When choosing the best cycling energy bars for you, there are several considerations; why you are using it, when you are using it, what it will do for you, and above all else, the personal consideration of taste and enjoyment.
Here at Veloforte, we believe the best cycling bars are those that deliver natural fuel in a tasty, powerful and delicious way that can be easily digested and absorbed by your body.
Types of cycling energy bars
Energy bars for cycling typically come in four categories; carbohydrate bars, protein bars, low-calorie bars, and meal-replacement bars.
Carb bars are the real energy bars as these provide fuel for your working muscles and are designed to be used before and during strenuous exercise, such as long rides.
Low-calorie bars are of limited use to cyclists as they provide very little energy or nutrition to aid exercise or recovery. They are aimed as snacks at the weight loss market. There are other healthier - and just as convenient - real food options to choose from.
Protein bars are typically designed to aid in muscle repair after exercise. They are rich in protein but some are also low in carbs so do not provide much energy. Others with higher amounts of carbs may be good for recovery.
Meal replacement bars are designed with a balance of all nutrients; carbs, protein, and fat. Whilst they don’t completely replace the nutritional benefits of a meal, they are useful and convenient when travelling or if you're time-limited but shouldn’t be relied on as a regular part of your diet.
Why real food fuels best: Natural vs. synthetic energy bars for cyclists
Real food is always better for your body to digest than heavily processed and synthetic foods. A cyclist's nutrition doesn’t have to mean synthetic; energy from natural sources appeals to the eye, the nose, the mouth, the stomach as well as your legs! It's tasty and enjoyable to eat, plus your body is better able to process it without the painful bloating, wind and stomach upsets that can come with eating synthetic bars.
One of our key goals at Veloforte is to produce energy bars that cyclists will enjoy eating, which is why we are always so pleased when riders find us and agree.
Natural sugars vs. artificial sugars
The sugar substitutes found in many cycling bars can play havoc with your digestive system and artificial sweeteners found in low-calorie bars upset your body’s natural insulin response to sugar.
Many of the manufactured sugars used as energy sources in synthetic bars and energy gels contribute to gastro problems such as stomach bloating, wind or unpleasantly frequent toilet stops!
In natural energy bars, the high levels of carbohydrates come instead from ingredients like dried fruits, oats, and whole grains. If you choose a bar that has both fructose (the sugar from fruit) and glucose then you will be able to absorb the maximum amount of energy you can.
These not only taste delicious, but real ingredients like these also create a texture that is moist and feels good in your mouth.
Natural taste vs. synthetic taste
The most effective way to fuel our body is with food that we enjoy eating. The smell, taste and texture of food is an important part of digestion as the first stage of breaking down foods begins with the saliva in your mouth.
If a food doesn’t excite your mouth and make it water, you are missing out part of the natural process. Your body is naturally more responsive to the smells and flavours of real food, and there is no unpleasant aftertaste.
If a bar is tasty and delicious, it can be something to look forward to on a long ride, both motivating and comforting. It also makes it unlikely that you will under-fuel.
If you are carrying bars or gels that need to be forced down and feel a chore to eat, then you are more likely to feel uninterested in eating them and under-fuel. As a cyclist and Veloforte user Nigel Vaughan told us:
Naturally hydrated food vs. dry food
Synthetic and highly processed bars are often very dry, manufacturers make them this way to help prolong shelf-life and force-in large amounts of powdered ingredients - helping them to produce large volumes cheaply.
However, as anyone who has ever tried to eat a dry bar whilst cycling on a hot day up a long climb will tell you, very dry food is difficult and unpalatable to chew. It is like chewing cardboard!
Very dry bars aren’t just unpleasant to eat, they are also very difficult for your body to digest, you need to consume a lot of extra water to help your body soften and absorb the bars. This can contribute to bloating. If you are under-hydrated, then eating dry bars can dehydrate you further by taking precious fluids from your system and give you painful stomach cramps.
Natural cycling bars contain up to 7 times more water (they are often naturally hydrated from the fruits) making them easy to eat, easier to chew and swallow as well as better for your stomach and gut.
Your body knows what to do with these bars as they are natural foods that we have been designed (through evolution) to enjoy.
Natural vitamins vs. artificially added vitamins
The ingredients in natural cycling energy bars are nutritionally dense, providing not only energy but vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which are good for your body, your digestion and your performance.
Some highly manufactured bars are crammed full of sugars but provide very little in the way of vitamins or minerals, to the extent that manufactured versions of vitamins need to be added! Why not just eat the real thing in the first place?
One of the problems with added vitamins is the potential for overdosing if you are eating several bars a day over the course of a long ride or back to back training sessions, plus taking nutritional supplements and eating fortified foods.
Consuming an excess of some vitamins can lead to stomach and gut problems and even affect your liver and other organs. Natural foods provide a much more balanced and body-friendly amount of the vitamins and minerals you need for health and performance in a way that makes it almost impossible to overdose.
Healthy fats vs. trans fats
Fats are an important part of a healthy balanced diet but they need to be the right fats, from the right sources. Synthetic bars often make use of cheap fats such as trans fats and palm oil.
Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products but they can also be manufactured commercially by a process called hydrogenation that chemically alters liquid vegetable oils to become solid fats.
The hydrogenated vegetable oils are used to bulk up or improve the texture of food, they are cheap to produce and have a long shelf life. Trans fats have been linked with high cholesterol as they raise levels of our ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol whilst also lowering the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. There is an associated risk between eating high levels of trans fats and coronary heart disease.
Palm oil is a natural source of fat and can have heart-healthy benefits, however, many companies are choosing to avoid using it altogether or sourcing it only from ethical sources due to the environmental impact of farming practices.
Fats in natural bars come from the nuts and seeds. Nuts are a great addition to a healthy diet, they are a great source of heart-friendly fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytosterol compounds that can have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels. They add texture to your bar, making it more enjoyable to eat and contain a broad range of vitamins as well as fibre.
Texture should not be underestimated when it comes to your enjoyment of food, our bodies want the whole experience of real food; something that smells and tastes amazing that you can really get your teeth into.
One of the reasons that synthetic gels can be hard to use is that they are in an unnatural format. Steven Fyfe is a convert to the Veloforte real energy revolution:
The Veloforte cycling energy bar buyer’s guide
Now that you know the benefits of real food energy bars and why they’re the very best for cyclists looking for easy, on-the-go nutrition, let’s take a look at our Veloforte range of energy and protein bars, their flavours and benefits, and what makes them the best for your nutritional needs.
Classico Energy Bar
Rich in dual-source carbohydrates for sustained and balanced energy, our Classico energy bar is flavoured with citrus fruits, almond, and honey for a zesty taste that’ll keep you energised on your ride. Free from all the usual suspect nasties like sulphites, additives, and preservatives, the Classico provides gluten free, natural energy on the go with a tasty, chewy, yet slightly crunchy texture. We’d recommend ⅓ of your bar every 20 mins as you ride.
Mocha Protein Bar
Perfect for the coffee lovers out there, our Mocha Protein Bar provides you with both carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio, making it the perfect snack to both energise you and kick-start your muscle recovery. Both gluten free and vegan, the Mocha blends crunchy hazelnuts with smooth flavours of coffee, dates, and cocoa to produce the ultimate refuelling bar. Best consumed within 30 minutes of your ride’s end.
Forza Protein Bar
Another excellent combination for both refuelling and recovery, the apricot, almond, and fennel flavours of our Forza bar will set you up with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein in a gluten free package. The protein in the Forza is derived from highly digestible egg whites (so unfortunately not suitable for veggies or vegans), so you can get into recovery even faster. Best consumed within 30 minutes of your ride’s end.
Avanti Energy Bar
Soft, chewy, and slightly salted, the Avanti combines dates, pecans, and sea salt to give you a fruity and nutty kick - whilst the natural sea salt does wonders for balancing your electrolytes. Both gluten free and vegan, the Avanti is best eaten to refuel your burned carbohydrates during a longer ride. We’d recommend ⅓ of your bar every 20 mins as you go.
Zenzero Energy Bar
Nutty and zesty, the Zenzero combines Sicillian lemons, ginger, and pistachios to form a digestion-calming bar that’ll wake your senses and give you a much-needed boost before or during your ride. Gluten free and vegan friendly, it’ll keep you energised with dual-source carbohydrates for balance and sustainability.
Ciocco Energy Bar
Definitely one for the chocolate lovers out there, the Ciocco combines dates, almonds, and cocoa to form a deliciously chocolatey energy treat. Gluten free and with a healthy helping of dual-sourced carbs, the Ciocco will satisfy your chocolate itch and give you the swift energy boost needed on a long ride. We’d recommend ⅓ of your bar every 20 mins.
Di Bosco Energy Bar
Soft and chewy, our Di Bosco combines zingy red berries, almonds, and pistachios for a gluten free, vegan friendly bar of refreshing goodness to eat during your ride. We’d recommend ⅓ of your bar every 20 mins as you go to give you those dual-sourced carbs you’ll need.
Mixed Energy Bar Pack
Can’t decide on just one energy bar? This mixed pack is the very best way to experience our full range - it includes all 8 of the flavours mentioned above, so feel free to experiment with them all, find your favourites and enjoy the benefits of dual-sourced carbs and protein on the go. Every bar in the pack is gluten free and the variety of flavours should be enough to please even the most discerning connoisseur.
What’s the best time to eat a cycling energy bar?
Timing and quantity are key considerations when it comes to eating your chosen energy bar. Let’s look into each type of cyclist and develop an understanding of when they should be using energy bars to refuel on their bike.
If you ride for short distances, then you don’t need to eat that many energy bars to supply the energy for your bike ride; our bodies have their own store of carbohydrate that provides enough fuel for around 90 minutes.
A good time to eat an energy bar is shortly before your ride or near the start of it, especially if you haven’t eaten much during the day, or haven’t had breakfast, as this will give you a mental and physical boost to get you started on your ride. Natural bars also make a convenient snack for after your ride, particularly if you have a long wait till your next meal.
If you are exercising frequently and your road bike rides are over two hours then energy bars can play an important role in fuelling your training, topping up your body’s stored energy and re-fuelling you for the next ride. Your body needs 60g-90g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise, so if planning a ride of two hours or longer then start eating after the first 20 minutes.
Natural bars can be useful immediately before and after long rides, particularly if you have a busy working lifestyle and are rushed for time between meals.
Long-distance and expert riders
If you are an endurance rider, training regularly and completing back to back long rides eating enough carbohydrate to fuel your exercise and aid your recovery is crucial.
Veloforte bars contain both glucose and fructose allowing you to absorb as much 90g of carbohydrate an hour. Start eating within 20 minutes of beginning your ride and eat a bite every 20 minutes to maintain your energy levels.
Restoring your glycogen levels after long rides is important too, natural energy bars for cyclists can be used on hard training days to ensure you maintain a good energy balance, ready for your next session.
On very long rides good food can be the key to motivation as Veloforte user and ultra-distance cyclist Steve Wadey found out:
Get started with Veloforte cycling energy bars
At Veloforte we believe that all too often there is a disconnect between the real food values we all tend to share across the rest of our lives and what we eat on our bikes.
Eating to fuel your exercise should not be a chore; the food you eat on your bike can be just as wholesome, healthy, delicious and enjoyable as any other food choice you make.
We designed Veloforte bars to supply the energy you need to perform at your best in a bar you'll actually look forward to eating when you are next out on your bike.