I consume a lot of processed packaged energy food throughout the year while training and during races. As the season progresses I gradually start to get sick of the countless gummies, energy gels and different kinds of bars that I eat (if I never see another Clif Bar again it will be too soon). So, I decided to do some experimenting in the kitchen to see if I could make some of my own energy food. I am aware that this is more time consuming than just ordering a box of bars online or swinging by the local bike shop to pick up some gels, but I think overall this might be a healthier and tastier approach to fueling my body for long training rides and races. I decided that was going to try and make energy bites and some type of energy bar.

Making my own energy food was dangerous business, helmet was required.

Making my own energy food was dangerous business, helmet was required.

For the bites, I decided to use sweet potato as the base ingredient. I have read several articles recently that discuss the sweet potato and its nutritional benefits for athletes. This root vegetable contains more potassium than a banana. Potassium is an essential mineral needed for muscle contraction and also helps to prevent cramping. Sweet potatoes also contain other vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that help with cell repair after tough workouts and even help to ease breathing for people with asthma and during allergy season (some studies have shown). The energy bites I concocted were comprised of sweet potato, oatmeal, natural peanut butter, shredded coconut, cinnamon, vanilla extract, flax seed and mini chocolate chips (**chocolate chips optional**). These were easy to make and were pretty tasty with the natural sweetness from the sweet potato and peanut butter. They were a bit softer than originally anticipated so I decided that these would be a better post-workout recovery snack rather than something to be eaten while training. Recipe and directions below.

Oatmeal and sweet potato energy bites.

Sweet potato, oatmeal and peanut butter energy bites.

For my second experiment, I decided to make my own nut bar, similar to a Kind Bar®. Whole Foods was a great place to get the ingredients for this as they had everything I needed in their produce section. I could measure out each dry ingredient in the amounts I needed and so I didn’t have to buy a whole bag of chia seeds or flax seed when I only needed a small amount. These bars were comprised of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seed, unsweetened shredded coconut, mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (**optional**), honey and coconut oil. These were also relatively easy to make and came out tasting delicious (in my opinion). They were fresh and a little bit chewier than a Kind Bar and I honestly considered this kitchen experiment a great success. I wrapped these individually and I could easily take one on a run or throw one in my back pocket for a ride. Recipe and directions below.

Nikstir's nut bars

Nikstir’s nut bars

The other added bonus is that I found it was actually cheaper to make my own bars. Most energy bars I buy at the store cost about $2.00-$2.50 each. My homemade nut bars cost about twenty dollars to make and I had about 15 bars when I was done (dropping the cost to about $1.30 per bar). I considered this to be a fun, tasty and successful kitchen experiment!

Sweet Potato, Oatmeal and Peanut Butter Bites
Ingredients:
1 cup pureed sweet potato
1.5 cup rolled oats
¼ cup natural peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chopped flax seed
¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (**optional**)

Directions:
1. Mix sweet potato puree, peanut butter and vanilla extract together in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the oats, coconut, cinnamon, flax seed and chocolate chips.
3. Mix the dry ingredients into the bowl containing the sweet potato mixture. Cover this and refrigerate for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
4. Once chilled, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and roll it into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate and enjoy as a post workout snack.
**makes approximately 15-20 bites**

Nikstir’s Nut Bars
Ingredients:
1 cup almonds
½ cup walnuts
½ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup flax seed
2/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (**optional**)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
½ cup honey

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease a piece of parchment paper and place over a cookie sheet.
2. Chop the shelled almonds and walnuts into slightly smaller pieces and mix these together with all of the other dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Melt the coconut oil and mix that together with the honey in a separate bowl.
4. Mix the honey and coconut oil mixture in with the dry ingredients, making sure everything is mixed well and fully coated.
5. Spread the mixture evenly on the parchment paper/baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
7. Place the parchment paper with the mixture on top in the refrigerator for approximately one hour.
8. Remove and cut (with a very sharp knife) into bars of your desired size and enjoy!
**Store in an airtight container for freshness**
**Best to wrap the bars individually once they are cut or separate them with parchment paper so they do not stick together**