Okay, hands up – that header’s a touch misleading. While all of these bars offload a certain amount of energy-delivering carbohydrates, many are actually designed for snacking (healthily, of course) and/or recovery.
That’s down to reduced levels of carbs and higher levels of protein. In some cases, (good) fat content’s pretty high too, which’ll appeal to the ultra-tri crowd. How many bars should you consume and when?
Well, when it comes to bonafide energy bars, they’re generally not needed for up to around 75-90mins of training. After that time, your glucose and glycogen (how glucose is stored in the body) will be running low and you’ll need a top up.
How much you can tolerate’s highly individual but, as a benchmark, you’re looking at around 60g carbs an hour. Any more and your stomach might start playing (bad) tricks.
As for when you should turn to the bar, we generally keep to the bike. Its weight-bearing nature prevents your stomach flying up and down, while the chance to freewheel at times lowers intensity.
Both make it a calmer environment for your stomach to digest, absorb, and assimilate nutrients. That being said, the endurance runners among us will need to supplement gels with bars to maintain energy reserves.
And remember there’s always the complimentary homemade energy bar option, especially over Ironman where flavour fatigue is common. You can find recipes for homemade energy bars here.
Right, time to serve up a new PB…
Best energy bars for triathletes in 2022
Clif Nut Butter Bar
We’ve been fans of Clif for years after they were one of the first sports-nutrition brands to create bars that were actually palatable, moist and easily digested.
That Holy Trinity of contentment continues with this organic offering, though its 7g protein content suggests it’s more at home post-exercise than during.
That muscle-repairing sprinkling comes in the form of pea protein. Total calorie count comes in at 227, of which 23g is from carbs and 11g from fat.
Again, it smacks of snacking over on-the-fly fuelling. And snack you might as this is a terrifically tasty package, the chocolate-and-peanut-butter blend proving more delightful than imagined.
Sadly, for a brand proud of their environmental credentials, marks are dropped through the inclusion of the modernday evil that is palm oil.
Verdict: More suited for snacking than on-bike fuelling
High5 Energy Bar with Protein
- £19.99 for 12
This is the only bar here that sells itself as a protein energy bar. How does that work, you might ask, given protein’s primary role in exercise recovery.
Well, studies show that a modicum of protein consumed during exercise can actually accelerate recovery once finished.
The payback is that protein can (slightly) impair carbohydrate metabolism, which isn’t great when you’re crying out for energy.
As this bar contains only 19g carbs and a pretty hefty 10g protein (plus 10g fat for a 212kcal total), there’s an argument this is actually more a recovery than energy bar.
What’s clearer is that it’s suitable for vegans with pea protein replacing traditional whey. As for taste, it’s passable.
Verdict: Good value at £1.67 a bar, but the rest is moderate
Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar
- £29.95 for 12
Dr Allen Lim is the brains behind Skratch Labs. He’s also co-writer of one of our go-to nutrition books, Feed Zone Portables, which is packed with homemade sweet-and-savoury recipes for on-the-fly feeding.
One of the benefits of homemade efforts over commercial offerings is moisture content, but that’s not an issue in the chocolate chip and almond flavour bar on test thanks to the addition of cranberries, plus the nut-and-seed butter blend.
Calorie content’s 220kcals, comprised of 33g carbs, 8g fat and 4g protein. Hence, its ‘anytime’ moniker although it’s digested easily during exercise.
It’s tasty enough, but you can taste the salt from the addition of 125mg of sodium, which could be ideal in the heat.
Verdict: Moist, tasty bar that could be ideal for hot races
Tribe Nut Butter Triple Decker
- £22 for 12
This morsel couldn’t be in greater contrast than the last Tribe bar I consumed, the Infinity Banofee; its dry, grainy texture proved hard to masticate and reprised memories of bars of old.
Thankfully, this nut-butter bonanza’s the opposite end of the chow-down spectrum, its texture and taste top-notch.
It’s billed as the UK’s best-selling plant-protein bar and we can see why, the crunchy honeycomb base covered in a thick peanut-butter filling and finished off with a vegan-chocolate topping.
Surprisingly, it comes in at just 184kcals with 8g from pea protein. As it features just 9.6g carbs, plus 12g fat, this is definitely more snack/recovery bar than energy bar. Good for vegans and coeliacs, too.
Verdict: Cracking bar for snacking and to stimulate recovery
Torq Expore Flapjack
- £37 for 20
Typically Torq, this black-forest flapjack is free from artificial colours, sweeteners and preservatives. It’s also incredibly tasty, its sweetness deriving from organic golden syrup, raisins and dark brown sugar.
That sugar hit (43g carbs) cranks this bar up to 263cals with fat count at 8.1g, predominantly down to sunflower oil (organic, of course), which is high in inflammatory omega-6 – not great when training hard.
Then again, these are designed for either the generally lower-intensity bike or a pre-workout snack. You can consume post-effort, too, but the muscle-repairing protein content’s only around 13cals (3.2g).
Its buttery taste and texture (from the oil) borders on overly oily, which might be too rich for some. torqfitness.co.uk
Verdict: Impressive bar that balances good taste and nutrition
Aptonia Eco-size Energy Bars
- £6.99 for 10
Sports-retail behemoths Decathlon’s renowned for packing in many a bargain into their global stores. As we see here with 10 ‘eco-sized’ bars that hit the tills at just £6.99.
So, marks scored for frugality. But what about taste and texture? Actually, they’re not bad, the 69% date composition making them decidedly palatable.
Then again, at this price, we’re not talking healthy chunks of date. Instead, it’s date paste, which is heavy on the corn oil.
As the ‘eco-size’ tag infers, it’s also the lightest calorie-wise with 136kcals from each 40g bar. Around 26g derives from carbs, with protein making up 1.3g and fat 2.4g. That’s a proper good energy split for higher-intensity moments.
Verdict: value-packed bar with understandable nutritional compromises
Mountain Fuel Feel Good Bar
Mountain Fuel might be new to you, but they’ve made great strides in the world of ultra-running, the highlight of which came when trail-running god Kilian Jornet was reported as buying their products.
And we can see why with this ‘double-ginger’ flapjack. It’s delicious, and delivers an appreciated ginger hit via ground ginger and natural ginger flavouring.
It was particularly appreciated on long winter rides and runs, stimulating a feeling of warmth in the cold, foggy air.
Mind you, it’s a calorific beast, containing 373kcals from 42g carbs, 22g fat and 5g protein. Like many here, that ticks the longcourse boxes but arguably too much for Olympic-distance. Still, it’s a bar loaded with goodness.
Verdict: Delicious, warming bar but a meal in itself
I remember years ago, when chia seeds were seemingly sprinkled everywhere, dropping chia seeds into water as per instructions.
The super-seeds expanded into pale spawn and it was disgusting. Thankfully, the same can’t be said for this tasty flapjack, which delivers chia’s mooted energy-boosting and antioxidant properties in a mix of oats and salted caramel.
This combination, plus demerara sugar, golden syrup and butter, cranks up calorie count to a whopping 378.
Arguably, that’s good for ultra-racing and if you’re a very heavy trainer but, for most, that’s too extreme when this is considered a snack.
Then again, many of you will be able to consume this amount of calories per hour when riding, though just remember 22g (around 198kcals) of that’s from fats with 44g (around 156kcals) from carbs.
Verdict: Big flavour, big calories, moderate price; one for ultras
OTE Anytime Bar
British outfit OTE has kept things like nanna used to make with this traditional flapjack.
Around 46%’s made up of glutenfree oats, which heavily contribute to the 37.2g carbs nestling within each 62g bar. A further 8.2g fat and 3.8g protein contribute to the overall package of 248.9kcals.
That figure and macronutrient breakdown’s similar to more conventional energy bars where the focus is on slow- and fast-releasing carbs (from those oats and golden syrup) over fats and protein.
This is silkier than the last OTE Anytime Bar we tested. That was a vegan number, and the vegetable oil just couldn’t match the buttery joy here.
The only criticism is the raspberry and white chocolate flavour, which just didn’t float our boat. Then again, I’m not a huge fan of raspberries so will refrain from dropping marks. Price is good, too.
Verdict: Tempting bar for snacking, and pretty good for exercise
Veloforte’s mission highlights just how much influence the laboratories have had on our sports nutrition over the years, and is why Veloforte make great noise about using ‘natural food’.
It sounds obvious, but as we know with mass food production, it can often be anything but. To that end, the key ingredient of this 70g bar is hazelnuts – and not just a powdered facsimile, but real nibbed hazelnuts.
They’re blended with dates, brown rice syrup, cocoa and pea protein for a total 310kcals broken down as 37g carbs, 14g fat and 10g protein.
This 4:1 carb:protein ratio has been shown to maximise the muscle-recovery process and is why this is billed as a protein bar.
Taste is good and, despite being dense, it’s easily chowed down. Just don’t expect a caffeine rush as the coffee flavour comes from the decaffeinated variety.
Verdict: Most expensive here but, like the Aptonia, you get what you pay for
Enervit Sport Lemon Cream
This bar is such an outlier in this test that it’s akin to us lining up in the elite men’s triathlon at the Olympics. It’s out of place.
In times gone by the push for scientific breakthrough came at the expense of the two essentials: flavour and texture.
It seems that Enervit Sport’s stuck in the 2000s with its compressed, powdery formulation. Moisture’s absent and the lemon-cream hit helps make this the most artificial tasting bar on test. (There’s also a cocoa flavour that’s marginally tastier).
On the positive, it comes as a double bar for more manageable consumption and each double bar delivers 36g carbs and just 3.6g fat so, on paper, this is a good pick for higherintensity, shorter distances.
Verdict: Perfect for high-intensity efforts. Shame about the rest.
Enervit fuelled Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar, the Italian company providing the Slovenian with the full gamut of products from energy powders to gels and bars.
Did he consume this, Enervit’s Competition Bar? Probably, but this is the least tasty bar on test. Yes, it’s a nice hint of orange, that citrus twang sharp enough to cut through any flavour fatigue.
The problem is the texture, which is a touch old-school dryness for our liking. Okay, maybe not the Weetabix-alike specimens of times gone by, but not the smooth delivery we’ve come to anticipate of the contemporary bar.
Maybe that’s why it’s recommended to ‘eat one bar with an appropriate quantity of water’. On the positive, this is a fast-acting race-focused morsel with 23g from carbs and less than a gramme from fat.
Verdict: Good for racing but better bars out there
High5 Slow Release
High5 has established a reputation for serving up delicious energy bars at a good price. And they’ve achieved that balancing act once again with this parcel of apricot joy.
On face value, anyway. You see, while the others on test are more expensive, their energy content is significantly higher than the 151 calories seen here. Short changed? Partly.
While the fatty hit of 4.7g is much lower than seen in the Torq and OTE bars on the left, so is the 23g of carbohydrates.
In short, they’re not like for like; in fact, this is a bar designed to consume solely for training and racing, providing a nice mix of slow- and fast-releasing sugars thanks to both the dried fruit and the addition of isomaltulose, which has a lower GI rating than glucose and sucrose.
Verdict: focused high-intensity remit and a good price
After the test period, beyond bordering on developing diabetes, it became clear just how much tastier ‘sports’ bars are in 2022 compared to 2002.
All the sports science in the world is made redundant if taste and texture’s repellent. Then again, science has a role, and shows that some of these bars are better for recovery (and snacking) and some for on-thebike and run fuelling.
When it comes to the former, we hone in on morsels that have higher protein content. Protein’s the building blocks of muscle (among its many roles) with much research showing a 20g post-exercise protein hit is optimum.
None of the bars reach those heights, with Veloforte and High5 peaking at 10g. If cost is no option, we’d go for the natural Veloforte over the High5.
That said, we’d choose Tribe’s offering over both. It’s so much tastier than the last Tribe bar we tried and good for snacking and recovery.
When it comes to on-bike fuelling, Torq’s black-forest effort heads down the finish chute first, its 43g carbs delivered in a tasty package.
Hats off, too, to Mountain Fuel, despite its high calorie count we suggest grazing is better than consuming in one go.