Monday, July 18, 2011

Product Review: Energy Bars and Gels

So in preparation for my Century Ride this past weekend, I made my way down to my Favorite LBS to get some supplies. I originally went down to get a new Cassette, to get me some gears that would be more appropriate for hills and climbs. But while I was down there I decided to try out some of the Energy Gels and bars, realizing I would be on the bike for a longer period of time than I have been so far to date, since getting back on the bike. I knew I was going to need to carry a bit of food and I was already planning on taking my "Old Standby" Nature Valley Oats and Honey, Granola Bars, but I knew if I was going to be on the bike for 6 or 7 hours, and if I was going to be riding 40 miles further than I have to date, that I would need more than that.

In preparation for my longest outing to date, I decided it would be a good time
to try out a few various gels etc. to supplement my "Old Standby" Granola bars
So while I was at the shop, getting what I needed, I decided to try the GU Energy Gels and the Cliff Bar Shot blocks. I believe the GU Gels were about a buck a piece and the Shot blocks were around $2.00 (that's an estimation because I didn't really look at the price, I'll update when I talk to Gary and make sure of the price)

I already had the Granola Bars. I nearly always have a box of them in the pantry, because I almost always have one in my pocket when I'm riding just in case I need a quick bite to eat. I also already had a couple Clif Bars ready to go... the Carrot Cake Clif bar is my personal choice of the "Original line" of Clif Bars, there are a few others, like the Apricot flavor and the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, that I like, but I tend to stay away from anything that has chocolate in it. The chocolate flavor just makes me WAY to thirsty. I also already had a Gatorade powder pack on hand. I tried one of these on my 4th of July ride and I have to admit, I was impressed. Just pour one of these in your water bottle, shake it up, and BAM, it tastes just like it's supposed to taste. It dissolves well too, where it doesn't leave a cake of powder at the bottom of your bottle, which is definitely a bonus when you get home and you're trying to clean it out.

But on to the new stuff... I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the Gu Energy Gels AND the Clif Shot Blocks. Normally I judge an energy bar etc on the fact that at best "It wasn't that bad" but the Gu Gel and Shot blocks were actually way past "not too bad" they were actually good.

I tried the Gu Energy Gel at about 40 miles. It was easy to open with one hand. Just tear the top tab off with your teeth and it's ready to go. I really didn't know what to expect about taste and texture. The one I tried was the Mandarin Orange. It was easy to eat, just one squeeze and it's all in your mouth. the taste was good, it actually tasted pretty much as described. And the texture was pretty much like... I would probably describe it as the same texture as Honey. The effects must have been pretty immediate because I had the Gu Gel as I started to feel a bit hungry, and after I took it, I felt just fine with no more hunger to speak of. I didn't need anything else to eat for another 30 miles, because it wasn't until about mile 70, I stopped for a few minutes at the Fisherman's Access (just North of my second pass by Lake and Los Cerritos) at Turlock Lake and ate my Natures Valley Oats and Honey bar.

At about mile 85, I opened the Clif Shot Blocks. Again, it was easy to open, just bite the end and they are ready to eat. There are six of them in the package, and between mile 85 and home I ate 4 of the 6 that were in the package. These things are not only good... I'd have to go as far as to say they are good to the point of being Dangerous good... or at least really expensive good. They were better than a lot of candy I've had. I had the Tropical Punch flavor and they were awesome. Their texture was kind of a cross between gum drops and Gummy bears. I can see where it would be equally easy to just eat one or to just let it dissolve in your mouth (depending on preference). They did make me a bit more thirsty than the Gu Gel did. But at the point in the ride I was eating them all it did was prompt me to drink more, like I should have been anyways. I ate them just at the point where I was starting to get hungry and they did just what I could have hoped they would do, and gave me a bit more energy to continue my ride just fine.

Bottom line is... I did a ride that was 40 miles longer than the one I completely bonkedGu Gel, 4 Shot Blocks, and ONE Natures Valley Granola bar (out of the picture, above, that's all I used) I got home feeling great having had a really good ride... take that for what you will.

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