James Witts has been testing 4 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.
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.
£29.25 (for 15)
Torq’s bar is the most trad on test, delivering 144cals from mainly carb sources (127cals), all topped off with a hint of protein (8cals) and fat (just 9cals). The 45g bar releases its energy from a carb mix of raisins, oats, fructose, maltodextrin and mango, all organic. This combo of fast- and slow-releasing carbs is ideal for fuelling a high-intensity session or when racing. Sadly, like others here, it contains palm oil. Its texture is chewy and has just enough water to avoid that common claggy feel. The mango taste is nice enough, yet with so many energy gels fruit flavoured, you might want chocolate or a more savoury sensation when it comes to a bar.
Verdict: The most triathlon appropriate bar on test 85%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
£24 (for 12)
Clif regularly deliver the tastiest bars and they’ve ticked the appetising box here thanks to crumbly choc that makes way for a peanut-butter inner. But how does it fare for tri? Moderately. At 50g it’s a whopper with 230cals, of which a hefty 99cals are from fats. Nut butter is the main ingredient, partly explaining that high calorie content. It also uses palm oil that, although its impact on health is mixed, is an eco problem and dilutes Clif Bar’s organic ethos. Carb content is 26g (104 cals) with a further 7g (28cals) from protein. That’s low for such a calorific bar, while the sugar’s fast-acting nature can be impeded by the high levels of protein and fat.
Verdict: Tasty but better for lower intensity activities 74%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
Rice cakes are common in pro cycling, with Geraint Thomas munching his way through hundreds over a three-week stage race. OTE has looked to replicate that in this bar, but with a few tweaks to extend its shelf life that makes it more like a cereal bar. And a very tasty one at that, the vanilla flavour enlivening the senses! Neatly, OTE’s split the bar into two for easy consumption, with each 32.5g bar sending just over 20g of carbs your way. 3.7g of protein per segment’s fine but fat content for the entire bar is nearly 10g (90cals), which is over double what it used to be.
Verdict: Tasty but we’d prefer a lower fat content 81%
Buy from www.otesports.co.uk
Project E2 is the endurance arm of CNP Professional, a sports nutrition outfit largely marketed at bodybuilders. Any bar at this reasonable packet size weight of 60g is historically down to a packed ingredients line-up lacking water. To be fair, the ingredients number fewer than 10 but they’re packed in as this is one dry bar that’s tricky to chew – not great when you’re fatigued and dehydrated. The bland taste is disappointing and the use of margarine is almost unforgivable in a bar aimed at triathletes. For reference, each bar delivers 32g of carbs and 10g fat for over 250cals of energy. But its poor texture almost makes that all irrelevant.
Verdict: A truly disappointing energy bar 60%
Buy from projecte2.co.uk