The Hungry Runner – Pre-Workout Granola Bars


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This pre-workout granola bar recipe comes from Hannah Reese, RD. Not only is she a great cook but an outstanding all-around athlete. Love you girl!

These yummy granola bars make a great pre-run or workout snack. They are easy to transport, digested fairly quickly, and easy on the stomach. To top that, they have multiple health benefits, like decreasing inflammation and free radical activity which can lower your risk of injury and speed recovery.


6 tablespoons coconut oil (refined expeller pressed is best option)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups quick cooking oats
1-1/2+ cups crisp rice puff cereal
2 tablespoons flaxseeds, ground, OR 1/4 cup wheat germ
2-3 tablespoons chocolate chips

Place the coconut oil, brown sugar, and honey in a small sauce pan. Bring to a rolling boil.

Pre-Workout Granola Bar












In the mean time, place the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Once the liquid has come to a boil, remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir together.


bowl 1











Place a sheet of parchment paper in a 9×13 casserole dish. Pour the granola bar mixture into the dish and spread it out evenly with a piece of wax paper, pressing down firmly. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on the top and push them into bars. Viola! Pre-workout granola bars to snack on for the week (if they last that long).


Granola bar












A little science behind the ingredients…if you want to geek out a bit.

Several of the ingredients in this recipe have multiple health and culinary benefits. Read about a few of them below!


Coconut oil is processed from the meat of coconuts and has gotten a bad rap of late because it contains a high amount of saturated fat. Let’s face it, endurance athletes can consume more dietary fat than sedentary individuals! There are no studies linking coconut oil with increased cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease.


One benefit for athletes is that coconut oil contains a large percentage (60%) of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are more rapidly transported to the liver where they can be utilized for energy during long training sessions. This makes coconut oil a great ingredient choice for use in your next pre-workout recipe.


What to buy: When purchasing coconut oil grab the expeller pressed refined oil.  Basically, refined oils have a greater smoke point and allows the oil to be used for higher temperature baking (>350° F) and cooking.


Honey – There are three basic or simple types of carbohydrates – glucose, fructose, and galactose. Read more about these in a previous post. The dominant type of sugar in honey is fructose followed closely by glucose. Glucose is absorbed directly into the blood while fructose and galactose must first be broken down to glucose in the liver. Why am I telling you all of this?


High fructose sweeteners take longer to digest due to fructose passing into the colon without being absorbed. This can cause GI upset such as bloating, gas, and loose stools. Everyone has a different tolerance level. If your gut is more sensitive to fructose this places you at greater risk of GI distress during activity. Examples of products causing GI distress might include: sports drinks with higher fructose concentrations, fruit juices, or foods naturally high in fructose, such as apples or pears. Find out what works for you and stick with it!


Fortunately, when fructose is paired with glucose such as in honey or sucrose (table sugar, brown sugar, etc) unwanted symptoms are typically minimal. Honey is also much less processed than corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, and contains antioxidants. These antioxidants can increase the shelf life of products made with honey and decrease the amount of free radicals in the body. Agave, on the other hand, which can be substituted for honey or corn syrup, has a whopping 90% fructose which can cause some serious GI distress before, during, or after exercise. As I stated before, every individual has a different tolerance level, but it is definitely something to consider when choosing foods before training or racing.


What to buy: There are multiple varieties of honey. Choose a lighter colored honey for a mild flavor and a darker honey for a bolder, stronger taste. You can even buy local honey – which may possibly decrease allergies although, that has not yet been proven by research.


Oats – A majority of the ingredients in this recipe contain carbohydrates which are the body’s primary fuel for energy. This recipe contains both simple and complex carbohydrates. The brown sugar and honey make up the simple carbohydrates, and the oats, rice puff cereal, and a portion of the flaxseeds are complex. Therefore, the oats require more digestion and are not used as quickly for energy as the simple sugars. Oats also contain a small amount of soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol and slows the absorption of the carbohydrate making it sustain you over a longer period of time.


What to buy: Quick oats are still considered a whole grain because they contain the bran and germ (no endosperm). However, when compared to other types of oats, quick oats are the most processed. This makes quick oats a better choice over old-fashioned or steel cut oats when it comes to quick, sustained energy.


Flaxseed – The flaxseed in this recipe works as an emulsifier, helping the mixture stick together. A few of the wonderful attributes about flaxseed is the optimal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and its impressive antioxidant profile. Whole flaxseeds are not absorbed or digested due to their hard shell. Fortunately, they are easily ground which provides the maximum benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants which helps decrease inflammation, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and lessen exercise-induced oxidative damage.


What to buy: If possible, it is better to buy whole flaxseed and grind them before use as this decreases the amount of rancidity or oxidation of the essential fatty acids during storage.
Fortunately, studies have found these fatty acids are heat stable when baked with other products. So we can enjoy them and all their wonderful properties raw or baked, such as in the granola bars.



Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL et al. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2012.

Schardt, D. 2012. Coconut Oil – Lose weight? Cure Alzheimer’s? Clog your arteries? Nutrition Action Health Letter. Available at: Accessed January 23, 2015.

Wittenberg MM. New Good Food, Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well. Random House LLC; 2007.


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