Cycling v. Running Fuelling …Protein Bars: Comparison & Review

cycling vs running fuel

Fuelling during exercise is something I’ve been experimenting more with lately since getting more into cycling. With not being able to run for the past couple of months, I’ve had more time to mess around with cycling. I love cycling – not as much as running, I must confess – but it’s a decent second.

Running delivers a much higher level of satisfaction and physical satiety – for me anyway. But then cycling has its own challenges and the more I cycle, the more I’m drawn into the sport, wanting to delve further and get better.

Fuelling for a run differs from fuelling for a cycle. I AM NOT AN EXPERT by any means but rather I’ve learned by doing and one thing I’ve had a lot of practice at is eating and running. Eating and triathlon, eating and swimming, eating and cycling. Basically eating and sport. The basic principles are the same – eat before to maximise your energise stores, during to replenish diminished energy stores and after to feed your body, refuel and recover from your exertions.

Where these sports differ when it comes to fuelling is about what kinds of fuel you can take, how much you can take on and the timings. I don’t need much before a swim but the last thing you want is to get hungry and energy sapped when you’re 1km out at sea, so it’s important to have something before you head out. Timing is very important however and you should allow at least an hour after eating before swimming. I usually head out early on Saturday mornings for a sea swim and a banana alongside a small granola bar is usually plenty.

If I’m racing in a triathlon, I’ll have a banana and sip on Lucozade sport beforehand and tape another banana to my bike, along with an energy bar and maybe some cut orange segments. I can eat while on the bike, which allows me to have something after the swim, to keep me going on the bike and to set me up for the run. Likewise if it’s just a cycle I’m doing, I’ll carry an energy bar and maybe a banana on the bike and eat at regular intervals.

How is this different to fuelling while running? Essentially, this boils down to how much my body can tolerate and solid v liquid fuel. I have a low tolerance when it comes to taking in solid foods while running. I’m generally better off with Lucozade and energy gels for long runs rather than for example, eating raisins or energy bars. I’m okay with shot blocks and a few jelly babies, but only so much. If I get it wrong, nasty side stitches, stomach cramps and digestive havoc are not shy to make themselves known.

But…on the bike, I’ve found I can more or less eat anything and there’s no issue. No cramps, no stomach discomfort or issues… nada. Both involve diverting blood flow demands away from the digestive system during activity to the working muscles so you would imagine the issues would be the same. Perhaps it’s because the upper body is largely static and not bouncing about, jarring your entire human middle about and rocking vibrations through it every second for 2 or more hours, like a long run does. Just a thought 🙂

The Point of All of This Nattering: I’ve been playing around with new energy bars on the bike. No one needs to know that I actually just love trying new bars and that cycling is just an excuse to eat more of them 😉

Bar 1: Fulfil Peanut and Caramel Vitamin and Protein Bar

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10.3g carbs (1.8g sugar) and 20g protein. I am not a peanut person. Don’t do PB, wouldn’t be tempted by a bowl of peanuts and up until a couple of years ago, would have enthusiastically drop-kicked a Snickers bar into the middle of the Sea of Tranquility. So this fella was a wildcard.

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And glad I went wild too. Way nicer than I was expecting it to be. A nice bit of chew and eating in this and I found it really quite filling. Like a Snickers but not as sweet and less chocolate. But it won me over. I’ve been buying one a week ever since.

Bar 2: Torq Snaq Dark Chocolate and Orange Zest

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I’m an out-and-out chocolate orange nut so generally speaking if something delivers on the chocolate-orange flavour promise, I’m sold. This lad also boasts its status as a “cold pressed”, fairtrade, gluten-free product made from raw ingredients. So very much trying to be part of the in-crowd… 34g carbs (23g sugar) and 3.9g protein. More of an energy bar then than a protein bar.

Good strong orange zest flavour and a nice chewy texture from the raw ingredients. There were also a few sesame seeds in the mix which was unusual, not unpleasant, just not really significant. Wouldn’t have missed them if they weren’t there and might have preferred some form of nut in there instead if you were going to go to trouble of adding something else in just for texture. Just saying. This wouldn’t put me off eating another one, having said that.

HOWEVER, if it’s a raw chocolate orange energy bar that you’re gagging for, the Irish made SMRT Orange Cocoa Bar is nicer. (Clink the link for a review) Better flavour and texture AND only 6 ingredients: dates, nuts, raisins, unsweetened cocoa, nori, orange essence. Can’t argue with that.

Perfect snack food for the bike.

Bar 3: Nutrend DELuxe Orange and Coconut Cake Protein Bar

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This is a newbie on the market and I was particularly excited (yep, I do get excited about these little things…and no I’m not sad, I’m joyous) These bars come in a variety of different flavours including chocolate brownie, panna cotta, cinnamon roll, strawberry cheesecake and the one I tried, orange and coconut cake. Also gluten-free, low sugar and high in fibre. 20g carbs (3g sugar) and 18g protein – so not a high carb bar but quite low in sugar.

The flavour was interesting and actually very nice for a change, as you get sick of the same flavours over and over again. What I didn’t like about this one was the ingredients list, which was full of a whole waft of unpronounceable chemicals and syrups. For that reason, I probably won’t be returning to this product.

Bar 4: Maxi Nutrition Promax Dark Chocolate Mint

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When I’m not eating chocolate orange or just chocolate… I veer towards mint-chocolate. I have a particular soft-spot in my soul for mint-choc chip ice-cream (in case you were wondering 😉 … so I was more than happy to give this one a whirl.

I had no issue with this protein bar. Decent chew and fill factor and flavour was okay. It did the job. But like the Nutrend range, the Maxi Nutrition folks don’t seem to go in for any of your raw, natural, gluten-free malarky. More of a simple mathematical equation of how to produce the most efficient product to deliver lean protein in a nice portable wrapper. 23g protein and 19g carbs (11.5g sugar – 3 times as much as the Nutrend bar). There isn’t as much shit in here as in the Nutrend bar to put me off and the inclusion of caffeine is a definite plus.

Bar 5: Fulfil Cookies and Cream Vitamin and Protein Bar

Okay, this is not cheating by including 2 bars from the same range but rather in the interests of a decent review, I thought it would be only fair to delve a little deeper into the Fulfil range a bit more. That, and I just wanted to try it because it had “cookies and cream” in the title.

20g protein and 11.5g carbs (3.7g sugar). Another low sugar option and like all Fulfil bars, it helpfully delivers 100% of your daily requirements of 9 vitamins. I always appreciate that little effort. Most helpful. Like the peanut flavour one, I liked this bar and it also left me feeling quite full. Like the others, I broke pieces off this as I cycled and ate it a regular intervals. Happy enough.

My only issue with this and all Fulfil bars is again, the list of unpronounceable ingredients and the amount of them. Like the products, like the wrapping and would like to return BUT your current ingredients will make me look elsewhere for alternative products and I will buy them ahead of these every time.

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The protein and energy bar market is rapidly growing and as it does so, I will happily be sampling more edible goods and sticking my reviews up here to read for you guys.

Have a great weekend 🙂

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