Last week I’ve written a short introduction how to fuel your body during rides. After chatting to the experts of the field, I summed up all the practical knowledge that was relevant or interesting. However, no amount of science is able to determine whether you like the taste of something or not. De gustibus non est disputandum, as the ancient Romans used to say, so I decided to hold a blind energy bar/gel/drink session, to see how do the different bars, gels and drinks perform taste-wise in the real world.
The ad-hoc test panel included a wide array of testers – on one end of the scale were the full-on racers, while the other end was populated by admin staff, but the majority were casual riders, probably the closest to the average rider. We tested 10 energy bars, 4 gels and 4 drinks. The testers didn’t know what they were eating/drinking, they had to evaluate the taste on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 was bad, 5 was great) – and so they did. On the scoring card, there was space left for notes as well and they were often keen on leaving shorter or longer comments. Below you can see the average points each bar/gel/drink received and excerpts of the tester’s notes.
SIS GO Energy Bar – Berry & Vanilla
Verdict: The testers liked the taste of the bar in general, though they assumed a different flavour, but most of them complained that it’s too hard to chew.
“Love this orange/choc taste, can be bit hard to chew”
“Orangey, bit too chewy for my taste”
Overall score: 3.29
Clif Energy Bar – Oat, Raisin and Walnut
Verdict: A clear favourite was this bar – it didn’t have a divisive taste – only one tester protested that he’d eat one “only in an emergency“.
“Has wholemeal taste, good texture”
“Fruity and oats, tastes like cake, mmm”
Overall score: 3.71
Mulebar 100% Natural Energy Bar Apple Strudel
Verdict: The famous Apple Strudel Mulebar got surprisingly low scores for some reason – most testers blamed the taste, but everybody liked the texture.
“Quite strange flavour, good texture”
“Much appley goodness. Easy to chew”
“This is foul”
Overall score: 2.81
Mulebar 100% Natural Energy Bar Mango Tango
Verdict: This turned out to be the marmite of energy bars: people either loved it hated it.
“Smooth, fruity, sharp”
“Very fruity and not too sickly – best one”
Overall score: 2.82
Powerbar Energy Bar Cookies & Cream
Verdict:A very nice energy bar, good flavour but it was really hard to get it out of the packaging – not something you want to struggle with during a hard ride.
“Like the taste and consistency, maybe too sweet”
“Really sticky – but good flavour”
“Sweet, like it, a bit like cardboard though”
Overall score: 3.39
Powerbar Ride Bar Peanut
Verdict: This product got the highest point in the blind test and also the least polarizing product – everybody seemed to like the peanuty taste.
“Like this peanut butter taste”
“Dark chocolate, wafer, nuts! Yes, better every chew. Tip top”
Overall score: 4.00
High 5 Energy Bar Berries
Verdict: This bar didn’t perform too well in terms of taste, however there were quite a few testers who really liked it. Not the majority, though.
“A bit twanky and boring”
“Good flavour – fig rools-tastic”
“Good consistency, poor flavour”
Overall score: 2.59
Torq Energy Bar – Sundried Banana
Verdict: A fairly mediocre bar, it didn’t poise people to leave raving or hating comments, though one common theme surfaced: there were four testers who mentioned malt loaf.
“Malt loaf, anyone?”
“Has a malt taste, seems healthy”
“Not much flavour but nice and good texture”
Overall score: 2.80
Powerbar Protein Bar Vanilla
Verdict: Another controversial bar – people either loved it or hated it and most testers complained about the powdery taste – which is acceptable as this is post-ride bar.
“Nice texture, easy to swallow”
“NO, NO, NO”
“Slightly powerdy texture but great flavour”
Overall score: 3.19
High 5 Protein Bar – Chocolate
Verdict: a good post-ride bar, only a couple of testers complained that it’s too sweet.
“That is nice – loving the afterburn”
“Chocolatey protein heaven”
Overall score: 3.25
For Goodness Shakes Recovery Drink – Superberry
Verdict: The clear winner amongst the drinks – and almost overall, too. Testers were enjoying it, almost unanimously.
“Really nice, thick milkshake – yes gimme, gimme”
“Smooth, good flavour. Boom”
Overall score: 3.89
High 5 Energy Source Xtreme – Citrus
Verdict: As this drink is purposed to be drank during a ride, its flavour is designed to be weak at not too strong – most testers picked it up, even though they weren’t aware of the fact what sort of drink this was.
“Water-like, like this”
“Almost flavourless, slight citrus taste”
“Not keen on flavour – a bit of an aftertaste”
Overall score: 2.83
Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink – Berries
Verdict: Another well-received and liked drink for your ride, though some didn’t like the colour of the drink.
“That’s isotonic – I like it”
“Not sweet but ok flavour, quite refreshing”
“Too bitter and sharp”
Overall score: 2.89
SIS Rego Rapid Recovery Drink – Berry
Verdict: I think this drink got it’s bad reputation due to its industrial-esque colour – the actual taste wasn’t that bad, if you were willing to look past the initial shock of the colour. There was one tester who liked it so much he wanted to know what it was. But he was the exception.
“Not nice and looks like dirty bath water”
“It’s parafin. No, it’s toothpaste. No, its horrible.”
Overall score: 1.83
SIS GO Gel Sachet – Tropical
Verdict: This gel didn’t win many hearts, maybe because it reminded many testers to medicine?
“Bit medicinal, like syrup”
“Flavour ok but not good, thick texture”
“An orgasmic mix of carbs and cough syrup”
Overall score: 2.22
High 5 Energy Gel – Summer Fruits
Verdict: The favourite gel of the day – nice flavour, good texture and consistent – only one tester gave less than three points and it didn’t get any fives.
“Nice flavour and not too thick”
“Easier to take than others – not too sugary”
“Okish lighter taste would make more palatable”
Overall score: 3.22
Mulebar Kicks Energy Gel
Verdict: While I personally really liked this gel, the majority of the testers disliked it and gave it a low score.
“Tastes like cough syrup”
“Unique flavour, good texture”
Overall score: 2.00
Torq Energy Gel – Orange & Banana
Verdict: A quite well received gel, however, this was another “marmite”: testers either loved it or hated it – it only got one three.
“Big pumping gel, great flavour, good texture”
“Palatable flavour with a smooth texture”
“Too sweet, would probably make me heave on bike”
Overall score: 3.11