Your stomach is the fuel tank for your body – and letting it run on empty over rides in excess of ninety minutes is a sure fire way of finding yourself broken down in the lanes.
There’s a range of theories around the best way to keep your energy levels flourishing, but the overriding belief from experts is that carbohydrates are the most efficient top-up tool during exercise, with 1 gram per kilo of body weight the suggested dose per hour.
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That means a 75kg rider needs to ingest about 75g of carbohydrate per hour, once the ride duration is over ninety minutes. Requirement will increase if the ride is intense, and decrease if it’s not.
Carbohydrate requirement varies between individuals – but there is a ceiling as to how much your body can absorb – so though avoiding the dreaded bonk is paramount, be sure not to overdo it.
The quickest to be absorbed, dosage is spread out over the course of the time it takes to drink a bottle. Best combined with gels or bars and sipped throughout a ride, these include electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat.
Second quickest to be absorbed, a quick hit of high glucose carb to give you a kick when you need it, some include electrolytes, easy to swallow and best for races and high intensity when chewing is hard work.
Slower release, lower in sugar than gels so usually better for your gut and teeth. Require breaking up and chewing, so more suited to endurance rides. Conveniently packaged to suit jersey pockets.
Usually the best for your bank balance, stomach and teeth – assuming you’ve chosen something healthy. Usually (but not always) harder to chew and store in a pocket. Home made oat, fruit and nut bars are a great option.
Our pick of the best energy bars
Energy bar preference varies – but within the Cycling Weekly HQ there’s some clear favourites – we’ve outlines our top picks below.
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Read more: Torq Bar review
A traditional bar with traditional (nutritional) values: each 45g promises around 140-150 calories, 31-32g of carbs and 4g of protein.
Torq’s bars use a blend of glucose-derivatives and fructose to get close to the 2:1 glucose/fructose ratio which studies have shown offers a higher delivery of carbohydrate per hour – delivering 40 per cent greater absorption according to the brand.
The bars have a very moist and natural taste that reminds us of the dried fruit squares we ate as kids. Around 13 per cent of the bars come from real fruit and flavours such as Raspberry and Apple, Sundried Banana and Mango provide a wholesome mouthful. The Spiced Mince Pie option will appeal come Christmas.
The bars also contain a dose of D-Ribose – said to aid recovery – plus vitamins and minerals. Flavours like Banana are fair-trade and the Mango bar is organic.
ZipVit ZV8 Energy Bar
Read more: ZipVit ZV8 Energy Bar review
ZipVit’s ZV8 Energy bar weighs in at 55g, delivering 221 calories (in chocolate coated strawberry flavour) plus 37.2g of carbs and around 2g of protein.
You also get a host of B vitamins, some Vitamin C and Vitamin E to keep you firing on all cylinders.
These bars are nutritionally good because they deliver several different carb sources, to aid easy processing of the maximum amount of carbohydrate your body will absorb. Not only that, we’ve found that they taste excellent.
Beware, however, of the chocolate and yoghurt coated varieties when riding in hot weather: the outer layer tends to melt. They remain delicious but can become quite messy, the uncoated versions are recommended if you’re riding somewhere sunny.
Trek Protein Energy Bar
Read more: Trek Protein Energy Bar review
These 50g bars break easily into bite sized pieces, contain between 208 to 234 calories depending upon your choice, with 20g of carbs and 9 to 10g of protein.
The trend towards packing in protein is a healthy one – a lot of athletes don’t get enough. However, the jury is out on fuelling rides with it, this bar lends itself more to the recovery bar side of the nutrition conversation.
On the plus side, these taste great and they’re readily available in newsagents around the country, which can be handy when you’re out and about.
SiS Go Energy Bar
Read more: SiS Go Energy Bar review
SIS has altered its range slightly, now offering the Go Energy Bar Mini, Go Energy Bar Mini + Caffeine and Go Energy Bar + Protein.
The mini will take up less room in your pocket, though it’s a bit counter productive if you just need to carry more of them. Each 40g serving offers 139 calories, 26g of carbohydrate and a moderate 4.5g of protein. They’re made from natural fruit ingredients and go down easily.
The Go Energy Mini + Caffeine is all of the above, with an added 75mg of caffeine – to ensure you’re getting the ideal dose.
The Go Energy + Protein is 60g a serving, with 200 calories and 34g of carbohydrate plus 10g of protein – this means you’re still getting plenty of carbohydrate, with protein to help speed up recovery when you stop.
High5 Energy Bar
Read more: High5 Energy Bar review
High5’s energy bar isn’t known to be the greatest tasting, but they’re moist and go down easily – also providing one of your 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg which is a nice addition.
The 55g bars pack a punch – though nutritional values vary per flavour, so make sure you choose according to your needs as well as your taste buds.
As an example, the banana option provides 180 calories, 36g of carbohydrate and 2.4g of protein with 2.4 g of fat whilst peanut flavour gives you 255 calories, 25g of carbohydrate and 7.2g of protein with 13g of fat.
OTE Duo Bar
Read more: OTE Duo Bar review
The OTE bar is larger than most – the 65g in each packet is designed to be eaten as two servings.
Within each full bar, you’ll find 278 calories, 71.1g of carbohydrate and 7.4g of protein – the added content is reflected in the cost, at over £40 for a box of 24 – but you are getting more calories for your buck.
The idea is you split them up into doses delivering 20g of carbs a go, but the great tastes means it’d be quite easy to ‘forget’ and just eat twice as much…
We’re also big fans of OTE’s ‘Anytime’ bars – these are designed for snacking but work well on the bike, being gluten and nut free, suitable for vegetarians and very crumbly and easy to swallow. Each 62g bar provides 213 calories, 36.6g of carb and 2.8g of protein.
Read more: Veloforte Classico review
Veloforte won a ‘Great Taste Award’ for its Classico in 2017 – and it’s easy to understand why. Made from fruit peel (orange, lemon, citron), with almonds, cane sugar, honey, and a host of spices they’re pretty special.
Each 70g bar contains 294 calories – which is more than most, with 45g of carbs, 5.6g of protein and 8.6g of fat – it’d be easy to gobble down more than you need to fuel yourself, so beware. They’re not cheap, either.
The packaging can be quite hard to peel from the product – though Veloforte has worked on this with a new and improved wrapper in recent months.
Read more: Clif Bar review
Cliff bar makes a range of excellent tasting flavours, that taste natural and are easy to digest – though some need a little washing down with fluid.
The brand uses organic and whole ingredients, such as rolled oats, oat fibre and dates to make its bars – so you know you’re getting real food.
These are quite large: a 68g bar contains 274 calories, 6.9g of fat, 41g of carb and 10g of protein – so there’s more in there than your basic carb focused bar.
Newer on the market is Clif’s ‘Nut butter filled’ bar, which provides 230 calories and about 10g plus about 7g of protein – the jury is out on on-bike fuelling but they make great snacks.
All of these bars will re-stock your carb levels – preference is subjective. We’ll keep adding more energy bar options as we taste and test them.