Reviewing energy foods is, relative to our editorial mission, a difficult business. Not that it’s hard to review these products; rather, it’s hard to say anything that isn’t obvious to the point of inane. Gels, chews, bars … they all work, more or less. It’s rare that one does something truly different or surprising.
Rare, but not impossible. Which brings us to Clif’s Organic Energy Foods. Note that they call these “food” instead of gel or glop or mush. It’s not an unreasonable monicker. They’ve got good texture, if perhaps reminiscent of toddler food—blended but not to the point of puree. And all four varieties are flavorful without being overly intense.
The packs come in four flavors: Sweet Potato with Sea Salt, Pizza Margherita, Banana Beet with Ginger and Banana Mango with Coconut. Nutrition info goes like this:
Sweet Potato with Sea Salt: 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams fat, Sodium 550 milligrams, 540mg, 21g carbohydrate, 4g protein.
Pizza Margherita: 160 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9g fat, 600mg sodium, 890mg of potassium, 17g carbohydrate, 5g protein.
Banana Beet with Ginger: 110 calories, 5 calories from fat, .5g fat, 90mg sodium, 230mg potassium, 23g carbohydrate, 2g protein.
Banana Mango with Coconut: 100 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5g fat, 65mg sodium, 240mg potassium, 17g carbohydrate, 1g protein.
The Sweet Potato with Sea Salt and the Pizza Margherita are, as you might guess, on the savory side and great for offering sustaining energy on sub-threshold efforts. The fat and protein contents are high enough that many riders might struggle to digest these at race pace.
The Banana Beet with Ginger and Banana Mango with Coconut run sweeter, without being sugary sweet. The calorie count is lower as are the fat and protein counts. Honestly, I could eat the Banana Mango with Coconut all day long, but the variety isn’t bad.
Here’s why I decided to review these: I’ve been using these for several months and they have been impressive at delivering sustained energy on long, hard rides. Of the many lessons I’ve learned in the last two years about on-the-bike nutrition is that the higher the moisture content, the easier the food will go down, the easier it will be to digest, the less water you have to drink to get them down. And those spikes in energy you get with some gels and chews? Not getting those. I didn’t so much mind the sudden onset of energy, but the sharp drop off in energy can make me feel like I’m bonking, and in that regard, I suppose I am if I feel that way.
The higher moisture content (relative to gels and chews) means that these meals in a pouch aren’t all that efficient space-wise. With gels you can get 400-500 calories into a single jersey pocket, and that’s a good bit harder to do with these, which is why I was 5.5 hours into a ride yesterday when I started to bonk. I’d eaten every pouch I’d brought and sucked them inside out. If I could have shoved another in my pockets that morning I would have. On the upside, I did get the chance to purchase the largest peach of my entire life. It was amazing.
If you’re mountain biking and using a hydration pack, you won’t have any problem carrying enough food to get you through an eight-hour day.
That they are organic and kosher doesn’t make them any easier to eat, but I like the level of consideration and thought that goes into Clif products. At $2.50 a pouch, Clif Organic Energy Food pouches are a great value for anyone who isn’t making their own food. And given the free time in my life, I’d rather spend it on the bike, rather than making food for my next ride.