Cost: Savory flavors: $18.00 for 6 pouches; Sweet flavors: $13.75 for 6 pouches
How Obtained: review samples from company
Available: online and retail
RBR Sponsor: no
Time tested: over a few weeks’ workouts
Outside-the-Box Organic Alternatives to Gels and Bars
A couple days ago, I sipped a “Pizza Margherita.”
Yes, you read that right. I said “sipping” pizza. I could have said “slurping,” I guess.
I’ve tried untold different energy foods over the years, and CLIF fairly regularly sends along their new and seasonal products to try (likeIced Gingerbread and Pecan Pie bars in the winter, or Berry Pomegranate Chia bars, or Chocolate Hazelnut Builder’s Protein Bars).
Most of them are simply variations on a theme. We’ve all likely tried various energy gels and bars. The new varieties can be a welcome addition to the staid old flavors. Some, like the new Chocolate Hazelnut Builder’s bar are not bad – riffing off the uber-popular Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread (which my 17-year-old son practically inhales!). Of course, other flavors don’t quite always hit the mark.
Outside-The-Box Organic Energy Food
I got a package recently that was most intriguing. It wasn’t just another variation on a theme, but rather an outside-the-box approach from CLIF. The line is called CLIF Organic Energy Food, and each package is certified USDA organic, and gluten free. They’re designed to be consumed during activity, much like a gel, with a screw cap on top and a wide-straw-like opening from which to sip or slurp the product. The packages are substantially bigger than a gel pack, and they contain 3 to 4 ounces of product, with calorie counts from 100 to 200 per package.
The packages say: “Inspired by the home recipes of our Team Clif Bar athletes, we’ve created a line of performance food made from real, organic ingredients like….”
Here’s where the new stuff starts to get a little “out there” – the flavors include Banana Beet Ginger, Banana Mango Coconut, Sweet Potato with Sea Salt, and Pizza Margherita. (I can’t say I’ve ever had an energy food that included beet, sweet potato, or pizza. You could put together a complete meal, with an entrée, side dish and dessert from this lineup!)
The Savory Flavors Take Some Getting Used To
I’ve tried all these flavors, starting with the Pizza Margherita. Like many cyclists, I get tired of pre-packaged energy food and sometimes prefer “real” food on rides. Still, I’ve never brought along a slice of pizza! The Pizza Margherita actually tastes quite like what you would imagine if you blended a slice and drank it through a straw. As unappealing as it may sound to slurp a slice, it was a decent enough change of pace on a recent ride. The idea – and the consistency – may take some getting used to. But if you’re looking for something different, this certainly qualifies.
The Sweet Potato with Sea Salt was a bit more challenging to my palette. I love sweet potatoes, and much prefer them to regular spuds, but the consistency, combined with the taste, made it a bit more difficult to get down than the Pizza.
It may have something to do with this warning I spied on the back of the package – Caution: Not recommended for people on a sodium-restricted diet, pregnant women, or children. Indeed, the sodium content of the Pizza version is 600mg, or 25% of the recommended daily allowance. The Sweet Potato comes in at 550mg, or 23%. They’re also loaded with Potassium, to almost the same degree. So they certainly pack some replenishment if you want to reload quickly.
I’ll try the savory offerings a couple more times to give them a fair shake, but I’m more likely to seek out a “real food” option if I want a salty alternative on a ride.
The Fruit-Based Organics Are Quite Tasty
The fruit-based organic offerings are much more aligned with the “flavor profiles” we normally expect in an energy food. And thus, more palatable. Both the Banana Beet Ginger and Banana Mango Coconut are quite tasty and easy to ingest. Again, the consistency of the organic product does, in fact, make it seem like you’re eating “real food” (which you are) when compared with any other gel pack you’ve ever eaten. Think: smoothie vs. the typical gel consistency.
I’m much more likely to work the fruit-based organics into my on-the-bike food rotation. However, each 3.17-ounce (90g) package delivers only 100 (Banana Mango Coconut) or 110 (Banana Beet Ginger) calories. And in a package almost 3 times the size of some gels, which deliver the same calories in the smaller package, you may be forced to choose how much extra volume and weight you’re willing to tote on a ride.
Overall, though, it’s nice to know that there are some true organic alternatives to the “who knows what’s in those things?” energy foods we’ve all be eating over the years.
John Marsh is the editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of “less than podium” talent, he sees himself as RBR’s Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR’s great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That’s what we’re all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John’s full bio.