Years ago, during my last semester of college, I developed a bad habit. In the 15-minute break I had between the end of one class and the start of another, I walked to the student cafe and picked up a medium black coffee and another indulgence: a caffeinated chocolate bar.
Once I sat down for my next lecture, I drank the coffee and ate half of the candy bar, saving the last half for when the course would reconvene later in the week. In spite of all that caffeine, I never felt my best and I still struggled to stay alert (though, in my defense, the coursework involved reading The Canterbury Tales in its original Old English, which was a challenge enough).
In the years since I graduated from college, I've decreased my dependence on caffeine, but I still rely on a cup in the morning to get me started. But when I recently learned of an energy bar that contains just as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered if a Quantum Energy Square (Buy It, $24 for 8, amazon.com) could be just the thing to start my day on the right foot. After all, it has way less sugar and way more protein than the chocolate bars I used to eat — so maybe this solution could give me the sustained energy I was looking for.
I tried one when I had to wake up early one morning to get to a doctor's appointment. After a year of working from home, I've fallen out of a commuting routine, and as a result, have often found myself waking up much later than I had before — so when my alarm went off at 6:45 a.m., I was especially groggy. (Related: This is the tastiest and most satisfying protein powder I've ever tried)
I made a cup of coffee and decided to enjoy it with a Caffe Mocha Almond Chip-flavored Quantum Energy Square as a quick breakfast as I got ready. Immediately, I loved the way it tasted. Anything chocolatey gets a thumbs-up from me, but the bar wasn't so sweet that it tasted like I was truly having dessert first thing in the morning. Almonds and pumpkin seeds, paired with date paste, gave it a chewy texture.
As I commuted into Manhattan from my Brooklyn apartment, I felt surprisingly awake (a change from years of morning commutes spent half-asleep). I made it to my appointment and then commuted back to my apartment to start my workday. I stayed satiated until about 1:30 p.m., at which point it was time for lunch.
Unlike in my college days when I'd only eat half of a caffeinated candy bar at a time, I consumed the entire thing along with my cup of coffee, and never felt jittery; I think because the bar contains a good amount of protein (more on that in a bit), it balances the caffeine. I've enjoyed the Quantum Energy Square alone, and paired it with a cup of jo on days that I've woken up feeling more tired — and it didn't feel like a caffeine overload. Combining the bars with coffee just depends on how much caffeine you like to get yourself going in the morning.
With caffeine sourced from green coffee and 10 grams of protein (FYI, the average woman needs about 46 grams of protein a day), a Quantum Energy Square provides both instant and long-lasting energy — it makes you feel good without the inevitable crash later (like the ones I experienced all too often in my college days). With 11 grams of sugar, they're not what I would have for breakfast every morning, but for particularly early wake-up calls or even for some quick fuel pre-workout, I can consider them a great option that makes me feel my best.
Caffeine also has a positive effect on workouts because it helps you to stay alert — a must if you're exercising outdoors or using heavy equipment. Because it takes 15 minutes for caffeine to enter your bloodstream, it's best to consume it 30 to 90 minutes before you exercise, Eric T. Trexler, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, previously explained to Shape. So, I wasn't too surprised to learn that some people swear by Quantum Energy Squares as a pre-run snack, especially when they're planning on jogging long distances. Thanks to these bars, I can actually convince myself to workout in the morning now.
At $24 for a pack of 8, I can wake myself up and give my body the fuel it needs, even if I'm in a rush. If only I had them back in college.