Energy bars: 8 of the best reviewed, tested and rated

Energy bars are a great aspect of a triathlete's fuelling strategy. James Witts tests 8 of the best...

James Witts has been testing 8 of the best energy bars available to see which ones work best for triathletes, Here's a recap of what we found...

Unlike energy drinks and gels, which are flexible enough to cover all three disciplines of triathlon (well, pre-swim), energy bars are mostly the preserve of the bike. Yes, you can consume before you race and train but it shouldn’t be needed – a good hearty meal should be sufficient. It’s on two wheels that energy bars are key for various reasons.

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The first is down to the non-weight-bearing nature of cycling, which means your torso isn’t oscillating all over the place and so your stomach can digest without outside interference. Also, because your saddle, frame and wheels are accommodating your load intensity is generally lower than on the run leg. Again, that takes strain off your stomach and improves digestion. Energy bars also offer a welcome solid break from low-viscosity fluids and moderately viscous gels. While this is recognised by your tastebuds and stomach, it’s not by your intestine, which is where glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and then to the working muscles. So the usual rules about consuming 60-90g carbs an hour apply. That means some of these bars here require a water chaser rather than further energy drink that could result in gastric distress.

And remember there’s always the complimentary homemade energy bar option, especially over Ironman where flavour fatigue is common.

Energy gels versus energy bars



£19.08 (for 12)

This is the beefiest bar on test, hitting the scales at 68g. But that’s the weight of nature as Clif pride themselves on their natural ingredients list that here includes organic rolled oats and coconut. Yet the addition of soy, which some have argued is bad for your health, is open to question. What’s more transparent is the hugely-appetising taste. It contains 43g of carbs, 9.9g of protein and 6g of fat for a hefty total of 274cals. That and their climbing logo smacks of outdoor activities over slightly higher-intensity competition, though riding at around 70% of maximum heart rate – especially common when racing long-course triathlon – the bar digests, absorbs and assimilates with no gastric issues. 

Verdict: a tasty bar full of natural ingredients but more suitable for low-intensity efforts 76%

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£45 (for 30)

This is one of the moistest bars on test, primarily down to concentrated grape and pineapple juice making up 40% of this red-berry 40g bar. That makes chewing easy and it flows down smoothly. It’s also the smallest here, comprising 138cals broken down as 25g carbs, 4.1g protein and 2.1g fat. But it’s the 75mg caffeine hit that separates it. Yes, it’s only about half-a-cup of coffee, but is still sufficient to potentially stimulate caffeine benefits including reduced perception of fatigue. And that caffeine doesn’t add a bitter taste. Overall, then, a cracking little bar from SiS.

Verdict: tasty with good texture and a caffeine hit 84%

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£23.20 (for 15)

Each of Torq’s 45g bars contains 30g of carbs, released slowly from oats and rice, and faster via maltodextrin and fructose syrup. You also receive some protein (1.9g) and vitamins, albeit all of them at low levels. Torq add a sprinkling of ribose, too – a natural sugar that’s used to manufacture ATP (an energy provider in the cells). On paper it looks great but the taste? Pretty good. It’s sweet but not stomach-upsettingly so and has a nice, chewy texture. That said, it’s one of those bars that’s more appealing early into a long ride as it can become cloying when you’re thirsty.

Verdict: nice texture but we prefer early in a ride 80%

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£50.70 (for 30)

Mulebar has forged a reputation for energy products from natural sources. Those natural ingredients include cashew nuts (8%, which adds to the 4g fat content) and 16% oats, though predominantly (42%) from rice syrup, which has a similar GI to glucose syrup. The 4% lemon powder delivers a citrus kick that’s appreciated when both your muscles and tastebuds are flagging. Ground ginger makes up 0.75% and we’d have preferred an increase. Around 155cals is one of the lowest on test but that makes it more portable and easy to consume over an hour.

Verdict: a very tasty bar with a good ingredients list 87%

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Continue reading energy bars: 8 of the best reviewed, test and rated (2/2)


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