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Tested: CLIF Organic Energy Food

clif organic energy food

Clif Bar keeps expanding into new product lines. Though not what I was expecting, it was only a matter of time before we had CLIF Organic Energy Food. It’s food, in a pouch.

Other sports nutrition companies have already offered energy smoothies akin to baby food. But in this case, it’s adult style baby food. Instead of apples and pears or peas and carrots, we’re talking pizza that you squeeze into your mouth.

Intrigued? Keep reading…

This new line just launched in February 2015 and features both sweet and savory flavors/formulas.

Yes, flavors and formulas! The sweet recipes are mostly carbohydrates, while the savory recipes also include small amounts of protein and fat.

“Team CLIF Bar athletes report that savory flavors help satisfy physiological cravings for electrolytes as well as emotional cravings for salty, comfort food and real food textures on-the-go.”

So this release is in line with the trend of moving towards “real food” during workouts. The problem is, real food takes real time to prepare. But if you don’t mind your real food being “pureed real food in a tube,” Clif Bar has you covered (even if they charge a lot of money for that convenience).

Let’s see exactly what these are made of…

Health and Nutrition Info

What all the recipes have in common is that they are gluten-free and source ingredients that are not genetically engineered. They do NOT contain any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or synthetic preservatives.

Since there are two distinct formulas, each with a different aim, I’ll split this up into two parts – one sweet, one savory.

The Sweet Recipes

These ones actually are like baby food, but with more calories.

[Banana Beet with Ginger] Ingredients: Organic Banana Puree, Organic Beet Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Sea Salt, Organic Ginger.

You see similar ingredients in baby food and other “energy smoothie” type products, such as Powerbar Performance Energy Blends.

Nutrition Facts

Calories 110
Total Fat 0.5g
Total Carbs 23g
Sugars 20g
Protein 2g

It breaks down to a similar composition as an energy gel – high in carbs, low in fat and protein. Aside from having some protein, not a whole lot different than the Clif Shot.

The Savory Recipes

These are the interesting ones!

[Pizza Margherita] Ingredients: Organic Tomato Puree (Water, Organic Tomato Paste), Organic Carrot Puree, Water, Organic Quinoa, Organic Sunflower Seed Butter, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Olive Oil, Yeast Flakes, Sea Salt, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Oregano, Organic Basil, Citric Acid.

Yes, it mostly is real food! Rather than an energy food packet, it looks like an ingredients list for a homemade recipe!

Nutrition Facts

Calories 160
Total Fat 9g
Total Carbs 17g
Sugars 8g
Protein 5g

It contains moderate amounts of everything – a lot like real food does!

And it’s very high in electrolytes:

Sodium 600mg
Potassium 890mg

How? The sea salt. And the tomatoes which, like bananas, are high in potassium.

What’s really neat is that this is gluten-free! Have you ever had a gluten-free pizza? The real thing is expensive! And most aren’t even any good!

clif organic energy food

The sweet vs savory comparison:

There’s not a huge calorie difference – 110 vs 160 calories. I would have expected a big pouch of the savory blends to have at least 200 calories.

The difference lies in the composition of macronutrients. They all resemble real food, but the sweet recipes resemble a fruit smoothie whereas the savory recipes resemble a balanced meal.

Nutritionally speaking, they break down to similar formulas as typical energy bars or gels. But the point is to be similar to real food, so the important points will be how they taste and the enjoyment of consuming them…

CLIF Organic Energy Food Taste Test

Here’s what I thought of each of the four flavors.

Banana Beet with Ginger

The first one I tried! It tasted like banana puree with other “bitey” stuff. So, just as you would imagine from beets and ginger! The banana really stands out, though, like a banana smoothie (or banana baby food).

The bitey flavor up front, I think is the beet. There’s definitely a hint of beet flavor to it. The spicy flavor in the background is probably ginger. There’s very little ginger flavor though. I just taste hints on certain bites. (I’m a huge ginger fan so I’d like more ginger.)

The concoction itself is dark red, so there is a lot of beet color, but it’s mostly banana flavor.

It provides a super smooth texture; nothing like a gel, but very much a liquid.

Banana Mango with Coconut

This one is also packed with banana flavor, but it’s almost exclusively banana flavor. (The other one was perhaps 90% banana flavor, and this one is 99.9% banana flavor!)

It literally tastes like liquefied banana. It looks like it, too. It has that natural banana color where it’s pale yellow and light brown. The flavor is more realistic than banana pudding or a banana energy gel.

Maybe there is a little mango flavor, but barely. Definitely not much. And there’s no coconut flavor at all. You just feel the shreds of coconut, you don’t really taste them.

As for the texture, it’s so soft and liquid, it just slides down your throat. It goes down quicker than a gel!

Trying to chew it is a lost cause. At best, you’ll end up with coconut sitting on your tongue while the rest is already in your stomach.

I’d eat it again but I wouldn’t want to pay for it when I can just eat a banana for way cheaper!

Pizza Margherita

This is what everyone’s looking at, right?!

OK so the first bite/sip was weird. Really weird. It’s chewy. Yeah, this one is thick! You think about it, trying to wrap your head around what this substance is, then after a bit, the potent flavor kicks in!

It’s a very strong flavor, but it hits late and then dissipates quickly. I’m not sure how that happens! I liked it though! Once you get past the presence of a pizza flavor when there’s no actual pizza in sight, it’s pretty tasty.

It does not resemble eating pizza though. (That makes it different from the sweet potato one.)

First, you have to squeeze it out, and that takes a noticeable effort. So it feels like you’re squeezing that last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, but it’s not toothpaste, it’s an extraordinarily thick tomato sauce. Then you chew it up, but it’s like it’s already been chewed! (Anyone remember ABC gum?)

How do I actually describe the flavor? I’m not sure. But I can say, I’d eat this over and over again. No it’s not amazing but it’s pretty darn good for being pizza in a tube!

Sweet Potato with Sea Salt

This one smells and tastes like sweet potato, and the texture is practically the same as homemade mashed sweet potatoes.

It’s a much more realistic experience than the pizza one. It was just as weird though!

I mean, it has this thickness like mashed sweet potato. But there’s not really anything to chew. I can indeed sense the quinoa, and it definitely provides the mouthfeel of food (it doesn’t just slide down like a gel), but I don’t consider that “chewing.”

I love sweet potatoes but didn’t particularly enjoy this. Just a bit too weird for my tastes! It’s like, “I recognize this flavor but this only happens after I chew up sweet potatoes. What’s going on here? Did someone chew my food for me?”

Maybe babies don’t know any better, but I do!

Which is best?

If you like banana, obviously the banana ones are tasty. And they’ll be familiar. So you’ll probably be pleased with them, but not particularly excited.

The pizza one really is the flagship flavor! Yeah, it’s a little weird, but really good. Sweet potato is pretty good, but not as special.

Note: Both savory flavors will probably weird you out the first time. So, try this – save half the packet for the next day* and I bet you’ll like it more. I did.

*Clif Bar advises against this, but I did it and it went fine. Just reseal it and refrigerate it.

clif organic energy food

Texture

What’s up with the texture?

Well, Clif Bar wanted these to have some texture, as that’s a big part of the real food experience. Pureed banana and tomato sauce don’t really offer a texture, so they added in quinoa (in the savory flavors) and shreds of coconut (in the sweet flavors).

So there’s just enough texture that if you have your heart set on chewing this stuff, you can kinda sorta do that. I attempted to chew the stuff, but it barely worked!

It’s so easy to swallow. Try to chew it and it still slides right down your throat! Yes there’s a mouthfeel to it, but you can’t really chew it. That would be an exaggeration.

Note: The banana beet ginger doesn’t contain shredded coconut, nor does it have shredded beet or ginger (that I could find). It’s super smooth and soft.

Do these actually work?

Clif energy food has a lot to live up to. It needs to not only provide energy, but also satiety and happiness. And I must be able to eat and digest them while on the move.

So let’s start with eating on the move. The lid style requires two hands to open (unless you have excellent finger strength and dexterity). You need one hand to hold the pouch and the other to twist the cap off. It’s not like a gel packet where you can use your teeth. If you’re on your bike, hopefully you can ride no hands.

With the design of the pouch, you can sort of suck the stuff out. But since it’s thicker than a gel, you need to both suck and squeeze to get it all out. Which, again, requires two hands.

Speaking of the design, the pouch (even if flattened) is much wider than a regular energy gel would be. So not only are they rather large to begin with, but the empty packets are still pretty big. That’s something to keep in mind if space is at a premium.

As far as satiety goes, I’d say yes, the savory ones did help satisfy my hunger temporarily. So they’re definitely at least a little satiating. And there’s quite a bit in the tube!

The sweet ones didn’t seem to do much more than a typical energy gel would. They just gave me a sugar rush!

I’ve carried real food before.

There’s a lot of real food you can make that’s easily transportable: homemade rice cakes, baked potatoes, sweet potato fries, etc.

All that stuff is delicious and cheap. But… it requires lots of prep work, you have to package it properly, and it needs used when fresh.

So it’s a hassle if you’re busy. The same hassle encountered by Clif Bar athletes:

“For years I had been wrapping vegan pizza to take on the trail during long runs, but I don’t always have the time to make it at home or access to a kitchen when I’m travelling,” said Scott Jurek, seven-time Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run champion. “Having CLIF Organic Energy Food in convenient packaging means it’s easier to take performance nutrition with home-cooked taste everywhere I go.”

That’s what Clif Organic Energy Food is all about.

These packs cut down on the prep work and packaging. And you can toss them in your bag or gear stash – it’s perfectly acceptable to leave them un-refrigerated in your backpack all week.

The shelf life is a little shorter than typical gels, but still plenty long. The “best by” date should be about one year away (mine from February 2015 were “best by Jan 2016”). I’m not sure they’d last long enough to be stocked in your bomb shelter or featured on Doomsday Preppers, but they’ll last the season.

Can’t be bothered preparing your own food? Expect a premium price point.

The sweet flavors (90g) are $2.29 each and the larger (120g) savory flavors are $2.99 each.

The sweet flavors are meant for shorter workouts; they’re really just an alternative to energy gels. I’d much rather get a $1 gel.

The savory flavors, for what they are, are priced in line with other fancy, organic bars. It’s the savory flavors that are more interesting, and intended for your long distance events (sort of like Roctane, albeit a very different recipe).

This just inspires me to make my own energy foods.

Other than the novelty of the pizza in a tube, this stuff reaffirms that making your own food is the way to go!

Pull up Allen Lim’s cookbook, Feed Zone Portables, and get to work!

That book takes the mystery out of preparing your own portable food.

clif athlete series organic energy food

My final verdict is…

If you like gels and don’t understand why anyone would want this stuff, you might want to skip it altogether! But if you have some interest in eating savory, satiating foods during workouts, try it (twice). It will be weird at first, but the second time, you might like it and appreciate it!

Or use it to inspire your own creativity in the kitchen!

Official website: www.ClifBar.com

Product Review Details
Company: Clif Bar
Product: CLIF Organic Energy Food
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-05-02
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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