If you pay attention to your Facebook or Twitter feed, you undoubtedly see all kinds of add and posts about the need for high levels of protein in your diet. Whether you’re a weekend 5ker, Ironman, cross fitter or obstacle course racer, every fitness related food maker and their dog are racing to get their latest and greatest protein products in your hands.
If you’re at all interested in eating better to go along with all those hours you swim, bike and run, then you have probably realized the importance of eating the right combination of fats, carbs and protein. It’s not just about the protein. It’s a delicate dance of factors from desired weight to expected race performance. If you’re not fueling the engine right with more than just protein, it doesn’t matter how many hours you train to reach your goals.
No doubt you also like to enjoy your snacks rather than just get the essential nutrition out of them, unless you’ve really bought into paleo and want to eat like a caveman. What can make the task of proper fueling even more difficult is the specter of the average triathlete being on the go with work, family and friends. Not everyone has easy access to a kitchen with whole food ingredients at their fingertips for every meal. Most need a convenient meal on the go that won’t make a mess that they can jam in their face between meetings in the morning or afternoon.
CLIF bar was gracious enough to send a sample of for a review as an alternative for easy access to good fuel with a handsome dose of protein.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing
When you hear the name, “Builder’s Bar”, I immediately think of that body builder dude pumping iron at the gym, screaming at the top of his lungs for that last set of 300 pound bench presses. So yes, the bar might be geared for muscle heads looking for protein substitute instead of raw meat, but for triathletes spending some hard time working out at high intensity levels, they need that protein as well to repair and feed muscles. When you see the bars, they are packaged in a powerful wrapper that’s bold and attention grabbing, like the name. Who doesn’t like something shiny to unwrap? It’s also convenient to throw in a gym bag or the glovebox (careful as they will melt on hot days) and not lose track of. The package won’t tear or snag as it’s sturdy construction.
When you open the Builder’s Bar, the majority are chocolate flavors, so they appear similar to your standard candy bar with a chocolate coating and a crunchy bottom layer. For those that like the crunchy candy bars, it won’t be far off. They are not the other protein bars that are solid and chewy that sometimes can get gritty as you break them down to be able to swallow.
The Builder’s Bars weigh in at 270 calories or so per bar. Of that, 9 grams is fat, 29 grams is carbs and 20 grams is protein if you are keeping count at home. So, don’t just add the Builder’s Bar into your daily diet without planning. It’s almost half a decent sized meal to begin with. It has a good protein to carb ratio, but it will steal some calories from your daily meal planning. That may almost be more than most candy bars calorie wise, but you will get around 40 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein from a candy bar which is hardly the proper nutrition for an athlete or fitness minded person.
An important item of note is that the bars have zero grams trans fat and does not contain partially-hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. In today’s ever over engineered food work where taste and profit are king, some are still finding ways to deliver good food without all the crap.
Fit / Function
Yes, they have a good chunk of protein, but do they deliver on taste and fill you up / fuel you up / help you recover like you would anticipate?
With protein bars, taste and texture are the big hangups. Everyone wants the benefits of the protein, but not everyone appreciates the method of delivery. While Builder’s Bars aren’t going to be as tasty as a Snickers bar, they are much better than some chewy protein bars on the market that get all grainy after chewing on each bite for 5 minutes to break it down enough to swallow. They taste like the flavor printed on the package and have a nice crisp texture that doesn’t require jaws of steel. The real issue is limiting yourself to one bar and not using them as a go-to snack substitute or dessert item.
They do fill you up for the short term, which makes them a great snack item between meals. Used before a cardio workout or after a strength workout, they can be key meals to keep your body fueled and reduce injuries from undernourished muscles. We would not recommend the Builder’s Bars as a meal substitute unless you are in a bind. They just won’t fill you up for hours on end.
They have 9 flavors currently to choose from, so if chocolate isn’t your thing, you have options. They are great for throwing in your gym bag for a pre or post workout snack and they even stay in one piece in bags being thrown into your car or jammed in a gym locker. They only drawback will be on hot days, they will melt and make a mess. Best is to not leave them sitting in your car during the summer.
You could spend $1 for a snickers, or $1.50 (online) for a Builder’s Bar. At the convenience store, you might pay a little more if you’re in a pinch, but plan ahead and you should be ok. That’s one catch with Builder’s Bars, they aren’t cheap, but they can be less expensive than other protein bar alternatives. Some can go from $2 to $2.50 a bar online, and even more in the brick and mortar stores.
You do get what you pay for. You may end up spending more for a Builder’s Bar than a candy bar, but you’ll get higher quality nutrition and not a crap sugar load.
You know you have a winner when you review a product and you end up buying it outside of the review with your own money. I have since stocked up on Builder’s Bars to be proactive and get them at a reasonable price instead of convenience store prices. One a day will do it, as they do consume a large chunk of calories, but when you need 170 grams of protein a day, and you don’t want to get it all through egg whites and tuna fish, the Builder’s Bar is a good alternative. You just need to be careful about trading it out for other foods in your meal planning and not adding it on and expecting to lose weight.
Writer’s Note – Clif sent us samples for this review and in no way influenced the review.
Ryan Falkenrath is devoted family man balancing faith, family, Triathlon Coaching and racing. He is a certified USAT Level 1 Triathlon coach (www.SetThePaceTriathlon.com) and has formally raced endurance events since 2001 from 5k’s to Ironman distance races.
Ryan is racing Ironman Chattanooga in 2014 to raise funds for Ride to Give and Mended Little Hearts. You can follow his adventure on Facebook at Tri for a Hand Up, give to his Fundrazr campaign (), read more of his writing at Endurance Sports Examiner follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan or email him at [email protected]