Product review: Clif Bars and Clif Shot Energy Gels

Published by Lyn on 21 April 2016

Richard Peace chews on some Clif bars and throws back some energy shots in the name of research.

Clif Shot Energy Gels

Clif Bars and Clif Shot Energy Gels
Prices vary
Official website:

If you've suffered from 'the bonk' – the total lack of energy while on a long cycle ride – it's your body telling you that your body's glycogen stores are depleted, your body has run out of fuel and it's started to burn fat instead. The best cure for this is getting fuel into your body, the fastest fix being simple carbohydrates – anything from sugar cubes and cake to jam sandwiches. If you want to carry something storable longer term, energy gels are a handy 'bonk buster' standby.

Clif Bar is a US manufacturer who are best known for their eponymous energy bars. However they also produce bonk-relieving energy gels that aim to give an immediate shot of carbohydrates plus electrolytes, which aim to stop you getting dehydrated. Your body can only store enough glycogen for around 90 minutes of exercise, after which the experience will start to feel increasingly less exhilarating and increasingly uncomfortable as you edge towards a state of bonkness. If you are a cyclist in rush or with a tight training schedule and like to travel light, this is where energy gels come in.

I tried the smoothly chocolaty mocha flavour whilst out on along ride (in lieu of my usual flask of moderately sugary tea or coffee, which usually goes in the bottle mount) and it certainly had the same pick-me-up effect. It was extremely tasty and moreish, though many might find it best not consumed all at once due to its dense, sweet, sticky texture. Also note Clif's recommendations to limit yourself to one shot a day and to consume each shot with water. Other flavours include chocolate, citrus, razz (..berry) and double espresso. 

Naturally, you'll be keen to avoid the bonk in the first place. The Clif Bars original energy bars are designed to be taken in a slightly more leisurely fashion and contain slower release carbohydrates; in other words if taken a little earlier in the ride, they will help prevent running out of energy later on, rather than being the total instant energy boost that gels provide. The only real problem with the coconut and chocolate chip flavour bars I tried is that they are so moreish, you have to strictly ration yourself to avoid guzzling down several at once and providing enough energy for several hundred miles' cycling in advance...     

Clif bar

So, if packed full of carbs (which includes sugars) aren't Clif Bars just an expensive (though much tastier) form of Mars or Snickers? Though I'm not a nutritionist, this certainly doesn't seem to be the case as a quick comparison of their respective food labels indicates. Both are densely packed with roughly the same amount of calories per gram (which is obviously want you want in a quick energy boosting food), but Snickers has 11.5g of fat in a 50g bar (around 23%) and 4.2g of this is potentially harmful saturated fat (8.4%). Apparently Snickers also contain harmful trans-fats. Some kinds of fat are vital to body functioning but not really useful as an 'instant' energy source; depending on your metabolism, your body can start to use carbs within minutes of ingestion whilst fat typically takes around 12 hours to metabolise. 

My 68g coconut chocolate chip flavour Clif Bar had 6g of fat (nearly 9%) of which 2.4g was saturated (3.5%) and no trans-fat at all. These Clif Bar fat figures are well within the 'medium' range (OK to eat most of the time) of NHS guideline figures for healthy eating. The fibre and protein ratings are good too. The Snickers fat figures are well within the 'high' NHS bracket, to be consumed only occasionally. Clif Bars are also big on organic ingredients.        

Of course, there are plenty of other sources of healthy energy carbs for cyclists and sports people in general – bananas being the classic example. And then there are those all-important cafe stops. 

However, if you were on a long ride far from civilisation or outside of teashop opening hours and your last banana had long turned to mush, Clif's tasty products could well be a handy and easily transportable way of keeping you going. 

Clif Bars and Clif Shot Energy Gels
Prices vary
Official website:

Richard Peace is founder of Excellent Books, specialists in cycle publishing. He is author of Cycling Southern France (UKUS), Cycling Northern France (UKUS), and Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide (UKUS). He is a regular contributor to A to B magazineBike Europe and writes for Eurobike Show Daily.

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