We recommend the best energy bars we've reviewed in the past 12 months...
When it comes to performance-enhancing nutrition for triathletes, numerous scientific studies show that consuming carbohydrate – either during or immediately after training/competition – is just about the most effective strategy there is.
The reason is simple: carbohydrate is your body’s five-star fuel for energy. Keeping your carbohydrate stores (muscle glycogen) topped up helps your muscles to work harder for longer. And when your exercise intensity is very high, carbohydrate is the only fuel that can properly power your muscles.
The most widely used carbohydrate products during exercise are drinks and gels. These supply quickly and easily digested carbohydrate, making them easy on the stomach – very important when you’re on the move. However, if your body craves something a bit more solid and substantial, energy bars can be very appealing – both during exercise and as snacks between meals.
The actual ingredients in energy bars vary quite a bit, but most bars contain a mixture of cereals and dried fruits, with added carbohydrate in the form of glucose, fructose, maltodextrins and so on. Some bars also contain more filling ingredients such as nuts, seeds or even chocolate.
But while these can make for a more satisfying product, the downside is a higher fat content, which reduces the speed and ease of digestion on the move. So, with that balancing act of nutrition, texture and taste in mind, it’s on with the round-up…
Powerbar Energize Mango Passion Fruit flavour
Our rating (review here): 91%
Price: £1 from www.powerbar.co.uk
With a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose and added magnesium, it’s clear that performance is a priority with this bar. Fortunately it’s not at the expense of taste, which is noticeably ‘mangoey’ says our tester.
Mule Bar Hunza Nut flavour
Our rating (review here): 84%
Price: 1.58 from www.mulebar.com
If you like apricots then this bar will appeal – comprised of 32% Hunza apricots, nicely balanced by walnuts, this delivers perfect sweetness and a satisfying taste. Only its relatively high price works against it.
Myprotein Fruit & Berry flavour
Our rating: (review here): 89%
Price: £1.17 from www.myprotein.com
Aimed squarely at endurance athletes, this has a coarse and chewy texture but has a fruity flavour that feels light on the stomach, and is great value for money.
SIS Go Chewy Banana flavour
Our rating (review here): 90%
Price: £1.08 from www.scienceinsport.com
A fruity and authentic flavour that’s light on the stomach, the only downside is that it became quite difficult to chew when the temperature dropped for our tester.
High5 Chocolate Orange flavour
Our rating (review here): 82%
Price: £1.19 from www.wiggle.co.uk
Giving a slightly different take on flavour compared to the usual fruit and/or nut options, this offers an authentic taste with a moist and slightly nutty texture that’s easy to swallow. Downside is that it can feel a little heavy on the stomach.
How we tested
We thoroughly assessed the ingredient lists of all 10 bars. Higher marks were awarded for bars with lower fat contents (making them easier to digest – especially important when they need to be eaten on the move) and those containing mostly natural ingredients, which tend to be higher in fibre and other nutrients.
A good energy bar also has to have an agreeable taste and texture and be easily digested, so each bar was marked by independent testers. Each tester assessed the taste and texture of the bars, both while sitting down with a cuppa and again while on the move (running or cycling). Finally, we’ve noted the typical price per bar.
What's your preferred energy bar for long training rides? Let us know in the comments!