I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by ExtendNutrition who asked if I would be interested in trying and reviewing a couple of their products. I was not familiar with their company, but a quick look at their website showed me that they have a variety of products for those looking for healthy snack options. I agreed and they sent me 3 different flavors of nutrition bars. While the bars were provided to me free of charge to sample and review, the opinions are entirely my own and I received no other compensation for writing this review.
The bars arrived and consisted of 3 different flavors: chocolate peanut butter, chocolate and caramel, and cookies and cream. These bars are described as an “anytime bar”. Which means that they can be used as a meal addition/replacement, a snack or - like more traditional energy bars - for athletic performance.
The bars I was sent contain sugar substitutes. The cookies and cream and chocolate and caramel contain Stevia and the chocolate peanut butter contains sucralose. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I believe that sugar substitutes are perfectly fine to use in moderation.
The artificial sugar in these bars allows for them to be much lower in calories than a traditional energy bar. While some other bars like Clif, Quest or Balance contain 200-300 calories, the Extend bars have half that, coming in at a cool 130-150.
What I was really happy to see is that despite the calorie difference, these bars do NOT skimp on the protein. While some snack granola bars have a measly 3-4 grams of protein per bar - completely useless for athletic performance, Extend Bars have 10-12 grams of protein per bar which is perfect for sustained performance.
Because these bars are high in protein and have a slow release of carbs, they are also marketed as being a perfect snack for diabetics. While many traditional power bars have a “spike” of energy - which some body-builders, people playing team sports and professional athletes might be looking for - the Extend Bars instead are described as having a slow release of carbs which produces no spike but instead provides lasting and stable blood sugar for up to 6 hours.
I was intrigued.
The first bar I tried was on a Wednesday morning in place of my usual breakfast. I ate it at mid-morning which is when I usually have my oatmeal. The bar I chose was the chocolate and caramel and upon opening it I saw that the Extend bar was about the size of other power bars I have used in the past.
I bit in and the taste was delicious. It was soft and chewy. The caramel actually stretched out - one of my favorite things from my past was eating Snickers and the long ropes of caramel! But that unhealthy candy bar is no longer on my menu! So it was fantastic to eat a chewy caramel treat knowing that it was healthy. The chocolate was rich, but not overly sweet and tasted genuine - not artificial at all. As far as the taste and texture, I loved every bit of it.
For my lunch hour that day I did a 15 mile bike ride. Often when I get back after exercising at lunch I am extremely hungry. Not that day! As advertised, I felt no “spike” of energy, but when I finished the ride I felt content and was in no hurry to make my lunch. The bar digested easily and didn’t sit heavily in my stomach as I sometimes find with other dense power bars.
The next test came on the weekend when Marc and I went on a long bike ride. We ate a hearty brunch before leaving. About 30 miles in we stopped at a park. According to my heart rate monitor, I had burned about 1,000 calories to that point. We opened up both the cookies and cream and the chocolate peanut butter flavored bars. It was a warm day and we had carried the bars in our small bike bags. We noticed that the chocolate from the cookies and cream had melted quite a bit. This did not happen with the peanut butter.
We split the bars and each ate half. The chocolate peanut butter was crunchy and dry. It had only a faint taste of peanut butter and had less chocolate than the other bars. Both Marc and I thought that it tasted a lot like a rice crispy treat (even though it contains no rice at all). The taste was good, and it held together much better in the heat than the cookies and cream.
We then tasted the cookies and cream. To my complete surprise it was like biting into a chocolate covered cookie. Again, the chocolate was rich and tasty. The cookie bar part was especially yummy, with a strong cookie taste that I loved.
We mounted our bikes and began the 27 mile trip to home. Again, I was extremely happy with how the bars made me satisfied but not “full” at all. When we arrived home, I was tired, but to my surprise, not hungry!
It seems that these bars perform as promised!
For our last experiment, we headed out to climb Owls Head Mountain. Before climbing I ate a bar. True to my experience previously, the bar sustained me through the climb. I hate having a large meal in my stomach whenever I engage in intense physical activity. So having a small bar that didn’t fill up my stomach but gave me energy was perfect.
Some final thoughts - these bars were delicious and I loved the calorie savings. They all seemed to “perform” equally. The peanut butter was both Marc and my least favorite as the taste was not as flavorful as the other bars. Plus, it would be nice to see ExtendNutrition sweeten these bars with a more natural sugar substitute, like the stevia they are using in the other bars. However, if you are going some place that is warm the peanut butter seems to hold up better against the heat as it doesn’t melt all over the package.
The cookies and cream flavor was definitely my favorite. A strong but not overly sweet cookie and chocolate taste. The chocolate and caramel was also absolutely delicious.
You can find these bars on the ExtendNutrition website. A 15 pack sells for $23.99. That’s about $1.60 per bar. That’s quite a bit more expensive than energy bars that sell for about $1.00 per bar. However, since these seem to last longer, they might be considered more equivalent to a meal replacement item which makes them more in the same price range.
I was very impressed with the Extend Bars and would definitely recommend them not just to athletes, but diabetics and others who might be looking for a quick and easy snack and/or meal replacement.