Energy bars can be a minefield with so many of them being bought, bitten and binned. Our choices can be down to taste or possibly brand allegiance. But if we ignore flavour and look specifically at the ingredients, are some bars better than others and do some owe themselves more to a specific time period?
*do check the package for details to check ingredients
5***** rating based on the bars aid in performance specifically and ingredients:
OTE – Apple & Cinnamon Vegan Anytime bar – This provides a decent hit of carbohydrate at 35.7g a bar it does also come with a big hit of fat at 11.4g per bar. If you consider the recommendation of fat for an endurance exercising individual is between 0.6-0.8g/kg/bw (70kg = 56g) 1 bar an hour on a 3- hour ride will eat up most of your daily fat intake. A decent option for a long day out on the bike that isn’t performance related. ***
Veloforte – Di Bosco – High carbohydrate and calorie amount per bar though most of carbohydrate is fruit based making it very high in fructose. This is a slower digesting carbohydrate compared to glucose and over consumption in an hour, or hour on hour may see some potential stomach issues. It is also higher in fat though the nuts may be great of texture it won’t improve performance. Ideal to break up the monotony of all the other bars and bring some zest. ***
Named Sport – Total Energy Fruit Bar – A decent no nonsense bar. Low fat, no protein and 25g of fast absorbing carbohydrate makes a decent choice. It does however have a lot of additives to achieve the makeup and texture of this bar, and while none are bad for you, it does bring question to quality and sourcing of ingredients, when you compare it to some of these bars. ***
Mule Bar – This bar is ideal for those bigger training rides where you’re hitting Z2 for most of it. Low fat and protein so it won’t slow digestion too much while providing 27g of carbs per bar. It provides these carbohydrates in a mix of glucose and fructose making the most of multi-transportable carbohydrates. *****
SiS – Go Bar – Similar to the Mule and Stealth bar the SiS one is bringing a simplistic bar with 26g of carbohydrate to the table, once again a mixture of glucose and fructose are the makeup utilising both those carbohydrate transporters. I don’t think it does the job as well as the 2 aforementioned bars as they achieve it with less fat and protein in the bar but similar ingredients. When riding and looking at fuelling, incidental amounts of fat and protein aren’t needed and only increase calorie cost and potential digestion time. ****
High 5 – energy bar – This product varies greatly depending on the flavour you choose– Carbohydrate amount ranging from 25g to 39g and Fat from 2.3g to 13g making some far from ideal. The peanut and caramel options have higher fat content; the yogurt covered bar a potential no-no with diary being a know contributor to potential gastro issues and the berry, with 60% fruit could possibly provide too much fructose if consumed more than once an hour. I wouldn’t race with these but I would use this mid-range bar for training rides and something to break up other choices. ***
Cliff – Nut butter filled – Possibly one to break up the monotony of food on a ride but I wouldn’t say this is the most performance-based bar – 11g of fat and 7g of protein and 23g carbs mean this “energy bar” provides more energy from fat -a macronutrient that we can’t utilise while riding and only slows the breakdown and absorption of the carbohydrate. It provides the same fat as the OTE but with less carbohydrate making it not optimal in performance and other bars doing a better job. **
Stealth – Juice Bar – A strong bar with no fat or protein to compromise digestion – just pure carbohydrate (27g). This makes it a great choice for fast absorbing energy that is made up of multi-transportable carbohydrates mean you can get more in per hour and not worry about your stomach too much. Doesn’t have a huge list of ingredients or other randomly added vitamins and minerals. *****
Torq Bar – Organic Mango – Purely carbohydrate based, provides 33g of carbohydrate and uses multi-transportable carbohydrates making this is an ideal performance choice. I do however question the need for all the added vitamins as there is no real need, and may be an issue when combined with a healthy diet, daily multi-vit and then several of these bars on a ride regularly. It doesn’t state the amount of D-Ribose either, which needs to be loaded to see the desired effect they mention. Still a decent choice bar just be aware of what else you’re taking. ****
Aptonia Fruit Bar Red Berries – 75% of this bar is fruit which initially may not be a bad thing but this means that of its 26g of carbohydrate – 19.5g is coming from fructose. This could be a problem as our maximal fructose digestion limit is 30g an hour. So, if we’re consuming more than 2 bars an hour, after a few hours you may find yourself getting some stomach issues. Additionally, 69% of that bar is made from dates and everyone knows that too many dates help you hit the loo so you may ride quicker than planned at some point. Not a bad choice to mix with other items. **/***
Trek Cocoa Coconut Protein Flapjack – Quite a big hit of calories this bar brings to the table, but with the most calories coming from fat (12.7g) and then carbohydrate (20.3g) leaves a little to be desired in the performance department. That being said if you’re touring and just need to get some calories in, this isn’t a terrible choice. ***
Meridian Peanut & Banana – This probably isn’t the best choice bar to have on the bike for similar reasons to the Trek bar, with more calories coming from non-carbohydrate sources in particular fat (9.1g) compared to the carbohydrate (15g) you will find that this isn’t an optimal choice for improving performance or recovery and doesn’t have the same calorie hit you may need on a bit day – more a hunger curber. **
Mars – I wouldn’t say this is the most ideal option as you may expect, but from a macro nutrient point of view its very similar to the OTE and Cliff bar with 8.5g fat, 35g carbs all of which are fast releasing and only 2.2g protein. Is this better than those? No! Vegetable and palm fats added in and the high sugar content means its not ideal on the teeth whereas the OTE in particular are all whole food sources and will contribute more towards a wholesome diet. But the occasional bar on a 4-hour ride isn’t going to kill you.
Bread and Jam – A personal favourite – this is a cheap and inexpensive option providing ~40g carbs per half sandwich (20g jam, 1 slice bread folded). Low in fat, protein and fibre with the sugar providing glucose and fructose to the combo makes it easy and fast digesting. A loaf and pot of jam setting you back about £3 mean it’s the same price as most of 1 of these bars. Not ideal on the teeth but most of the bars here whether from fruit or glucose will be similar to that extent. Definitely worth considering, just look at your soigneur folding skills though or that could be messy!
Banana – Never a bad choice but is cumbersome in the pocket per medium banana you’re looking at about 28g of carbs and fructose, maxing out your fructose intake for that hour. Best used on a 2-3 hour ride where you don’t need to pack loads of food and have the space for 2 gunslinging; rear pocket, banana guns.
Soreen – mini lunchbox loaves provide 18g of carbohydrate; are low in fat, in-expensive, variety of flavours, individually wrapped and small for pocket storage. Though it may not be as high carb as the Stealth, Go, Mule and similar it definitely has more bang for its buck than the Trek, Meridian and Cliff bars both in money and carbs.