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Energy Bars Exposed!

Submitted by j_ung on 2005-03-15 | Last Modified on 2008-04-09

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by J. Young

Most of my friends are sarcastic bastards. I attribute this to the fact that I, myself, can be a sarcastic bastard from time to time and that climbers of a feather flock together. My friends come in handy whenever I need a group to blind taste test a bunch of energy bars, which admittedly, I don’t often need. We also love love love to eat eat eat. “How much do you love to eat?” you (probably don’t) ask. We love to eat so much that if the world were made of food, we could eat you a hole to China. Just imagine the carnage we might inflict on an unsuspecting handful of energy bars.

I enlisted the help of my friends in the middle of a boulder session at Gary and Shanna’s home wall, a converted garage with poor lighting, concrete floors and second-hand mattresses strewn about haphazardly -- all of which helped set the ambience for an evening of fine dining.

The Bars


The official definition of "energy" in the phrase "energy bar," means nothing more than "contains calories." Really. It's true.

So at this point in time I can either spray technical data about carbs, protien and trans-fatty acids, about which I know little to nothing, or I can tell you the truth: I don’t care and I don’t think most of you do either. The sarcastic bastards and I evaluated these bars solely on superficial qualities: smell, texture and taste. If you want more than that, I am truly sorry. Click here, instead. I also limited the products in this review to what I could readily find at the grocery store on the way to Gary and Shanna’s garage. I never claimed that this was a well-executed review!

It's important to note that some energy bar makers have come under fire from organizations such as Consumer Reports for making flase nutritional claims on their packages. If you're a health-conscious energy bar eater, here's a rule of thumb: the more processed a bar looks... Well, let's just say that you should buy bars with real food in them, such as nuts, oats and dried fruit.

I, for one, buy according to taste. In fact, this is really more of taste test than a review, but you've probably already guessed that. I kept it fair by buying only cholcolate-flavored bars. They are as follows:

Bar A: Power Bar Protien Plus – Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Bar B: Balance – Chocolate

Bar C: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge

Bar D: Clif Builder’s – Chocolate

Bar E: Genisoy – Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Bar F: Hershey Smart Zone – Chocolate

Bar G: Atkins Advantage – Chocolate Decadence

From the names alone, it’s easy to tell which bars have the biggest egos, isn’t it? Fresh off the checkout line, I could already see that Genisoy and Atkins have high self opinions.

By the way, I was also going to evaluate the look of each bar, i.e., how closely it resembles a turd. But in truth, none of them really resemble a turd. If your turds actually look like energy bars, you have a problem. Click here.

The Sarcastic Bastards

Gary and Shanna own and operate a contracting business, which has nothing to do with food, but they’re both skinny as rails and have been known to subsist for entire weekends on nothing but gravel and radiator water from the company van. Derek, one of mythical tribe of Western Carolina Climbers, once accompanied me to the New River Gorge with nothing to eat for the weekend but two sweet potatoes and half a Nalgene of two-week-old water. Phil, a member of the Booty Crew, will literally eat anything, as will Steve. Phil's girlfriend, Jessica, whose eating habits are still shrouded in mystery, joined us for the testing. And rounding out the list were Mark, who has been eating on and off his entire life, and his wife, Angie, who is unfortunately allergic to chocolate and could do naught but judge the bars on looks and smell.

So, suffice to say that I had indeed assembled a diverse group of eaters for the review. All for you, users. All for you. Remember, none of the reviewers knew which bars they were eating during the review.

The Review

Bar A: Power Bar Protien Plus – Chocolate Fudge Brownie


Gary: Highly Refined.

Steve: It smells… protieny.

Gary again: Yeah, diety.


Shanna: It’s really chewy.

Steve: And chalky… and rubbery.


Jessica: It’s a tootsie roll!

Phil: It’s a little like Chocolate liquor.

Derek: A hint of Loganberry! (I remind you that Derek is the two-sweet potato guy.)

Steve & Shanna: It tastes chalky, too.

Bar B: Balance – Chocolate


Derek & Steve: Definitely rubbery

Phil & Gary: It just smells… chocolaty.

Gary: In combination with a spark, this whole garage could go up like a match.


Jessica: It’s dry.

Gary: Also Chalky. [i/(Everyone agrees.)


Gary: It definitely tastes more refined than “A”.

Phil & Derek: It has a rubbery aftertaste.

Steve: I like it! Tastes like fudge.

Bar C: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge


Derek: I smell oat bran!

Steve: Coconut, definitely.

(It’s at this point in time that Steve produces a golf ball made of brown goo. He has apparently not been ingesting his samples, and instead hands it to Gary’s dog. “Dude, don’t chocolate the dogs!” yells Gary. “They’ll piss out their asses for the next three days!”)


Phil: It’s crunchier than the others.

Mark: There’s substance to this one.


Gary: Mmm… fudgy.

Jessica: In a word… oaty.

Steve: Definitely coconut.

Bar D: Clif Builder’s – Chocolate


Steve: This thing smells like adhesive.

Phil: Again, rubbery.


Phil: I think it’s crunchier than “C”.

Steve: Ugh, ith thticky.


Jessica & Gary: This one tastes like liquor.

Derek: Remind me not buy Bar D.

Phil: I just farted! Bar A is working!

Steve: Ith thstill thtuck in my teeth!

Bar E: Genisoy – Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Brownie


Shanna: Oh gross!

Steve: It’s like… bad boiled peanuts.

Mark: I don’t want to eat this.


(Texture falls by the wayside for poor Bar E. Everybody is too hung up on its foul taste.)


Phil: Are you nuts?!

Steve: Definitely bad boiled peanuts.

Jessica: It’s like eating toilet paper!

Shanna: Maybe it’s just stale.

(It isn’t just stale.)

Jessica: Wait, it’s getting better.

Steve: It actually has a pretty good aftertaste.

Mark: The aftertaste is the best so far.

Phil: I still wouldn’t buy it. (The group agrees.)

(Interesting… the Genisoy sucks at first, but gradually improves.)

Bar F: Hershey Smart Zone – Chocolate


Phil: Mmm, it smells like a Milky Way.


Jessica: Yet another chalky bar.

Steve: Very dry.


Steve: This tastes like rubbing alcohol!

Gary: Halfway up the Steck-Salathe I’d eat four of these. Under my home wall I don’t want another bite.

Derek: It has a pleasant aftertaste, though.

Bar G: Atkins Advantage – Chocolate Decadence


Steve: Hot Chocolate!

Gary: Yeah yeah, like Swiss Miss.


Steve: It’s a little dry… a little bit waxy, but I’m OK with that.


Gary: Now this is good! I detect a slight hint of Bailey’s (Irish Crème).

Steve: This tastes good all the way. I like this.

The Results

Obviously, most of us don’t eat energy bars on the rock because we crave them. They may be unparalleled when it comes to convenience, but as for the overall eating experience, let’s face it, when you open an energy bar, your goal is sustenance, not enjoyment.

Still, my hat is off to all the aforementioned companies for at least trying to help us enjoy their products. They could have plopped a colorless mass of yeast and bacteria in front of us, but they didn’t. Thanks, y’all!

As for the sarcastic bastards, they have opinions regarding best and worst…


It’s unanimous: Genisoy’s Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Brownie is, bar none, the worst of the lot. “Soy sucks,” says Steve. The irony is that, considering its name, it sounds like the best. “Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Brownie” to me means that no matter how hard I try, I can never top the wholesome brownie goodness of a Genisoy bar. Let’s hear it for marketing.


Jessica: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge

Shanna: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge

Derek: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge

Steve: Atkins Advantage – Chocolate Decadence and Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge

Mark: Power Bar Protien Plus – Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Hershey Smart Zone – Chocolate

Gary: Balance – Chocolate (Huh?! Whatever, dude…)

Phil: Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge and Atkins Advantage – Chocolate Decadence

With five overall votes for best in review, the Clif – Chocolate Almond Fudge walks away with the win. Luckily for the veg-heads among us, it contains no animal products. Luckily for the health conscious among us, it also contains the most real-food ingredients. If you happen upon one of these at the crag, invite it over for lunch. At only a slightly distant second, surprisingly, is the Atkins Advantage – Chocolate Decadence bar. I am shocked, considering that I really only picked it up to screw with my friends. Very interesting… very interesting, indeed…

A Parting Word

I want to be fair to all the bar companies represented here and point out again that this taste test involved only chocolate-flavored bars. Apparently, chocolate is a difficult flavor to get right. I, myself have a deep love of many bars on the market and none of them are exclusively chocolate flavored. A few that I eat over and over again include Balance's Cookie Dough and Caramel Nut Blast and one from a maker that's not represented here at all: Kaschi's Go Lean Cookies and Cream.

I guess it all comes down to what you like in your mouth, not what a bunch of sarcastic bastards like in theirs.


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A king sized snickers bar has over 500 calories, and doesnt taste like it's good for you!

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