“If you’re not drinking, you should be eating”. So goes the conventional wisdom for long distance bike events…and who am I to argue with that? Think about that….if you eat one “product” one every 30-45 mins for 7 hrs a day over 7 days, that’s er…um….ALOT! (between 60 and 90?). This means you’ve got to learn to really love energy bars and gels. There’s so many out there, you need to find the ones that are edible (seems like a basic requirement), taste good (well, as good as they can) and that don’t make you throw up!! In the interest of research, I’ve been trying loads of different types over the last few weeks (and not just ‘cos I’m greedy), and this is first part of a 2 part review….Part 1, Energy Bars. I can’t objectively review how much “energy” they give, ‘cos that depends on so many variables…how hydrated you are, how much of your energy store you’ve depleted, how tired you are etc etc, so I’ll concentrate on taste and texture.
1. PowerBar Performance 6/10
The “grand daddy” of bars….seems to have been around for ages. I’ve tried lots of different flavours, but have found that I only really like the Cookies and Cream one….tho’ it’s not for everyone as it is pretty sweet. They have a good carb content, at about 68% and low fat…but be warned – you might actually use more energy chewing it than you get out of it…they go on and on and on and on. It’s almost impossible to ride while eating one – if you take a big bite, you can’t breath until you’ve chewed your way through it.
2. TorqBar 8/10
Easier to eat than the Powerbars….still quite chewy but you can actually get through one while riding…just. The pineapple and ginger flavour makes them not too sweet, which is good after a day (or week) of bars and gels. I have to confess that after eating about 2 boxes of these before and during the 09 TransRockies, I struggled to face these again…and I’ve only recently been able to go back to them (I’m sure the stock I’ve got with a Best Before date sometime last year will be fine….what could go wrong?!)
3. Go Bar 4/10
Sorry – maybe it’s just the flavour I got (chocolate orange) but I’m not impressed with these. Tho’ they have similar carb content to Powerbar and Torq, they are incredibly chewy and hard to eat – even more so than the Powerbar. And as for the taste….yuck. Really chemically with a nasty bitter aftertaste – I won’t be taking any of these to Canada with me!
4. Clif Bar 9/10
These are my new favorite. Great texture and flavour, really easy to eat, and I haven’t yet found one I don’t like..there’s even one like a home made flapjack…really good!
5. PowerBar Natural Energy 7/10
PowerBar are really pushing this “natural” alternative to the Performance Bar – “Natural Energy”, “Sourced from Natural Ingredients”, “Natural Energy for your muscles”….and do you know what third ingredient is? Pretzel Sticks!!! What’s natural about them? I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall seeing fields of Pretzel Stick plants waving gently in the wind while the pretzels ripen to perfection?!?! But..they are pretty good, easy to eat texture and the higher sodium content (nearly double the amount of the Powerbar – the next highest one) is actually pretty good, particularly late in a ride….I find I do start craving salty snacks!
6. 9Bar 4/10
Thanks to the nice folk at 9Bar, I got some samples of these to try, and I have to confess, I’m struggling where to categorize them. They’re made from mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, sesame and hemp), have a great flavour (some have a carob coating) and a really good texture…easy to eat, and you don’t feel like you’re going to suffocate if you try to ride while eating! They have a higher calorific value than any of the others, which is good….but they have a really high fat content (40g per 100g – 4 to 5 times more than the others)….1/4 of that is saturated fat too. I found that they didn’t really agree with me while I was biking…it felt like it was just sort of sitting there! I think 9Bar are missing a trick here – for me, these are much better as a post ride snack…they’ve got a good amount of protein too. A low score for an enerby bar, but if it was a recovery snack…9/10!
So, I’ll be taking Clif bars, Torq bars (hopefully I’ll have finished my out of date stock by August and can have some fresh ones) and some Powerbar Natural Energy bars – you really need to take a variety – trust me, you will get sick of them if you only have one type! I’ll also take some 9Bars, to use towards the end of rides, to start re-building for the next day.
Next time…energy gels (and other assorted substances!)