An energy bar developed by the U.S. military to provide weary soldiers with sustained energy is now invading civilian markets. It's widely available in 7-Eleven stores and elsewhere; some profits go to military food research. But for those fighting nothing more than rush-hour traffic, is an Army-certified snack a good idea?
First, the Name HooAH! (pronounced who-ah) is military-speak for Heard, Understood, Acknowledged, an exclamation that, according to the label, "communicates energy, affirmation, can-do spirit, teamwork, and fearlessness." The bar was "designed for soldiers by soldiers," said Gerald Darsch, director of the Department of Defense's Combat Feeding Program, which oversees what soldiers in all military branches eat. In tests, said Darsch, soldiers who'd eaten the HooAH! bar as well as those who consumed a no-carbohydrate placebo bar were "run to exhaustion." According to Defense researchers, the HooAH! group lasted 14 percent longer than the placebo group before the onset of fatigue. HooAH! bars were not tested against other commercially available energy bars, said Darsch.
Civilian Assessment Energy really means calories, said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Bars like the $1.99 HooAH!, which has 280 calories, 80 of which are from fat, do not give more sustained energy than foods with an equal amount of calories. Most energy bars are varying combinations of carbohydrates, fat and soy or milk protein, said Liebman, and "there's nothing remarkably different about these HooAH! bars." Such bars, she said, may be a convenience for high-performance soldiers or athletes, but "most Americans are in the opposite condition. If you're overweight, you don't want dense-calorie foods."
I taste-tested the HooAH! along with the Balance Bar Trail Mix energy bar in chocolate chip, the Snickers Marathon energy bar in chewy chocolate peanut and the PowerBar Triple Threat in caramel peanut fudge. The HooAH! chocolate crisp bar tasted better than the other three and was the only one that didn't have that particle-board texture for which energy bars are famous. The HooAH! was the only one I finished.
-- Matt McMillen