clif builder's max bars

When Clif released the Builder’s Bar in a snack size, it wasn’t that exciting – it was nothing more than a smaller version of the same bar. You could eat a whole snack size bar or half a standard bar and it was practically the same.

Not so with their latest variant, the Clif Builder’s MAX. This new bar is much bigger and thicker, and each one packs 30g protein and about 380 calories!

Even though some of the flavors are similar, this bar is noticeably different from the regular Clif Builder’s Bar. It must be a different formula, thus deserving its own review…

MAX Health and Nutrition Inspection

Looking at the wrapper, this is definitely a different formula. The ingredients list is daunting, I didn’t even want to read it! It’s full of big words in a tiny font size!

Ingredients: TriBuild™ Protein Blend (Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Rice Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Starch], Soy Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Casein, Soy Cocoa Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Rice Flour, Organic Alkalized Cocoa, Calcium Carbonate]), Dried Cane Syrup, Coating (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Cocoa, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Cashew Butter, Natural Flavors, Inulin (Chicory Root Extract), Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Chocolate Chips (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Organic Gum Arabic, Soy Lecithin, Sea Salt.

Seeing it in a readable size on my computer screen, it’s not nearly as bad as I initially thought. Once you realize the long words are in the additional “vitamins and minerals” section, it all makes sense. The normal ingredients (listed above) are pretty standard for this type of bar, and quite a few are organic, which is always a nice touch (even if the ingredient is sugar.)

The formula is certainly different, with two huge changes jumping out at me.

First, there are no oats! The Builder’s Bar contains organic rolled oats, one of my favorite ingredients for any bar (or breakfast in general). Apparently there was no room left for oats once they added the extra protein, even though they managed to keep the cane syrup and brown rice syrup in there.

Speaking of extra protein, the TriBuild™ protein blend is much appreciated. Rather than just soy protein, as in the other Clif Builder’s bars, the MAX contains a blend of whey, casein, and soy proteins. It’s good to have three types as each one is absorbed at a different rate.

How many calories?!

As mentioned earlier, this bar is packed with calories – 380 in this chocolate chip cookie dough flavor. The calories are coming from the 30g protein, 40g carbs, and 12g fat. That’s quite a bit of protein, but you still get more carbs than protein. And with 29g sugars, there’s nearly as much sugar as there is protein!

That makes me think of it like a meal replacement bar; I can’t really call it a protein bar or an alternative to a protein shake (where you’d get 25-50g protein and just a few grams of carbs).

All in all, this is no replacement for a healthy meal, but it’s far better than other meal replacement bars that contain absolute garbage ingredients (such as the MET-Rx BIG 100 Colossal Bar I see at every convenience store.)

MAX Taste Test

Being a different style of bar with a whole new formula, the taste is distinct from other Builder’s Bars. Here are my thoughts on the three flavors.

clif builder's max caramel peanut

Caramel Peanut

I was excited for this one because you’ve got chocolate, nougat, and caramel, and it’s topped with peanuts. Snicker’s bar, anyone?

Hoping for a less-sweet Snickers bar, I was left disappointed. It’s not very close if you ask me. It’s really chewy, and the taste is good, just not great. Overall, it seems to lack flavor, especially compared to the other flavor choices. It’s not bland, it’s just not particularly strong.

On top of that (no pun intended,) the peanut chunks will fall off while you eat it. That’s less of a mess than a chocolate coating that melts and/or flakes off, but it’s still not ideal! I wouldn’t buy it again.

clif builder's max mint chocolate chip

Mint Chocolate Chip

This one is really good; it’s similar to the regular size Builder’s Bar in “chocolate mint,” but not exactly the same!

Each bar is composed of separate layers, but the layers in this one actually look different. There’s the nougat, protein chunks in the nougat, chocolate chips in the nougat, the dark mint layer on top, and of course the milk chocolate on the top and bottom.

The taste is pretty strong, but I think there’s so much nougat in the bar, the actual mint flavor gets diluted.

clif builder's max chocolate chip cookie dough

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

At first, this one is absolutely delicious! It’s thick and chewy, and if served chilled, it is a bit like eating a tube of pre-made cookie dough! It’s much less sweet, but still, pretty neat.

You see a couple different textures of nougat-style base in there, with chocolate chips thrown in. There’s chocolate drizzled on top, with a solid chocolate coating on the bottom.

Unfortunately, the flavor started to get old after 2-3 bars, and it doesn’t appeal to me like it used to.

If you’re going to try one, just pick whatever flavor sounds best to you! None of them are so bland they taste like cardboard.*

max with clif builder's max

*That is, unless you start licking the box!

The MAX Experience

One word – filling! This bar is big and it’s very very filling.

I have to be careful because I don’t always feel well after eating one. I learned not to eat one as a pre-race snack! I can usually digest about anything without hassle but these pushed my limits. I especially do NOT suggest them before a run! Talk about a brick sitting in your stomach!

The other thing to watch is the chocolate coating. It’s no fun in the summer time, with the chocolate on the top and bottom. I ended up smearing chocolate over quite a few articles of clothing during the course of this testing (when the weather was routinely 80-95 degrees.)

From a cost perspective, these are cheaper than similar size meal replacement bars at the convenience store ($2.80 each vs ~ $3.89,) but they are much more expensive than mixing up your own protein shake from bulk ingredients.

Yes, they are convenient, but “convenience” is a factor during training and racing, where I’d use Powerbars. With this meal replacement type stuff, I’m less likely to allow convenience to get in the way of “healthy and natural.”

My final verdict is…

These bars taste pretty good and deliver a substantial amount of protein, so I give them the thumbs up for that. They’re really a meal replacement bar at this point though, which is fine, just make sure you realize that going in! I do prefer the regular size Builder’s Bar – for the taste, texture, and “just right” size – and I’ll use those more often. But if I need a meal replacement bar with lots of calories, after a workout session, I’ll look for one of these Clif Builder’s MAX bars.

Official website: www.ClifBar.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com


Product Review Details
Company: Clif Bar
Product: Clif Builder’s MAX Protein Bar
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2017-05-26
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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*Note: It appears the “MAX” variant of the Clif Builder’s Bar has been discontinued.

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