so high in antioxidants, so high in nutrients, and gives you this stable form of fuel that does not spike blood glucose.” “Cacao nibs, coconut flakes, almonds, grass-fed gelatin, organic honey, white chia seeds, sesame seeds, organic pea protein, quinoa, coco butter, sea salt, I mean, you put all of this together and it tastes amazing. I could live on this mix for days at a time.”
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield and I admittedly used to be an energy bar and health bar addict, if you will. I would consume a good two to three energy bars an hour on a long bike ride. I would always have some kind of super satiating healthy bar tucked away somewhere during a run or in my bag or on a long road trip or an airplane ride. I would often be munching on some kind of a massive forearm-size protein bar while waning out of the gym after weightlifting. I was a guy who ate a lot of these bars. I would be sponsored by bar companies and use a lot of these bars. Everything from my early days, nearly two decades ago, as a bodybuilder to, of course, my days as an Ironman triathlete to even up to a few years ago, simply my desire and days of travelling and wanting to carry healthy food along with me. And at the same time, despite eating what many in our industry and especially the lay public would consider to be a healthy form of packaged fuel, I struggled a lot with constipation and with chronically elevated blood sugar and gut rot and some of the signs and symptoms of excess protein intake, energy level rollercoaster rides, toxins and metals, and all sorts of strange things showing up in my blood tests, and I see the same thing happen in a lot of people who rely upon many of these packaged and processed foods that are advertised to us as healthy.
I was just in a doctor’s office, I won’t name the doctor, I don’t want to shove them under the bus, but I was at their clinic just a couple of days ago at the time that I’m recording this podcast and they had this big wicker basket full of “healthy” granola and energy bars out for the clients in a medical clinic that, ironically enough, was there to manage chronic diseases and they were feeding their patients. When I look at the actual label of the energy bar, basically high fructose corn syrup or “organic agave syrup” along with vegetable oils, and soy proteins, and whey proteins, and isolated egg whites, a whole host of fillers, and preservatives, and flavorings that were not natural in the least, and it’s ironic and, dare I say, disturbing how even the medical industry doesn’t really understand this at all. This idea that just because something says “healthy,” just because it’s in a package, just because it’s high in protein, however you want to describe any particular bar or packaged source of fuel, it’s not necessarily healthy.
And so, what I decided I wanted to do was record kind of like the quintessential podcast, the last resource you would ever need, to really wrap your head around how you should be choosing something like a packaged energy source like a bar because, don’t get me wrong, even though I love me my kale and my lemons and my wild-caught salmon and my grass-fed beef and my seeds and my nuts and all that real food that is literally upstairs in my refrigerator and my pantry right now, I also recognize the convenience and even the better-living-through-science that can be afforded through packaged foods. They just have to be done the right way, especially bars. And so, I want to address that in today’s podcast and I also want to address the logistical component of bars as well because I’ve gotten seeds stuck in my teeth during bike rides and I’ve had things freeze in my pockets while competing in Spartan races and nearly broken my teeth, I’ve had things melt into the bars on airplanes and just had a greasy, gooey mess when I open up any bar and so there are logistical issues as well that I think a lot of people standing in lab coats in these white-washed laboratories don’t really understand when it comes to the bars that they’re creating.
So, we’re going to cover all of that on today’s show and rather than me just talking at you, which would potentially be a very boring podcast, I decided to bring back onto the show someone you don’t get to hear from a lot, but who I frankly talk to every single day. This is, not only one of my close friends, but one of my dear and trusted business partners, a guy who I’ve gotten to know in a really close way over the past couple of years. We’ve spent a lot of time together in my sauna, in my hot tub, in my cold pool, and at his house and at my house, and on the phone and voxer and via email, literally the guy who I communicate with probably more than just about anyone else these days, even my wife could possibly be jealous, I’m not sure, but he is the COO and co-founder of my company, Kion, and his name is Angelo Keely. You may actually remember him for his incredibly superior beatboxing skills that he displayed on the last podcast that we did in which he interviewed me about my life and the formation of Kion in general. He is down in Boulder, Colorado right now. I’m up in Spokane, Washington right now, but via the wonders of technology, we are both here together for you to talk about bars and he is going to serve as the interviewer of me. So Angelo, welcome back to the show man.
Angelo: Man, thanks for the intro. I got a little worried for our wives, because it sounded so intimate there, but…
Ben: I almost used the word intimate and then I steered clear.
Angelo: [laughs] But, it’s true, man. I mean, that’s how close you have to get to build something like this. So, it’s an honor man. I love being here with you and I love having the opportunity to ask you these questions and just peel back some of this info and secrets behind energy bars and packaged food and what it’s all about.
Ben: Now, before we do that, would it be possible at all to break the ice because I know people are going to demand this and possibly even be pissed if you don’t do it, to have you give us the flavor of your latest foray into beatboxing or whatever other strange musical mixes that you’ve been up to?
Angelo: Yeah, man. You know, I actually thought you might ask that and so I connected my looping pedal, which is like my new favorite toy, so I can just add stuff like here, check this out: [beatboxing].
What do you think, dude?
Ben: Holy cow. I was going to go play a C chord on my ukulele and you just made that sound incredibly boring. That’s amazing. What’s that called? A looping pedal?
Angelo: Yeah, dude. Dude, you should get one. Do you have an output on your acoustic guitar?
Ben: Yeah, I’ve got a pegup, I’ve an amp, I have…
Angelo: Dude, get one of these pedals, man. I’ll send you the link. This one’s like a Boss RC-30. We can put it in the notes too, but man, you should seriously… you could just write your own little basslines then play chords on top of it and sing. Dude, you would love it.
Ben: Put it… Send it to me. Not only will I put it in the show notes, but I remember a concert, and I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but I went to a concert by I think it was Howie Day in Hawaii that last time I was in Hawaii and he loops a lot, but he’s able as a one man with a guitar, to produce these incredible songs with this looping pedal. I’ve always wanted to kind of learn how to use one, so maybe this is my impetus after hearing you throw down that amazing little piece of, I don’t know what you call it, musical science.
Angelo: Music. I think it’s just called music.
Ben: Musical science. I like it. So, alright, anyways, we digress. And folks, don’t worry, in the show notes we’ll put a link to pretty much everything that Angelo and I talk about today, but we digress from the topic at hand – energy bars. So, where do you want to start?
Angelo: I think we should just start from the top. What is an energy bar? Where did it come from?
Ben: Okay, well I happen to, actually, in the past couple years after, of course, as I’ve already alluded to researching and taking a much deeper dive into the energy bar industry and what exactly goes on behind the scenes when it comes to formulating and creating and stabilizing and packaging a lot of these bars. I have also looked into the history of these things and where they came in the first place is actually very intriguing. They were originally made for, of all folks, astronauts and it was the Pillsbury Dough Boy folks. They created this thing called the Space Food Stick, this was back in the 60s. So, there was an astronaut named Scott Carpenter, you may have heard of, and he…
Angelo: He’s actually from Boulder.
Angelo: Yeah. We have a big park there, it’s one of my kids’ favorite pools, the Scott Carpenter Pool.
Ben: Oh, no kidding? Well, this dude also, he developed these things called Space Food Cubes, Space Food Cubes, which is a great name. You should call your next album, by the way, Space Food Cubes.
Angelo: Child. Space Food Cubes.
Ben: Yeah. So, he and John Glenn were consuming a lot of these foods in space. Now, John was consuming this fruit flavored drink, Tang, which I actually used to love. My grandma would come and visit me and she would always have a bagel and she would have fish from Miami and then she would bring us these canisters of Tang which I loved because my parents wouldn’t buy us Tang, but grandma would bring us Tang. It turns out that John Glenn would drink Tang while in space and Scott Carpenter would have these small space food cubes that eventually the Pillsbury Company, the Pillsbury food engineers, decided to replicate. So Pillsbury in 1970, they filed a trademark for what are called “Space Food Sticks” and they completely repackaged them.
So, this was essentially something that could be preserved and eating in space, and then they advertised them to consumers as a “nutritionally-balanced -between-meal snack.” And, they were working on other things like non-crumbly cake and relish that could be served in slices, almost like Spam, which sounds incredibly disgusting, and meat that needed no refrigeration. They were kind of like at the forefront of this whole nasty packaged and processed food industry movement. But it was Pillsbury who filed this trademark for Space Food Sticks, and believe it or not, as the space program kind of faded from government folk for a short period of time, the Space Food Stick also really didn’t make it. It faded from the market. People did not want to eat astronaut food and energy bars…
Angelo: Who would have known that astronauts would have been such a small demographic, huh?
Ben: Hey, when I was a kid, I would’ve loved to have eaten what the astronauts ate. I feel like if Pillsbury would have advertised these or done the marketing in a slightly different manner that they probably could have crushed it with Space Food Sticks. Who knows? Maybe that’s what Olympians around the world would be consuming.
Ben: But it really was until the 80s, the late 80s about 1986, when this guy named Brian Maxwell, Brian Maxwell, who’s a marathoner, he was a marathoner from Canada, he founded this company that a lot of folks who are listening in have probably heard of before, and it was Power Bar. So, he claimed to be creating this perfect energy bar to help athletes survive long-distance events without running out of glycogen, or storage carbohydrate, and they began by handing this out to marathoners after races. And eventually, this was in 2000s, so about 15 years later after building Power Bar, they sold to Nestle for $375 million, and that was the very first big energy company was Power Bar. And I actually used to eat a lot of Power Bars, Peanut Butter Power Bar, despite nearly breaking my teeth and probably causing extreme hypertrophy of my jaw muscles was one of my go-to sources of energy for a very long period of time. And after they sold to Nestle, a host of different energy bar and processed healthy food marketing companies popped up: Cliff Bar, and Muscle Milk. Today, it’s about a $9-10 billion industry. Unfortunately, primarily comprised of a bunch of chemical cocktails neatly packaged in plastic that’s shiny that they advertise to kids, but that are full of a host of nasty compounds that we’ll kind of get into and take a deeper look at, but ultimately it moved from Space Food Sticks to Power Bar and then Cliff Bar and Muscle Milk and all these other companies kind of pooped up.
Angelo: So, you just mentioned this, full of “nasty stuff.” There’s a reputation, right, for packaged foods having a whole list of ingredients that people don’t understand, but specifically in the world of energy bars, what stands out?
Ben: Well, I don’t want to be The Food Babe, I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s been on my podcast. I forget, do you remember The Food Babe’s name?
Angelo: I don’t.
Ben: It’s unfortunate when you have a moniker like The Food Babe, everyone forgets your actual real name because The Food Babe is such a sexy title. But, anyway, The Food Babe was on my show and I’ve talked to her before in conferences. She has this rule that if a third grader can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it and I think that’s a silly rule. Don’t’ get me wrong. I’m not in that camp. I think that methylcobalamin and hydroxyl vitamin D and a lot of these components that we find added to foods as actual beneficial vitamins and nutrients and ingredients are not necessarily bad for us. I don’t think that just because you can’t pronounce it that it’s bad for you, but at the same time we do see a host of chemical cocktails even in these bars that are marketed as healthy or as gluten-free or as low sugar or as anything else that we’ve come to know is the marketing spiel that people toss onto the packages of their energy bars.
So, what I did was, over the past couple of years as I began down the path of wanting to create and also look into this whole idea of whether or not you could make a healthy, packaged product, I turned to my friends in the natural products and nutrition industry. I talked to bar and natural product formulators, food scientists, and nutrition researchers and found some pretty shocking issues even with a lot of these leading paleo energy bars and health bars that you’re going to find lining the shelves of supplement stores and ad expos and sitting in the warehouses of internet supplement companies. And, one of the things I found was a complete review. It was a review of all the leading paleo bars and even that review found that many of them were quite similar to the non-paleo, to the non-“natural health” bars.
So, we’re talking about something, the bar that you’d pay $4-5 for and find in the grocery store isle of an Erewhon or a WholeFoods or something like that and then these ones that we know might be a little less healthy already just based on the ingredient label like a Power Bar or a Cliff Bar with the soy and the wheat and everything else that those have in them. So it turns out that paleo bars, a lot of these healthy bars, they have a sugar content that nearly matches the sugar content of a Snickers or a Three Musketeers. So, we’re talking about sugar content that can be as high as 28 grams in a single bar matched with a total calorie profile and an overall protein profile because excess protein can also spike blood glucose that made them really almost like a nutritional fire storm, just a crack bomb, if I can make up that term, to drop into the body.
And I know a lot of people are familiar, I don’t want to insult people’s intelligence and talk necessarily about how you shouldn’t eat a brick of non-GMO wheat right or you shouldn’t eat a bar that’s just basically one giant cube of soy protein, but then there are other things that we think are healthy that we see on a bar that are not. And one that really shocked me was this one called isomaltooligosaccharide. It’s also abbreviated IMO and in an era of ketogenic infatuation and a lot of low-carb products, this is an ingredient that you see quite a bit. It’s promoted as a prebiotic dietary fiber, you may also know it more popularly by the name inulin, not insulin, but inulin and many of these bars include over 15 grams of this IMO or this inulin. And because that is considered to be a dietary fiber, it allows the bar manufacturer to make claims that that bar has a high amount of dietary fiber, but a low amount of actual carbohydrate. Now, there are a host of problems with this claim and I wouldn’t be bringing this up unless this were an ingredient in probably I would estimate about 70-80% of, especially, the healthier brands that I see out there.
So first of all, IMO syrup, which is what it is, it’s not natural as the bar label claims. Commercially available IMO syrup is enzymatically synthesized from starch. So basically, you begin with starch and you break it into these smaller glucose units that are linked together with chemical bonds and they actually have to use chemicals for this entire extraction and enzymatic process. And again, I don’t necessarily think that chemicals in and of themselves, why being a chemical are bad. A lot of multivitamins will use chemical processes to generate some of the ingredients in a multivitamin, but to say that it’s 100% natural, in my opinion, is false advertising.
In addition to that, it’s advertised, and this is probably an even bigger issue, let’s say all those chemicals are healthy and your body’s just going to be just fine with them, but IMO syrup is advertised as a completely indigestible dietary fiber meaning like Kale for example, the actual net amount of carbohydrate that enters into your body that would wind up spiking your blood sugar, in the case of a bunch of vegetables, is pretty nil, and the same is claimed of IMO syrup. But there have been studies and we can link to them in the show notes that use a digestive modelling system and what they do is they look at how much of this IMO actually gets hydrolyzed as it goes through your gut, how much goes through the small intestine, how much reaches the colon intact, and it turns out that a huge amount of it is in fact digested and is in fact absorbed and is in fact metabolized resulting in a spike of blood glucose levels from something like an IMO up to about 136. And to put that in perspective, healthy blood glucose levels generally you can only get 80 to 90 and a spike that high is similar to something you’d get from a candy bar. But, manufacturers are allowed to say that IMO is calorie free and that IMO is a low sugar non-concerning dietary fiber that you can simply add and don’t even need to list the carbohydrate content for, but it does in fact result in about three calories per gram of IMO that they add to these bars and it does indeed allow for a big significant spike in blood glucose and insulin upon consumption of one of these high fiber, “low carb” energy bars. That was one shocking issue. Have you seen inulin as an ingredient on bars before, Angelo?
Angelo: Yeah, I’ve seen it on tons of bars and I just wondered what is it, why is it there? I guess, it’s a syrup, it helps it stick together?
Ben: Right. Well, it’s there as a syrup [26:29] ______, but more importantly, inulin allows you to get that mouthfeel and even allows you to get that syrup-y sweet flavor, but then you can mislead the customer by telling them that it’s a low-carb product or that’s a non-blood glucose spiking product when in fact it is not and especially when you combine that with the very high amounts of protein that you often also find in these bars, and protein is not bad, but excess protein and especially excess protein from soy protein isolate for example, that’s basically processed soy leftovers, the process the isolating soy protein leaves behind hexane, it leaves behind aluminum, it leaves behind high concentration of what are called trypsin inhibitors which block the digestion of the actual plant protein, we see soy, 90% of it’s genetically modified anyway, the research goes back and forth whether that’s an issue, but I personally just try to steer clear of this stuff, but you look at the ingredient label of a lot of energy bars and it’s either soy protein isolate or whey protein isolate.
Very similar to soy protein isolate, a lot of people will look at whey protein isolate and think that it’s healthy, but there are a great number of people who have an immune response or an allergenic response to whey. They get brain fog or they get digestive issues or they get gas or they get bloating after eating one of these energy bars that’s primarily protein-ated with soy protein or whey protein, their blood sugar spikes from the inulin that they’re getting along with that, and it just created this chemical cocktail in the body that people don’t realize they’re getting because all they’re looking for is to ensure that the bar does not have, back to The Food Babe, whole bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce. But in fact, there’s a lot of stuff that can fly under the radar that you can be consuming or that you can be feeding to your kids at their soccer game or their tennis match or wherever that you’re not aware of.
Angelo: Yikes, man. So what are the options then, basically?
Ben: So my question that I asked to a lot of these energy bar industry experts when I found out a lot of this stuff was: first of all, how could we formulate a clean burning bar that would hold up under rigorous conditions. Meaning, how could you create a bar that didn’t have a lot of these issues but that one could still use, let’s say, during a very hot Ironman triathlon without getting seeds stuck in your teeth and stuff sticking to the bar and all palatability just going out the window? How could you use something like this while snowboarding or skiing without creating, anybody who’s consumed a power bar in the slopes knows, it’s going to break your teeth if you try and chomp into that thing? And the same can be said of a lot of other bars in the market. How can we create that, but have it not be a high fat, greasy low energy ketogenic bar that, frankly, that’s a gut bomb for a lot of people as well, still doesn’t really result in a huge spike in carbohydrates? We’re talking about something that would be a low-ish carb, relatively high fat in terms of good fats especially Mediterranean-style fats that a lot of people can process much better than high amounts of saturated fats, enough protein to support amino acids and neurotransmitters and repair and recovery, but no dairy, no soy, no whey protein isolate, no soy protein isolate, especially none of this IMO or this inulin, but a very clean and hypoallergenic profile.
I did not want gut assailants, leptins are one big issue, gluten saponins, a lot of these plant defense mechanisms that you get from bars that have plant proteins in them, that’s another thing that I did not want in an energy bar. Yes, on minerals, yes on electrolytes, in my opinion, especially if you are an athlete or an exercise-enthusiast wanting to use an energy bar, must have those in the bar. You don’t want to buy a bar and have to sprinkle sea salt on it to get it to the profile that you actually desire. Bar that’s not going to cause energy bar constipation, I mean, I have, pardon the expression, s**t out of a straw during many periods of my life when I’ve relied upon a lot of these packaged foods just because they don’t have adequate fiber in them, but at the same time, I don’t want a bunch of IMO blood spiking carbs in there as well. So, that’s another difficult barrier to overcome from a formulatory standpoint.
Enough carbohydrates, right, to allow for liver glycogen restoration and muscle glycogen restoration, appetite satiety without an actual blood sugar spiking effect, in my opinion that’s another thing that one should be looking for in an energy bar especially if you are an active person. I’m not talking about a complete carbohydrate bomb, but I’m talking about something very similar to my own diet, right. I don’t, not eat carbohydrates. I eat what is called a cyclic ketogenic diet. I maintain a very high level of fat burning, a very high level of ketone throughput during the entire the day, and towards the end of the day, we’ll eat carbs, generally, ad libitum and I get much better hormone stabilization, much better joint health, far better workouts the next day especially for glycolytically demanding workouts, but I don’t get that same carbohydrate spike if I were eating carbs the entire days, eating sugar and starches the entire day. I want an energy bar that can give me that same type of ability, be able to almost have my cake and eat it too from a carbohydrate standpoint.
And then finally, in my opinion, taste is huge, right. I would rather, and I realize some people don’t care about this because they consider their packaged food to simply be functional science to achieve a physiological end, I personally am a foodie. I want stuff to taste good. I like peanut butter and chocolate gelato and I like rib-eye steaks, and I like sweet potato fries with a wonderful ketchup and maybe a stone mustard. I like things that have good mouthfeel, that have a good crunch, that have a good gooey chewiness that don’t just dissolve in your mouth and disappear, but something that actually tastes good because that’s an important part of satiety as well. I don’t want to eat an energy bar and feel like I need to eat two more because it either didn’t fill me up or my neurotransmitters, such a dopamine, were not satisfied by it or it just tasted so freakin’ crappy I’ve got to go find something else to eat to wash it down with, which I’ve done that before in airports, for example. I’ve bought an energy bar that I know doesn’t taste all that good and then I’ve bought a chocolate bar to sandwich the energy bar in, right. So, you almost make a chocolate bar energy bar sandwich so that the energy bar actually tastes good. There’s all these things that I want in an energy bar. So that’s what I brought to formulators to actually ask them and to see if something like this would even be possible to create.
Angelo: To make the perfect energy bar basically. So, walk us through the steps then. Where did you go with this request and really tried to break it down? What was the first thing you look at?
Ben: First thing is the elephant in the room and that’s preservatives. How do you create an energy bar that’s actually going to be shelf-stable because you can go, and you’ve probably seen these before at grocery stores, there’s certain energy bars that will be in the refrigerator, kind of like Ezekiel sprouted bread is in the refrigerator, because it’s minimal in preservatives, but you’ve got to keep it in the refrigerator or the freezer because it would go bad otherwise. That doesn’t work for me. When I’m traveling, when I’m on airplanes, when I want to purchase bars and have them in my pantry and if I forget they’re there and four or five, six months later I want to have some, I can still have that bar and not have it go bad. So how do you minimize chemical preservatives without requiring for a bar to be refrigerated or frozen, which is inconvenient in my opinion, but still allow it to be shelf stable? And what it turns out to be, and I think this is probably an expense issue that this isn’t a better known in the bar industry or in the nutritional formulation industry, you really don’t need preservatives if you use a few simple ingredients to keep a bar stable, minimal preservatives.
So things that would keep a bar shelf-stable would be sea salt, that’s one example, chia seeds, and other vitamin E or what would be considered antioxidant contributors like almonds, tocopherols which is the family of natural vitamin E compounds that you can find in foods like nuts or fish or leafy green vegetables, sea salt, I mentioned that. It’s a classic preservative. Humans have used it for thousands of years to preserve food. Almonds are very dense in terms of their tocopherol content, their vitamin E content, both of those are natural preservatives due to their antioxidant defense. Chia seeds, same thing, overwhelming antioxidant stores and some other nutritional benefits I can get into later that allow them to hold up extremely well. I mean, you can have a jar of natural chia seeds in your pantry for two to three years and it doesn’t go bad because of the endogenous antioxidants. Even when you look at gelatin, which is incredibly nourishing for the skin and the joint and the gut, that’s also very stable over years and it’s something you can add as a source to an energy bar without necessarily needed a whole bunch of preservatives. So, to keep a bar healthy and shelf-stable with minimal preservatives, it simply comes down to adding a lot of these natural antioxidants as well as protein contributors and natural fat contributors and electrolyte contributors that allow you to achieve multiple effects.
I can get into some of the benefits of some of these compounds a little bit, but ultimately the cool things is if you use real clean food in a bar and you select the real clean food that is also shelf-stable due to its high antioxidant content, you can have a healthy bar with a very minimal amount of preservatives.
Angelo: What seems most bizarre and surprising to me is all these things taste good too. They would go well together. So, it’s like the industry goes to all these extents to create these weird super concocted flavors when you can just use real foods and they themselves both taste good and they serve as preservatives naturally.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, admittedly it’s slightly more expensive to do. Anytime you use real food, anytime that I decide I’m going to get a grass-fed sausage from elk and make that with one of my wife’s homemade sourdough loaves and use an organic ketchup and some heirloom tomatoes, it’s going to be more expensive than a corndog. It just is. But, at the same time, real food has a host of benefits that I think a far-out way any savings that you’re going to get by cutting costs and adding chemical preservatives. So, that was really the first thing that I wanted to do was use natural preservatives. And along the same lines, I wanted natural protein. Protein that was not going to be hyper-allergenic, protein that was not going to create excess spikes in insulin, protein that wasn’t going to introduce GMO ingredients like a soy protein or like a wheat-based protein.
So, the next thing that I turned to was the actual protein issue. My goal is when I have an energy bar is not necessarily for it to be a high protein bar. I mean, there’s a lot of people now who are aware that excess protein can produce excess insulin and potentially induce accelerated aging due to the spike in mTOR and the longevity issues you can get from excess protein intake. It’s why I personally only eat meat a few times a week, and I eat a lot of vegetables, and a lot of fats in between. But, I’m careful with protein. More protein is not better, basically.
But, it turns out that you can get a lot of good amino acid precursors, neurotransmitter precursors, the type of satiety that you would want from a bar, without necessarily adding some of these protein culprits such as the popular whey protein isolate or soy protein isolate. One example would be gelatin. Gelatin is incredibly gut nourishing, you get it from bone broth for example, and it turns out that you can get ample amounts of gelatin into a bar, the equivalent to about half a cup of bone broth which is great for the gut, great for joints, great for the muscles, and so I found gelatin from grass-fed cows that could be added to a bar. It’s highly bioavailable, you get a full spectrum of what are called long chain amino acids which serve as the building block for connective tissues like bones and cartilage and skin and tendons, and that’ one thing every simple protein that can be added to energy bars that you find very few and far between when it comes to gelatin being an actual component in a bar. Another one is a fantastic hypoallergenic, what I would say is almost like an ancestral protein source especially when you rinse it and you soak it to remove a lot of the soap-like irritants called saponins that are on it, and that would be quinoa. And you no doubt heard of quinoa before, which I used to pronounce qui-noa before I realized that there actually is a more traditional way to pronounce quinoa, but ultimately it’s quinoa. When you buy a big… Have you ever bought the quinoa from Costco, for example, Angelo?
Angelo: I haven’t yet from Costco. We’ve gotten big bags before, but…
Ben: Yeah, big bags of quinoa. So you buy those, a lot of people make them and they’ll be like ‘oh, quinoa gives me horrible craps and gas and bloating. Well, it’s because even when you buy the bags of it from the grocery store, it’s not rinsed to remove the saponins. It’s not actually treated properly, but quinoa when it’s actually rinsed and soaked and it’s treated the way that it’s supposed to be treated to reduce the natural plant defense mechanisms, it’s incredibly high in amino acids. It has all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. It’s extremely high in flavonoids which makes it as I alluded to earlier, high in shelf-stable antioxidants and it’s got a host of vitamins and minerals in them: iron, and b vitamins, and vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese, it is an incredible, a lot of people think these are grains, they’re technically a grass but the cool thing is that there is actually a close cousin of quinoa, a lot of times it’s called baby quinoa, and it’s called kaniwa. Kaniwa. And kaniwa, just like quinoa, is a perfect plant-based protein source, but whereas quinoa has these small seed-grains that are usually red or dark brown or white, the kaniwa, because it has slightly higher antioxidants in it, it’s usually dark red or it’s brown, but it has this delicious crunchy, nutty flavor with this slightly amount of natural sweetness. So, quinoa it’s kind of fluffy and it’s soft, kaniwa is different. It’s more like crunchy, kind of pops in your mouth. So it gives you this amazing mouthfeel along with all of the amino acid benefits that you’d get from a quinoa. So, those were two really compelling protein sources that I found was: grass-fed gelatin and organic kaniwa.
Now, in terms of getting a really good full spectrum of proteins, because as many vegans or vegetarians well know, it can be difficult to get all of the amino acids that you need when you’re not eating meat, or having a rib-eye steak is pretty convenient when it comes to getting all the protein that you need, but if you’re not going to do that, you need to combine grains, and seeds, and nuts, and different forms of vegetables to be able to, by the end of the day, get all the different amino acids that your body needs. So to round out the protein profile, to perfect the protein profile on a bar, what I wanted to add was a touch of pea protein. Now, a lot of people look at peas as a legume, especially paleo enthusiasts because legumes are considered to be high in natural plant defense molecule lectins and also phytic acid and that can be irritating to the gut, indeed. But it turns out that using a hydrolysis process, you can extract the actual protein from the peas, get none of the gut irritating compounds that come along with them and make, what I would consider to be, a paleo plant-based protein meaning, allergen-free, unlike whey or soy, still high in a very unique array of amino acids, the amino acid profile of pea protein is incredible, it’s got huge amounts of lysine, and arginine and branched chain amino acids, and natural enzymes that help your body to actually digest those, a host of vitamins and minerals and nutrients. You put those three together: gelatin, and kaniwa, and also the pea protein, specifically a hydrolyzed pea protein isolate, and you have the perfect amount of bioavailable protein in an energy bar with none of the allergens and minimal preservatives and this amazing mouthfeel and crunchy, nutty flavor. So, that essentially is how you create the perfect protein. I’ve never seen those three combined together, but it is an amazing amino acid profile when you get all three of those in the same room so to speak.
Angelo: Yeah, it sounds too like, the way that the actual texture of them and the way that they come together as well, it not only, again, serves just the protein function, but has the potential to create the flavor profile and the mouthfeel that’s a lot better than a block of soy.
Ben: Yeah. You’re still missing out on the chocolate. You would still have to if you were to have a little of those, sandwich them into a chocolate bar to get the ultimate flavor, in my opinion. But…
Angelo: So, what about chocolate? Does chocolate serve as anything?
Ben: Yeah, that’s what I didn’t ask. You’ve got to have fat. And again, I don’t like the greasy, ketogenic gut bombs, but I do like me a little bit of fat, not only for that chocolatey favor, but of course so that you get a more stable glycemic response, you get that mouthfeel, you get the satiety, and you get that I-want-to-sandwich-my energy-bar-into-a-dark-chocolate-bar type of flavor. So, when it comes to fat, again, I want stuff that can be super-duper easily digested, but tastes amazing.
And so, the first fat source that I looked into was something called a white chia seed. A white chia seed. A lot of people see the black or the dark grey chia seeds, now the white chia seeds come from a plant called the salvia hispanica plant. Now, chia seeds in general, a lot of people are familiar with these as a term that’s overused, but that is still appropriate in this sense, a superfood, right. So, chia seed has a protein content of about 25%, dietary fiber that’s not like the IMO syrup dietary fiber because it doesn’t spike the blood sugar in the same way, that’s about 30%, and it also contains a ton of omega-3 fatty acids similar to what you get in a fish oil, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, very nutrient-dense. I mean the Aztec warriors would munch on chia seeds to give them energy and endurance and they would claim that a single spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24-hours, it’s actually what chia means in the Mayan language, that’s where it comes from, it means strength. So, it was also known as the runner’s food because they would give them to runners and to warriors who were fighting a long battle or who were running long distances. And chia seeds have an incredible amount of research behind them for promoting healthy skin and reducing signs of aging and supporting the heart and the digestive system and building stronger bones and muscles. Recently, they’ve been linked to the management of diabetic symptoms and when they soak in the juices of your digestive system, and this is kind of a one-two combo with this along with the half bone broth cup full of gelatin, they coat the lining of the stomach. They serve as a gut nourishing compound which is incredible for anybody who has gut issues, but especially during physical activity. If you can eat a bar that kind of settles down the gut because this white chia seed content, then it’s kind of a bonus to the bar. So, white chia seeds were the first fat source that I looked into.
Angelo: That’s actually kind of one of my biggest concerns too is indigestion sometimes from eating bars. And so, this idea of it coating my stomach is awesome.
Ben: Right. And, that combined with some of the natural enzymes that you get from the pea protein isolate and so you actually do not need to consume something like a digestive enzyme supplement along with your bar or even, say, eat the bar in very small chunks- I used to do this in my triathlons or marathons. You could only eat a sixth of the bar at a time because otherwise your gut would just flip. I want to be able to just, if I need to, open a bar, slam the whole thing and just keep going. And so, the chia seeds and the gelatin, along with the pea protein isolate, afford you the ability to do that. Now, I mentioned how a source of tocopherols and vitamin Es that you can make a bar shelf-stable are almonds, and almonds of course, a lot of people are familiar with is being very high in monosaturated or monounsaturated Mediterranean fats, high in antioxidants, and of course, they’re just tasty. They have this nice crunchy texture, they’re very high in oleic acid, your cell membranes, specifically your nerve sheaths, the myelin sheaths, they’re composed of primarily oleic acid and DHA, about 30% of the myelin sheaths are oleic acid. That’s why I recommend who want to optimize their nerves consume a lot of Mediterranean fats such as almonds or almond oil along with extra virgin olive oil. So, you get really good healthy nervous system support from almonds, but then of course, everything else from the antioxidants to the cognitive performance benefits to the blood flow to the flavor. So, white chia seeds combined with almonds from a nut standpoint is what I went with.
But we still didn’t address the elephant in the room and that would be how much chocolatey goodness can you squeeze into one single energy bar? I’m personally a fiend for chocolate. We go to have ice cream and my kids would get strawberry sorbet or lemon sorbet or whatever bubblegum flavored gelato and then me, that’s just a bastardization of the ice cream shop because it the ice cream does not have chocolate in it, in my opinion, it’s just a waste of time. It’s a waste of time. It’s got to be chocolate peanut butter. I had one, when I was in… where was I? I was in Venice Beach a few days ago and I had cherry chocolate bacon ice cream which was just mind-blowing. Chocolate for me is a food of the gods. It’s a food of the gods. So, I don’t know if you feel similarly about chocolate, Angelo.
Angelo: Aw man, I could not feel more similarly. I was going to ask you how was the gelato in Sardinia?
Ben: It was okay. I don’t think that one of the things that confer longevity to the Sardinians is their gelato because I’ve had amazing gelato in Rome, some of the best gelato in the world was just outside of Vatican City in Rome. Even when I was in Estonia a few weeks ago I had wonderful, wonderful gelato. Europe has fantastic gelato. But Sardinia in general did not seem to have the gelato thing down quite like the rest of Italy, unfortunately. There are other good things there.
Angelo: Oh well.
Ben: Great wine! Great wine and good rosemary. Anyways though, so with chocolate, what I began with looking into for an energy bar is what is called chocolate liqueur. Chocolate liqueur. You may have if you’ve ever had a chocolate martini in a fancy cocktail bar had the opportunity and the pleasure to experience a chocolate liqueur. It’s a low processed chocolate. It’s about half part cocoa butter and half part cocoa solids and it’s far lower in sugar, despite the moniker liqueur, it’s far lower in sugar than other commercial forms of chocolate. So, it’s a way to get chocolate into a bar without spiking the sugar content of the bar.
And then, the next thing I wanted was a little bit of saturated fat. My own diet is about 10-15% saturated fat and the rest is monounsaturated fats, more Mediterranean fats. So, I added a touch of cocoa butter which gives you this healthy energy stabilizing saturated fats, and a little bit of extra antioxidants for the natural preservative effect and for even more chocolate with a cocoa powder. Cocoa powder. So, I’ve got chocolate liqueur, cocoa butter and cocoa solids, cocoa powder and then I moved onto one of my favorite superfoods of all time, this is kind of a second superfood in addition to the white chia seeds, and that is cocoa nibs. I actually just had a… I keep a big bag in the freezer and I sprinkle them on my smoothie every morning. Cacao nibs are, in my opinion, they’re one of the lesser implemented superfoods that a lot of people are really missing out on when it comes to enjoying an incredibly important part of dopamine and chocolate and that’s the cocoa nibs. They’re enormously high in fiber. So, a single ounce of them have a whopping 9 grams of fiber. They have tons of antioxidants. They have boatloads of magnesium, 64 milligrams of magnesium in one ounce of cocoa nibs considering that most of the world’s population is deficient in magnesium, athletes are notoriously low of magnesium, this is very good news. More potassium per ounce cacao nibs have than a freakin’ banana. They’re chock full of iron and other wonderful, wonderful food especially for active individuals and exercise enthusiasts and of course, cocoa works in your neurotransmitters, like I mentioned a little bit earlier, you get a big boost of dopamine. So the bar itself when it has chocolate in it, is more satiating. You just get a better overall feel in terms of your mood when you consume it.
There’s an article I was reading recently called “the magical thing eating chocolate does to your brain.” You get this big blood flow to your brain not only from all the antioxidants and the nitric oxide precursors in chocolate, but also the dopamine release that you get from it. So, when you combine chia and almond flavor with chocolate liqueur and cocoa butter and cocoa powder and cacao nibs in bar, you get gobs of wonderful chocolate without spiking the blood sugar, with none of the additives or chemicals that you’d find in a Hershey’s bar or a Snickers bar and it’s just this profile that’s mind-blowing when it comes to mixing these different types of chocolate together. And I would be remised not to talk about chocolate without mentioning what I feel is very similar to turkey and cranberry or mint and lamb or peanut butter and jelly, and that would be the combination of chocolate and, Angelo, I’ll let you hazard a guess as to the food that I think pairs perfectly with chocolate.
Angelo: Coconut. That’s what it is for me.
Ben: It’s coconut. It’s coconut. So, coconut flakes, very nutritious, very rich in fiber, high in vitamins, high in minerals, it was once thought of as being high in saturated fats, but we all know that it’s different than fats, it’s different than saturated fats. Coconut, particularly like a coconut meat or coconut flake or coconut oil, very rich source of medium chained triglycerides. So medium chained triglycerides, those don’t circulate in your bloodstream or need to pass through the normal digestive process to be converted into energy. Instead, they’re sent straight to the liver where they are converted to energy and also result in the throughput of ketone bodies.
So this is a way, coconuts, especially in a bar, are a way to enhance the ketogenic effect of a bar and give you a really slow release stable form of fuel that doesn’t require the same amount of digestion as a nice marble-y cut of meat or wild-caught fish with the skin on it – all of that is great. But when you’re on the go, especially if you’re exercising, you want something that’s going to be burnt right away and wind up in your body as ketones and fat-based energy without needing to pass through the normal digestive process. So, it was very difficult for me to find a pure and clean source of coconut flakes, but I was able to figure out that piece as well and so that is essentially from a fat standpoint how you make a healthy, high-fat, low-carbohydrate bar with no greasiness, no need to add a gooey chocolate coating on the outside, which a lot of these bars do. That kind of flabbergasted me, folks would make a healthy energy bar and then just coat it in sugar-based chocolate to make it taste good. You don’t need to do that if you use these ingredients and frankly the combination of white chia seeds, almonds, chocolate liqueur, a good cocoa butter, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and then finally a clean source of coconut flakes, I mean the mouthfeel and the flavor from this is just absolutely amazing. So, that is how I created almost like a hedonistic flavor.
Angelo: Amazing. You said the elephant in the room was preservatives though, but when you start building up all this flavor, I’m still wondering, but it’s got to be sweet somehow and I read the back of labels and there’s obviously all of the artificial sweeteners which I want to stay away from, but there’s cane sugar and there’s corn syrup…
Ben: Or organic agave syrup which is essentially completed purely through a chemical process and results in this unnatural fructose-glucose profile that’s just horrible for you and it shocks me that that is still flies under the radar as far as common knowledge when it comes to agave. But, yeah…
Angelo: I don’t eat just raw… I do eat cocoa nibs, but other than that, they have to be a little sweet.
Angelo: So, how do you get it sweet?
Ben: Well, there’s one energy source that my children grab when they come in the door from school just about every day and I watch them eat gobs of this stuff and I really don’t care (a) because they’re kids and their metabolism is high anyways and (b) because the nutrient profile, along with the flavor profile, and the effect on the immune system in terms of a positive modulatory effect on the immune system of this particular sweetener is something that I think makes it, again, almost like a superfood. As a matter of fact, you look at these persistence hunters or tribes like the Hadza tribe when they’re out on a hunt, they will stop, drop everything, drop their weapons, and turn to this as the primarily fuel source because it is so tasty, so high in minerals, so high in antioxidants, so high in nutrients, and gives you this stable form of fuel that does not spike blood glucose. So that fuel is, drumroll please, organic honey.
And I can sense the global sharp drawing in of breath at the mention of honey because of the amounts to which fructose has been vilified as evil and I am very well aware of that. There are multiple animal studies that suggest that high amounts of fructose will make you fat or give you fatty liver or result in some type of horrible, chronic worldwide disease like diabetes. But, the fact is, that in these studies, not only are they feeding rodents pure, unnatural isolated fructose, not the natural fructose-glucose mix you find in a good organic honey, but they mainlining it into the bloodstream of these rodents in extremely high amounts, like the equivalent of you or I, Angelo, sucking down oodles of Coke. Like, stopping in a McDonald’s, rolling around through the drive-thru, grabbing another cup, grabbing another cup, and just doing multiple 32 ounces of Coke and essentially spinning cookies around the McDonalds parking lot during the entire day to get another bottle or cup of Coke.
So, ultimately, we cannot take those studies and, as you would imagine, turn around and say honey is evil. I mean, honey is not only is it an ancestral food like I mentioned earlier, it’s all over the freakin’ Bible, right, as one of these ambrosia-like superfoods. And, not to say that just because it’s in the Bible means that it’s the perfect food for man, but ultimately, it’s one of those things that I respect as a natural, ancestral food, assuming it is consumed with moderation and with control. It turns out that fructose, the fructose from honey specifically, it’s metabolized almost completely in the liver where it replenished your liver’s glycogen levels and results in a small synthesis of triglyceride. As a matter of fact, under 1% of ingested fructose is actually converted to triglyceride in the bloodstream. So, it’s not going to spike triglyceride levels, but allow for a slight, slow bleed in energy levels. Much of it is converted into lactate and then into glucose for energy. About 15% of it is converted to storage glycogen and the glucose and the lactate you derive from the fructose in honey gets released as this slow energy to cells all over the body. And better yet, because fructose is not what’s called an insulin secretagogue, meaning that it doesn’t result in the release of insulin, far friendlier to the pancreas can in fact lower circulating insulin and in addition to that, it’s an incredible nutrient-dense sweeter.
When you go into my pantry, yeah you’re going to find organic stevia which would be really the only non-calorie-based sweetener that I would use other than monk fruit, monk fruit would be another one that you’d find in my pantry, but blackstrap molasses, a good organic local maple syrup, a good organic honey, you’re going to find those as the type of things that my kids when they walk in the door are smearing on a big loaf of mom’s sourdough bread with a little bit of almond butter or cashew butter or walnut butter or something else that makes it the equivalent of a super-duper healthy peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The glycemic index of honey is relatively low. It’s about 32-85, depending on the botanical source, and this means that the glycemic load, how much a food will raise a blood glucose after consuming it is not an issue at all when it comes to honey, especially moderated amounts of honey. I mean, the list of benefits of honey, especially when compared to other sources of sugar is absolutely mind-blowing. I’ll put a link to an article in the show notes for this podcast at bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar, that’s where I’m going to put all of the show notes for this episode at bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar. And it’s not just the fact that honey is a glycemic-friendly sweetener, the organic honey is incredibly nutrient-dense. It has, for example, the starch digesting enzyme, amylase, in it which clears the antibodies that are associated with the allergies to pollens when you consume honey. Meaning, if you have an allergy, a lot of the times one of the best things that you can do is, like for a pollen allergy or hay fever or something like that, you hunt down for a good local, raw honey because it has this immune modulatory effect. But it’s also very rich in prebiotics. It’s rich in probiotics. Honey has this diverse and ancient set of beneficial lactic acid bacteria that they first discovered within the gut of honey bees. And there were over 50 different species of beneficial bacteria that you get from one single honey bee and a lot of this actually winds up in the honey itself.
And I know the first thing people worry about is, well, you say honey is high in probiotics for example, but what happens once you heat it? What’s the effects of heating on the nutrients like the enzymes in a good organic honey or the probiotics in a good organic honey? But, the fact is, there is a process that can get organic honey into a bar and it’s far different from the free radical generating nutrient destroying, intense, long-term pasteurization processes that most food manufacturers use in their packaged products. Instead, what you can do, and there’s a process to do this, is exactly what I wanted to do in a bar is you simply heat the organic honey in the bar to about 60 degrees Celsius for just a few minutes. So, rather than going hours of processing at this very high heat, you get a very friendly heating process and this mild browning that actually increases the total antioxidant capacity of the honey. So you’re concentrating the antioxidants without damaging the probiotics or the enzymes or everything else that you’re looking for in a good organic honey. And the cool thing is, this is something a lot of people don’t realize, honey, especially along with grass-fed gelatin, is an all-natural binder and this means that coming full circle to that nasty IMO synthesized starch inulin that I mentioned earlier that can spike your blood sugar for hours on end, but the FDA still allows to be added to so-called low-net-carb energy bars, you don’t get any of that when you use honey because it’s an all-natural binder. You don’t need any other articficial fillers, you don’t need any other artificial binders, and especially when you add in the extensive amount of fiber that you get from the almonds, and the cocoa nibs, and the white chia seeds that also lowers the need for any IMO or inulin-based starch, it lowers the glycemic index of a bar even more and it results in this non-significant deleterious high-carb response to a bar when you add honey along with the gelatin, the almonds, the cocoa nibs, the white chia seeds. It’s a match made in heaven and the best thing is you get all the ancestral nutrient density of a natural sweetener like organic honey.
Angelo: You know what standouts most to me, and when you say that make the ancestral mention there is I grew up in a health conscious family. My parents had a health foods store, we were eating real food, and we didn’t really get to eat bars growing up, but I always saw them as this weird thing. I have no idea how it’s made. When I hear you list these things: chia seeds, all these different forms of chocolate, almonds with honey, I can imagine it being mixed in a bowl and actually making this. It’s like real food. It’s not some weird, bizarre thing made off in a lab.
Ben: Well, you look pretty good in a Martha Stewart apron. So, we’ll make that happen. I’ll send you a nice stainless steel bowl and spatula and an apron and you can try all this yourself. Or, you can…
Angelo: Try the new home energy bar kit!
Ben: Yeah. Try Angelo’s new home energy bar kit, that’s right.
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Okay, I’m not done yet. I know I’m getting kind of long in the tooth here, but there’s a couple of other things that I want to mention when it comes to energy bars. And the first is this idea of recovery. And this is something that I know some people are aware of and potentially worried about and that would be this idea that antioxidants, especially concentrated amounts of synthetic antioxidants because I talked about how chia seeds, and almonds, and cacao nibs, and everything else have these natural preserving, and frankly, recovery enhancing antioxidants, but a lot of people are concerned about blunting the physiological response to strength training or blunting the hermetic response to exercise which frankly, a very high intake of synthetic antioxidants like vitamin C or vitamin E can do. But, at the same time, you actually want the free radical scavaging and the healing effect and the immune modulating effect of antioxidants, but preferably you want them from whole food sources. And, if you look at the total antioxidant capacity from blending high antioxidant ingredients like organic honey and almonds and cocoa nibs and kaniwa and white chia seeds and chocolate liqueur, you get an antioxidant profile that is through the freakin’ roof, but that is from all natural, whole food-based antioxidants. This means that all these antioxidants, along with all the flavonols from the cocoa particularly, they do double duty. They maximize the amount of free radical scavaging, decreasing oxidative stress which is what you want, but you don’t want to blunt the hermetic response to exercise, so you need to ensure your antioxidants are coming from a whole food source, and that’s important.
The other thing, though, that kind of flies under the radar is the idea that any time you take an antioxidant and you combine it with a rich protein source such a gelatin, you maximize the amino acid bioavailability of the protein source. This is why I put a big squeeze of half of a lemon into my morning smoothie when I make my morning smoothie and the main liquid in addition to the half squeeze of the lemon, is typically bone broth because vitamin C from lemons combined with the gelatin from the bone broth is a perfect combination for maximizing the bioavailability of the protein. So, when you put a bunch of antioxidants, specifically whole food antioxidants, not synthetic, chemical-based oxidants, not huge amounts of vitamin C or vitamin E all by themselves, but the natural whole food balanced amount of antioxidants that you’re going to find in real food and you combine that with gelatin, you take the protein and you essentially upgrade or super charge the protein.
So, that’s the idea behind antioxidants. They’re not all bad, but you want whole food based antioxidants and ideally you want to combine whole food based antioxidants with some type of gelatin source or some type of collagen source that allows you to maximize the amino acid and the protein bioavailability of the collagen or the gelatin. And so, it’s a very cool, almost like a food-based biohack, when you can squeeze all of that into one single package.
Angelo: Again, it’s just amazing how much you can accomplish if you just do the research like you’ve done here and apply real thinking to investigating what foods naturally can produce these results together without trying to make up a bunch of artificial or weird concoctions.
Ben: And by the way, there is one other antioxidant I didn’t mention, but there is a chemical called sesamin. It’s not really a chemical, it’s just a natural food-based substance, sesamin. There’s one that’s very similar called sesamolin and both of these substances belong to a group of these beneficial fibers called lignans. Those have a cholesterol lowering effect, they assist with blood pressure control, they’re very good sources of a natural form of vitamin E. They’ve even been showed to prevent the liver from oxidative damage and you get them, as the name implies, sesamin and sesamolin, from sesame seeds. So, once I found out about this ingredient and the huge amount of manganese and calcium and magnesium and iron and phosphorous and zinc which is wonderful for testosterone levels in men, selenium for the thyroid, dietary fiber, all these thigs you can get from sesame seeds combined with the fact that I’ll often sprinkle sesame seeds on my salad or on my salmon or anything else to get this nice, nutty, crunchy taste. I put sesame seeds in there and when you combine those, especially with the kaniwa, you get this amazing mouthfeel and crunch that kind of takes all the cacao nibs and the kaniwa and shoves it to the roof even more when it comes to this wonderful, wonderful mouthfeel. So, sesame seeds are something I hadn’t really seen much before in an energy bar, but they really round out the antioxidant profile and the mouthfeel profile really, really nicely.
Angelo: So, Ben, you’ve been talking a lot about the mouthfeel which I love as well, but big picture, what about the flavor? What about the rest of the taste of the bar?
Ben: Right. Yeah. And, like I mentioned, taste is super important to me. And I want taste without any of the arsenic-laced brown rice syrup and the chemical cocktail of organic agave syrup. I don’t want acesulfame potassium. I don’t want sucralose. A lot of people think stevia tastes bitter. 30% of people don’t get a sweet taste out of stevia, they get a bitter taste out of stevia. I don’t want any of the gas or the bloating-inducing sugar alcohols ‘cause you see, especially in the low-carb industry erythritol and mannitol and sorbitol and xylitol and lactitol and maltitol. The fact is that in many people, those can create gut distress, bloating, especially if you’re doing more than one energy bar in a day. It can wind up creating some pretty embarrassing bathroom decommissioning issues. So, there is this term used in the food industry called organoleptics. And, organoleptics, that refers to the aspects of food or water or any other substance and it’s specific impact on the sense like taste, sight, and smell, and touch, and I would say that because I like to sound smart and use fancy flavors or fancy words like organoleptics, the way that I would describe the organoleptic profile of this bar is that it is this big, tasty punch of mouthwatering, chocolatey, salty coconut goodness. I mean, when you combine organic honey with that slight bitterness from the unprocessed cacao nibs, you get this perfect chocolatey flavor. The chocolate liqueur and the coconut flakes give you this rich, slightly sweeter effect. The white chia seeds, the kaniwa, the sesame, the almonds, they add in this natural, nutty flavor and this natural crisp in bite. And so, the final product is this incredibly flavorful, extremely well put together from a taste and a sight and a smell and a touch standpoint with none of the artificial flavors and no artificial sweeteners and even none of the strange natural flavors that you see advertised. None of the crap that gets hidden in these so-called healthy energy bars, but the taste is freakin’ delicious.
I give this mix to my kids, I’ve given it to a ton of my friends now, I mean a lot of people are aware I’ve been beat testing all the ingredients and figuring out how they would all fit into this perfect energy bar. And I mean, dude, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, almonds, grass-fed gelatin, organic honey, white chia seeds, sesame seeds, organic pea protein, kaniwa, cocoa butter, sea salt. I mean, you put all of this together and it tastes amazing. I could live on this mix for days at a time. I mean, previously up to this point, you would find me walking around with a bag of macadamia nuts, a little bit of dark chocolate, some spirulina and chlorella that’s what I call my natural trail mix, I would often throw a little bit of organic sea salt in there as well. And I still will have little trail mixes and things like that that I make, but as far as a done-for-you solution that I know is 100% guilt-free because I freakin’ made it and it’s something that won’t melt or freeze or turn into a brick in the cold, I’ve kept it in my sauna for hours on end to see what happens in the heat, I’ve taken it to Hawaii for hunting trips. This bar that I’ve managed to squeeze all the ingredients into, it just tastes mind-blowing. It’s addictively wonderful.
Angelo: I’m glad you mentioned that last thing about taking it in the sauna because that’s the one thing all these organic ingredients, I mean the flavor sounds amazing, but that’s another thing with energy bars, I don’t want to take it on a long run or bike ride or go skiing and it turns into a rock-hard brick or it melts and it’s gross and it’s all over my hands. How were you able to get something that doesn’t do that?
Ben: Right. Well, it took two years to develop this formula and this was unheard of from all the natural product formulators I talked to and all the people who helped to make this bar. Nobody else was taking the bar snowboarding and skiing and hiking and putting it in the sauna and taking it to triathlons and putting it out… I’ve raced with this thing in 38 degrees below zero in a frigid, snowy race in Vermont. I mean, I refined and I tweaked and I tested this thing because I’ve, like I mentioned in the beginning of this show, used a lot of energy bars and I’ve found that even the ones that taste good and have a clean profile from an ingredient standpoint, they just haven’t been field tested by people who want to live an adventurous life and by excursive enthusiasts and by people who want to slip into their bike jersey without getting this big, greasy, gooey pile. And people who want a bar that’s not going to crumble on impact or fall apart or freeze or melt or create any other frustrating scenario that results in this giant annoying mess when all you want is clean, packaged energy.
So yeah, I annoyed a lot of people in the creation of this particular ingredient blend because I kept testing it over and over and over again. But, after about two years of researching and testing and formulating and tasting and blending it together what I would consider to be some of the most unique superfoods on the face of the planet, the mouthwatering and gut-nourishing and guilt-free final product was well-worth it. I’ve been working for a long time on creating this and it really is… it’s finally ready. There are boxes of these in the warehouse ready. It’s just done and I’m incredibly proud. I was tickled pink when I got my first box and was able to open it and feed it to my kids and my wife and it’s just like, after so much testing and so much tasting and so much researching and so much comparing and a lot of work, as you know Angelo, it’s very, very tough to bring a healthy food like this to market. I mean, it’s ready. It’s done. I mean, if people are listening in right now, they can taste this thing for themselves.
Angelo: And just speaking from an operations and marketing perspective, trying to create this and back it up, it has been really one of the most rigorous experiences that I’ve been through because of your standards, Ben. I just want to thank you for, again, I said I came from a health background and all of our team, man, we all want to eat well and we all have that value, but having a crazy person like you that can actually figure out how to put this type of thing together and make it a real product, we do man. With them now in the office, we’re eating them a lot. I don’t want to say how much…
Ben: Yeah, we’ve been packing the kids for camps this summer and sending them off to wilderness survival camp and mom and I are leaving for Seattle and Miami next week and we’re packing for the airplane, it’s so easy! I don’t even have to glance at the label. I just grab these bars and know they’re going to taste amazing, I know during two days of travel I can eat four or five of them and feel fine and not have to stop and spend $11 at the healthy foods store at the airport. Everything about them, and I know, my apologies Angelo, I know I was very difficult to work with during the formation of this stuff because I did want it to be perfect. But, that’s what Kion is. That’s what, not just this Kion bar, but that’s what the entire company stands for is clean, unique formulations that aren’t just healthy and don’t just accomplish for you exactly what they are intended to accomplish for you, whether that’s an antiaging skin serum or the gut nourishing colostrum or the neurotransmitter and recovery-enhancing amino acids or the completely pure and incredibly antioxidant-rich organic coffee, I mean, every single things that I create, I want to be known for as being something that is functional, that is guilt-free, that is tested in the trenches, and that’s what this is. It’s very, very simple. I mean, we just call it the Kion Clean Energy Bar. The Kion Clean Energy Bar.
And you know, frankly, when you get this bar and the box arrives at your house, even the freakin’ box and the label and the packaging, and I think you’d probably agree with me on this, Angelo, it’s just fun! It’s just a cool looking bar. My kids absolutely love it, it’s almost like a cartoon-kind, the design on the bar, and I mean, the whole thing start to finish is just an experience and that’s what I wanted to create for people was not just functional energy, but a full experience when it comes to mouthfeel and flavor and appetite satiation and how it feels and crinkles and when you open it it’s slightly flexible but it doesn’t fall apart and when you bite into it you just get this chocolatey, coconut-y, nutty explosion in your mouth. It’s just… I’m incredibly proud of it and I don’t want to drone on. I realized at this point I’m starting to sound like a giant commercial, but ultimately I think we should just tell people where they can go get this thing right now if they want to try it and where they can leave questions if they have them.
Angelo: Fill them in, Ben!
Ben: Alright, so I know this happened with our coffee as soon as I announced that it was ready, it sold out really fast, so I cannot guarantee at the time that you hear this podcast that we aren’t going to be completely sold out of these things because they’re already beginning to fly off the shelves like freakin’ hotcakes, but if you want to get in while the getting is good, the URL is getkion.com/bar. So Kion is K-I-O-N. It’s all based around the concept of qi- life force, energy, chakra, prana, this idea that there is this invisible life force that surges through all of us and this bar definitely feeds that life force. You’re going to feel wonderful, wonderful after you eat it. It’s clean, no gut bomb, wonderful flavor. But, it’s getkion.com/bar, get K-I-O-N.com/bar and again, if you want the show notes and all the research and all that jazz and you don’t just want to grab some chocolatey, nutty goodness, but you’re a nerd and you want to read all the research, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar, bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar if you want any of that stuff from the research on chia seeds or raw honey or cacao nibs or anything like that because I really do stand-by the actual studies behind the products that I create. But if you just want to grab the bar and start chomping away on it, go to getkion.com/bar, get K-I-O-N.com/bar. We’re launching with a pretty significant 20% discount on these. You can get six boxes, you can get three boxes, you can get one box, there’s discounts on any of those options. But ultimately, head over there, grab a bar, getkion.com/bar, you can leave a comments if you have comments on this particular show, as usual, show notes – bengreenfieldfitnes.com/bar. We have an incredible customer service team standing by via both phone and email if you need it and that’s right there on the bar page getkion.com/bar. So, there’s your two URLs for the show notes, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar where there will also be a link to the bar or to just grab the bar and get started on it, go to getkion.com/bar. That’s get K-I-O-N.com/bar. And dude, Angelo, that’s everything I wanted to cover as far as energy bars go unless you have even more questions for me.
Angelo: No man, that was amazing. So fun. I want to come back. I want to do this again for more products and more science and just hear you break it all down.
Ben: I am happy to have you interview me. We probably don’t do this enough, like actually have me interviewed about these products that I create, because I’m so busy interviewing people that I’m probably remised on being interviewed myself on my own show. But, yeah, we should do it more. We could do it more. If you guys want to get interviewed more about this kind of stuff, just leave a comment at bengreenfieldfitness.com/bar and I can tell you guys about the colostrum formulation or the amino acids formulation. If you like to geek out on this stuff, just let me know. I don’t want my podcast to turn into a commercial for my products, that’s my fear, but if this is helpful for you just from a pure knowledge standpoint, let me know and I’ll make it happen. I do have a request for you though, Angelo.
Angelo: Let’s do it, man, what is it?
Ben: And that would be can you either loop or beatbox this podcast to a grand finally?
Angelo: Yeah, man. For sure. Are you going to sing on top of it?
Ben: If you’ve got something I know, I’ll do it. And this is unrehearsed by the way, you guys. I didn’t tell Angelo about…
Angelo: I think you’ve just got to sing a Kion Bar hook, dude. You got it. Go for it.
Ben: [singing] Big, tasty punch of…
Angelo: You know what I forgot, dude. It’s not going to work because we’re not synced timewise.
Ben: That’s true. Why don’t you just do something?
Angelo: Alright, here we go. [beatboxes]
Ben: Until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Angelo Keely, COO of Kion, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Alright editor, have fun with that one.
What is truly a healthy energy bar?
A bar that keeps you in “ketosis”?
A high-fiber bar?
The fact is, when it comes to energy bars, there's plenty of confusion (and, sadly, deception). So in this riveting conversation between Kion COO and co-founder Angelo Keely and myself, you'll discover everything you need to know before you ever touch another energy bar, including:
-The fascinating history of energy bars…14:00
–What some of the shocking things I've discovered in the “healthy bar” industry…19:00
-The sad truth about your options as consumers…28:30
-What was the first thing I looked for in creating an energy bar…33:30
–Why using “real foods” outweighs using unnatural ingredients, even though the cost is higher…37:00
–Why Ben feels chocolate is essential to any perfect energy bar…44:30
–The “perfect healthy complement” to chocolate…54:00
–How you can naturally sweeten energy bars that don't result in sugar crashes…58:00
–How to naturally add anti-oxidants to an energy bar…1:09:30
–How we got the bar to taste great without adding a host of preservatives and unnatural ingredients…1:15:00
–And much more!
–Kion. Everything you need for mind, body and spirit balance.
–Joovv. Lights that promote muscle recovery, testosterone production, skin health, and joint pain and inflammation.
–Onnit. Supplements, foods, and fitness equipment aimed at helping people achieve Total Human Optimization.
–Gluten Guardian If you’re at all sensitive to gluten (and even if you’re not, but just concerned about cross contamination, like we all should be), Gluten Guardian is for you. Save 10% off your order when you use my link and use code “greenfield.”
Resources from this episode: