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Reviewed: 3Bar Energy Bar by Lynn Astalos

Posted Feb 25 2009 3:42pm

Erin-demarines6 The name comes from the three disciplines in triathlon, but can also stand for protein, carbs and essential fats.  3Bar is the only nutrition and energy bar made by a triathlete for triathletes.   That’s Erin DeMarines in the photo, CEO and founder of 3Bar, certified sports nutrition consultant, and an accomplished triathlete. 

It sure seems like Erin has thought of everything to produce the healthiest, most effective nutrition bar on the market designed for athletes.  It claims to be vegan, kosher, wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, trans fat free, cholesterol free, GMO free, and all natural.  Wow, is there anything left?  And can it still taste good? 

The Right Stuff – All the marketing-speak is another way of saying 3Bar is made with organic ingredients, is easily digestible, rich in antioxidants, a good source of protein, and diabetic-friendly.  Now that’s asking a lot from a nutrition bar.  3Bar is formulated to deliver the right balance of protein, carbs and essential fats to keep the athlete satiated and energized during and after training or racing.

The Taste Test – 3Bar comes in two or three flavors–chocolate peanut butter (Cocoa Crunch), chocolate coconut almond butter (Tropical Tri), and berry peanut butter (Blueberry Blast).  “Taste test” is a bit of a misnomer because I actually prefer not to taste too much when I’m out there for several hours and need some nutrition.  I go for the plain GUs and tend to grab boiled potatoes and PBJs at aid stations on long trail races.  I just need something with carbs, calories and nutrition that goes down easy.   Too much flavor makes me gag.  So I ripped open a Cocoa Crunch bar during a 3-hr. brick workout the other day.

I detected very little taste in the Cocoa Crunch bar.  There was a hint of chocolate and a small amount of crunch, but it was just what I needed–something that’s easy to ingest and packed with nutrition.  3Bar definitely passes the test.  PowerBars are so difficult to eat, especially on cold days, it’s a mystery how they got to be so popular.  I tried the Tropical Tri bar after a 16-mile run yesterday.  I’ve never been fond of anything tropical tasting and I didn’t care for this one, either.  But again, it’s not the flavor I’m after anyway.  If I could tweak the 3Bar recipe just a bit, I would make it a skosh more moist.  The bars didn’t crumble, but they came apart a little too easily.   I like something that holds together well while I’m on the bike or running.

At the end of the day, 3Bar is my nutrition bar of choice.  I just wish it was sold at a local store so I don’t have to pay for shipping and handling.  I’m taking one of my empty wrappers to the local running store and suggest they order a supply.  They always seem to be selling new nutrition products.  I’ll take the other one to the local Trader Joe’s.  3Bar seems like the perfect specialty product for the discriminating shopper at Trader Joe’s. 

3bar-nutrition-facts3 Ingredients – Since this product is all about the ingredients, let’s break it down a bit.  Cocoa Crunch contains protein from organic whole soybeans and soy isolate, organic brown rice syrup, maltitol syrup, chocolate chips [sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, vanilla beans, soya lecithin (added as an emulsifier)], peanut flour, peanuts, xylitol, natural flavors, salt, and soya lecithin.

The 3Bar web site does a pretty good job of explaining what is meant by organic, vegan, diabetic-friendly, and explains the benefits of soy protein.  But it doesn’t explain the kosher thing.  In trying to understand this oddity, I did more research than I care to admit to understand what kosher really means.  Here  is the full description of kosher dietary laws if you’re really interested.  Kosher foods are those that conform to the culture of Jewish religion, but I’m not sure what benefit there is in a kosher nutrition bar.

Note the 6 grams of sugar alcohol.  Right under the nutrition facts there’s notation that reads, “Sugar alcohol is a slow to non-digestable, naturally occurring carbohydrate derived from corn, fruit, berries, Birchwood and other plants.  Individuals sensitive to sugar alcohols should avoid excessive consumption.”   So what is sugar alcohol and what’s the danger?  The key ingredient is xylitol, a sugar subsitute also used in Trident Gum.  It’s a natural substance that is absorbed more slowly than sugar, making it diabetic-friendly and won’t give you the sugar crash.  The downside is that for some people, even one serving of sugar alcohol can lead to bloating, diarrhea and flatulence because it is not absorbed in the small intestine.

The other interesting label is “GMO free,” which has become increasingly popular in the past decade.  GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, stem from genetically engineering products for biological, medical or agricultural applications.  The biggest nutritional concern over GMOs is the risk of allergic reactions.  In other words, if you’re prone to food allergies, GMO-free means 3Bar should be perfectly safe for you.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve become a bit paranoid about the peanut butter scare these days, probably more for my kids than me.  Cliff Bars were on the list of products to avoid.  The peanut butter in 3Bar claims to be ground peanuts and salt–nothing else.  But since all 3Bar products contain peanuts, I would take some comfort in seeing a note somewhere on the web site explaining that 3Bar is safe and not affected by the recent peanut butter scare.

Price — I found 3Bar for sale on  The Vegetarian Site  for a whopping $2.40 a bar, offering all three flavors.  The 3Bar web site  now offers only two flavors (is BlueBerry Blast no longer available?) but at a very competitive price of $1.50.  I can buy a dozen PowerBars at Safeway for $1/piece when they’re on sale.  But at $1.50, 3Bar is a reasonably priced alternative with much better ingredients than PowerBar.

You can find store locations nationwide on the 3Bar web site, but there are no locations listed for California.  I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before the most health conscious state starts selling the most nutritious bar on the market.

History – Before graduating from the University of South Florida, Erin DeMarines became a certified personal trainer.  Her clients loved the chocolate peanut butter cookies she made from her grandmother’s recipe, so after working for years on improving her product to be all-natural and more balanced, 3Bar was launched in 2006.  With projected revenue of $361,000 in 2008, it looks like Erin has found a winning recipe and a market for people who actually want something that’s good for you.

4 lattes in my book belongs to gear that will unmistakably give you a competitive edge, like a nice wheel set on your bike. There isn' t a food item in the world that can belong in that category.

But I' ll give 3Bar 3 lattes for having far superior ingredients than anything else in its category.

EveryMan “Gotta Have” Latte Rating Scale: Rating Scale (based on the amount of lattes per day you’ll give up to buy this product)

• 4 Lattes: A must have product that will make your friends jealous and your competitors cower in undisguised fear and trepidation.

• 3 Lattes: A very good investment that is well worth forgoing a year or two of your children’s college fund.

• 2 Lattes: One of those products that actually does what it says it does, but with the same pizazz as a Q-Tip.

• 1 Latte: The best thing said about this product is that I wouldn’t send it back if I got it for free.

• No Latte: So excruciatingly lame that you would get more value by crossing the street for some discarded and well chewed gum before buying this product.

You can read more by Lynn Astalos HERE on the Blog I Swim Bike Run.

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