The array of choices when it comes to pre-made energy bars and drinks can be overwhelming. Some are sweet, some are salty, some are fairly delicious, and let’s be honest … some are barely edible. While most are packed with nutrients, oftentimes they also contain ingredients you’ve never heard of, strange sugars, sodium and preservatives. If a $2.79 bar of processed fluff doesn’t sound satisfying during your next hike, it might be time to create your own homemade energy bars and drinks. You can choose exactly what you are putting into your bar — and your body.

With all the buzz about “super foods,” it’s hard to know which ingredients are really essential for an active lifestyle. Nicole Monson, certified holistic nutritionist, recommends using chia seeds, whey protein, maca powder and hemp seeds. Chia seeds have been used by the Mayans for centuries, and elite athletes for decades, to maintain energy levels for improved stamina and endurance, perfect for your next century ride.

Whey protein provides the ideal amino acid ratio that helps build muscle. Maca powder combats adrenal fatigue and contains phytochemicals, which have been shown to boost energy levels. The perfect balance of omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids in hemp seeds “promotes healthy levels of inflammation throughout the body and aids in muscle recovery,” said Monson, who is a nutritional health coach for Natural Grocers.

Other favorites include raw cocoa powder for its antioxidants, oats for their heart-healthy soluble fiber and dates for their potassium. Tart cherries can help combat inflammation, and pumpkin seeds are a rich source of magnesium, which prevents muscle weakness. Coconut in all forms is a nutrient-rich addition: coconut water, coconut oil, coconut flakes, coconut milk and coconut sugar, which has a low glycemic index and spikes blood sugar less than  other sugars, leading to fewer cravings later.

We’ve created four recipes for you to try using a variety of these ingredients that can be found at any natural grocery store. Each recipe is packed with super foods … and better yet, super flavor!

CHERRY CHOCOLATE CASHEW ENERGY BARS

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  • 2 cups coconut flakes
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • 12 mejool dates, pitted and chopped (approx 1 1/3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons whey protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup dried, tart cherries (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup crushed cashews
  • 2 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds

Place coconut flakes, chopped dates, protein powder, cocoa powder, almond butter and coconut oil into food processor. Pulse until well combined and sticky. Add in tart cherries, cashews and hemp seeds. Pulse lightly until well combined. Line 8-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper. Place mixture into pan. Place a second small sheet of parchment paper on top of mixture, and press firmly to smooth out mixture into pan. Place pan in freezer. Let harden 10 to 30 minutes, and then cut into 8 bars. Keep in airtight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer, if you prefer a firmer texture. Makes 8 bars.

SPICED PUMPKIN PROTEIN BAR 

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  • 1 cup oats, gluten free
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 3 tablespoons whey protein powder (you can substitute hemp or brown rice protein powder)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, softened
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons crushed walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (nutmeg, clove, ginger and cinnamon)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine oats, bananas, protein powder, sea salt and coconut oil. Pulse until well blended and smooth (approximately 1 minute). In a large bowl, combine pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and spice. Stir to combine, and then add wet mixture from processor. Stir to coat evenly. Mixture will be sticky. Place mixture into greased 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan. Spread coconut flakes onto batter, pressing down firmly. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool before slicing into 6 bars. Keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Makes 6 bars. 

MACA MOCHA SMOOTHIE  

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  • 6 frozen coconut almond milk ice cubes
  • 1 frozen banana, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla whey protein powder
  • 2 teaspoons maca powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 shots espresso, cooled
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut almond milk

Place all ingredients in blender. Pulse until well combined. Divide between two glasses and drink immediately, or let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow chia seeds to “gel” and smoothie to thicken. Makes 2 smoothies.

STRAWBERRY CHIA FRESCA 

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  • 1 1/2 cups coconut water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • 12 frozen organic strawberries
  • 2 cups seltzer water

Place chia seeds and 1/2 cup of coconut water into jar, and leave covered overnight in the refrigerator. When chia has worked its magic, the seeds will puff up and become a gel like consistency. When chia seeds are ready, remove from refrigerator. In small saucepan over low heat, combine coconut sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Whisk continuously as sugar begins to dissolve; allow to dissolve completely (approximately 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Place 6 frozen strawberries in each of two large glasses. Divide the chia mixture and lemon sugar mixture evenly between the two glasses. Add 1/2 cup coconut water and 1 cup seltzer  water to each glass.  Makes 2 spritzers.