Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of @CLIFBar seasonal flavors

In this day and age of pink slim in your hamburger meat, flame retardant in your Gatorade and filler in your Frosty, it’s becoming increasingly important to know what’s in your food and to avoid eating crap and empty calories.

Most triathletes are keenly aware of two things. They are fixated on training; being planning, accomplishing or analyzing. They are also sensitive about nutrition. The key is to what degree they are aware of what goes into their bodies. If you are like the everyday age grouper, you try to keep your diet in check with fruits, veggies and wholesome foods that appear to contain nutritious characteristics. But, most triathletes are in the throes of a full time job, kids, spouse, loved ones, families and the gauntlet of the daily demands of life as a productive member of society. It’s hard to stay on the right path, or at least what you perceive to be the right path if you don’t have time to read the labels and look up ingredient names. Sometimes you don’t have the time to fix a wholesome meal from scratch. Sometimes you’re at Timmy’s basketball game and the only option for a meal is the snack shop with hotdogs and hamburgers.

What you can do is bring healthier options with you. You may not be able to bring a baggy of pasta and sauce and look around for a microwave, but you can bring along a snack bar that can be jammed into a pocket, glove box or purse (hey, some guys have man-bags or fanny packs). The key is to find a bar that’s worthwhile and not some junk cereal bar full of carbs and worthless calories.

Enter CLIF Bar. Tis the season and CLIF Bar has pulled out all of the stops to get your fix of gingerbread and pumpkin spice while you’re fueling up at the cube for that after work treadmill session. They have shipped us some holiday flavors to check out. Sit back, grab some hot chocolate and an Iced Gingerbread CLIF Bar and check out the 411.

Aside from the holiday flavors, CLIF has 17 other flavors of energy bars. If variety is the spice of life, then you have found your spice rack. Plus, this just addresses the energy bars. CLIF offers BLOKS, sports gels and much more. CLIF can be your one stop shop for nutritional needs. You will surely find a flavor that will agree with your palate.

Shoppers and consumers in general want a slick, uniform and trustworthy online web store. CLIF has that. The navigation is instinctive and you can seamlessly transition to their store from their main web site to buy all the bars you can handle. Their brand is uniform from the site to their content, literature and packaging. Consumers are not left wondering what exactly they are getting and who they are getting it from.

No matter what you have been told, size matters. The last thing a triathlete trying to stay at race weight wants is to consume 200 calories and still feel hungry. If you ate a bar and still feel enough of a void that you need something else, you either need a full meal and you’re not eating enough, or the bar doesn’t have enough volume to fill you up. With CLIF Bars, you should not have that issue if you are looking for that mid-morning or afternoon snack, pre-workout or post workout fuel. The bars are plentiful and you should feel satiated enough to hit the road without feeling bloated. One would even go as far to caution against eating a CLIF Bar too fast, as the density and volume is considerable comparing it to other bars in the market place.

It’s a sticky situation. You will need to have caution when eating a CLIF Bar. They stick to your fingers as well as your ribs. It’s not excessive, but you will have a little residue on your fingers that you may need to wipe off. The solution is to open the bar and use the package as the holder, like eating a cheeseburger from a wrapper while driving, minus 2000 calories. There may be issues with heat and CLIF Bars. Since they are sticky at room temperature and this review was conducted in late fall, it’s unknown how sticky a CLIF Bar can get if left in the heat of the summer. Don’t leave them sitting on the dash of your car in the summer and you should be ok.

It’s packed full of goodness. Gluten free, dairy free and nut free are all choices, but unfortunately just plain free isn’t an option. When you read through the ingredient list, you might or might not be surprised at the list of items that you actually recognize. Sure, that’s probably by design, but you are faced with searching the periodic chart trying to figure out what the mad scientist put in the melting pot to create the bar. It’s always nice to eat a bar and be able to see the individual ingredients in the bar.

With so many choices, how do you find one right for you? Something unique that not a lot of nutrition vendors have on their site is a bar selector based on check boxes for criteria. Want a high protein bar that’s gluten free? Look it up to see if they have it. Want something enhanced with fiber, vanilla and no nuts and seeds? You can search for that, too. It’s pretty sweet to not have to check the nutritional facts on every product to find what you want.

 Back to the numbers. At $15 for a box if 12, you are looking at $1.25 a bar. That’s actually lower than some of the mainstream competitors. That’s not half bad for a bar that gets you pretty full for a workout or in-betweener meal.

The real point to the bar is providing enough sustenance and nutrition to set it apart from your regular cereal bars and pre-processed snack bars you can get at the grocery store. After eating bars before high intensity workouts, after workouts and for mid-morning snacks, they provide no spike in that sugar rush feeling. They provide a nice even level of energy to get you to that next meal or through a tough workout. They are widely accepted in the triathlon world as a solid source of nutrition and energy, and this review has found nothing to alter that perception.

CLIF Bars do what they say and have a solid foot hold in the endurance community. But, if you want to try out flavors like pumpkin spice and iced gingerbread (which are pretty awesome), you better act now since they are seasonal.

Overall CLIF bars are a good addition to fruits and veggies you might have for your snacks through a day. They are portable and handy in a pinch if you don’t have time to catch a meal before a workout or stuck in the office working late. They are not a total meal replacement, but that’s not what they are meant to do. Consider CLIF bars for your nutrition arsenal and consider them quickly if you want the holiday flavors!

Writer’s note – CLIF Bar provided samples for this review and in no way influenced the review.
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