Seen as a better alternative to a candy bar, post-workout protein bars often contain just as much sugar and more questionable ingredients. If you’re strength training in an effort to build muscle and increase your metabolism, it can be disheartening to see what’s really in that protein bar you’ve been eating.
Because protein bars are linked so closely to a healthy lifestyle, it’s interesting to see how some of the largest protein bar manufacturers have managed to convince users of their efficacy. These bars generally point to the high number of grams of protein they contain, as well as amino acids and other healthy features, while downplaying the use of chemicals, additives, preservatives, and conventional ingredients.
Better Alternatives: Make your own all-natural protein bars so you can have quality control over what goes into them.
2. Soy-Based Foods
Foods made from soybeans are often viewed as healthy options, like tofu as a replacement for beef or chicken in a vegetarian diet, or soy milk as a replacement for cow’s milk. But there are some aspects of soy foods that are cause for concern, like its link to breast cancer and the problems it can cause men due to its estrogen content.
The debate goes on as to whether soybeans pose a threat or improve our health, with studies found to support both sides.
Interestingly enough, most of the pro-soybean data was generated by the soy industry, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Companies that had a meteoric rise with the increased popularity of soy will put up a fight to keep sales up.
Better Alternatives: Almond milk serves as a better replacement for both cow’s milk and soy milk. Check ingredient labels to see if soy has been added unnecessarily, and opt for soy-free foods when possible.
Corn is often viewed as a healthy food, but it’s becoming more common knowledge that this is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to GMOs. The corn industry is huge, and the government gives subsidies to farmers to grow more and more of it. That’s why food manufacturers have found different ways to use it, such as corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.
The seeds used to grow conventional corn have been genetically modified so herbicides and pesticides are built right in. As if that wasn’t enough, the crops are sprayed with chemicals as the corn grows, and watered with water that can have any number of harmful substances in it. To keep the corn fresh on its way to market it will be sprayed with preservatives so that it doesn’t go bad before you buy it.
Better Alternatives: Organic corn can be enjoyed on a healthy diet, and will be free of GMOs and other harmful chemicals found in conventional corn.
4. Flavored Yogurt
Plain, organic yogurt may be used as part of a healthy diet, but when you opt for conventional flavored yogurt you’re not doing your body any favors. Conventional yogurt uses milk from cows that have been treated with growth hormones as well as antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in their cramped living quarters. It will get its fruit flavoring from artificial flavors and the sugar it contains will be heavily refined.
Also avoid any yogurt labeled light or lite, as these will contain artificial sweeteners that can wreak havoc on your health, producing short term effects on the brain and long-term effects that aren’t known yet. Your best bet for yogurt is going as natural as possible when you’re in the dairy section of the supermarket.
Better Alternatives: Plain organic yogurt will be free of artificial sweeteners and flavors, and if it does contain sugar it will be in its natural form.
5. Canned Vegetables
Eating vegetables sounds pretty healthy, but not when you’re getting a serving of BPAs along with them. Conventional vegetables stored in a can have the potential of absorbing BPAs used in the manufacturing of the can. They’ll also contain GMOs unless they’re labeled organic.
You’ll start to see more and more canned foods with a BPA-free label as food manufacturers respond to public demand, but until then you’ll have to take matters into your own hand if you want to be on the safe side. It’s never a good idea to wait around for Big Food to fix a problem, as they will drag their feet and put up a fight if it means an increase in production costs.
Better Alternatives: Buy organic veggies fresh or frozen to avoid potential problems from BPA-containing cans, or look for BPA-free labeling on canned foods you buy.
6. Sports Drinks
Marketed as a way to help your body recover after a strenuous workout that involved a lot of sweating, or as a way to give you an edge during a sports competition, sports drinks still enjoy huge popularity. Many of these drinks contain nearly as much sugar than a soda, and until recently contained high fructose corn syrup.
Even the salt that is added to sports drinks is questionable. It’s not pink Himalayan salt, the kind with natural electrolytes, it’s industrial grade salt that serves to increase sodium levels. Give your body what it really needs in the form of real salt, not the processed and refined substance referred to as “salt” on the ingredients list of major sports drinks.
Better Alternatives: You can make your own sports drinks to help replenish the body and refuel it after an intense cardio workout or sporting event.