Clif Products Review

Disclaimer: I am NOT sponsored by Clif products, but I was sent these for free…after I wrote to their company and gave them feedback on the problems I had with their Clif Shot Gels. I don’t know if they appreciated my feedback or wanted to make amends or what, but I received this package of goodies and I promised them I would respond with my experience using them. So here goes.

The goods I was given to try.

First off, let me give you my history with Clif Products. When I went vegan back in ’94 (16+ years ago if you don’t want to do the math), things were MUCH different as far as vegan alternatives/options go. We geeked out over Soft Batch Cookies (no longer vegan), Twizzlers and kinds of other terrible junk foods that just happened to be vegan. There was basically 1 brand of soymilk (Edensoy…which didn’t taste so good) and not a lot of other vegan food options, so you can imagine how stoked we were to come across Clif Bars at our local health food store when they started carrying them. To us, these were candy bars. I was physically active at the time, but only through bike commuting and skateboarding, so I wasn’t eating these for their nutritional quality or energy giving properties. No, I was eating these because they were the closest thing in the market to a vegan candy bar. Hey, I could have done worse.

I was always stoked to see Clif Bar grow more and more and continue to expand their flavors and product lines, because no matter that I ate these for their sweet convenience alone, they were awesome snacks. Imagine my excitement when they even expanded into gas stations, supplying me and my friends with a legitimate option for vegan road trip food. Anyways, I continued on with the brand as I became more and more active because the products themselves are not only vegan, but also come out on top of every energy bar test I’ve come across. They are ethically sound, nutritionally superior and taste frickin great. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked to get a package to test….and let’s just get to that shall we?

Clif Shots

I was given the Lemon-lime Shot and the Chocolate Cherry +caffeine Turbo Shot. If you read my Great Goo Review a few posts back, you’ll know all about my thoughts on these offerings, so I won’t go too deep into them again. Basically, I think the packaging is too big and too stiff, which tends to cut the corners of my mouth as I try to suck out the precious sugary mess during my runs. I also think the goo is too thick for my liking. When I’m doing 3 or 4 hour runs, need energy IMMEDIATELY and frankly, have had more sugary energy gels than I care to admit already, the last thing I want is a thick lingering mess in my mouth. I want it in and down as quick as possible. Hmm…this sounds kinda dirty. Anyways, I just can’t see myself using Clif Shots in a race scenario due to these shortcomings. They may taste great compared to the other gels and have natural ingredients that are mostly organic, but when it comes to performance, Clif really needs to make some adjustments if they want to sit on the top of the energy gel pile. Hey Clif, I’d be glad to work with you on this.

Shot Bloks

When I wrote to Clif Products and told them about my problems with the Clif Shots, they suggested I try the Shot Bloks. At first I was adamantly resistant to the idea, because as the reasons I stated above, the last thing I want is a chewy gooey mess in my mouth as I try to suck in desperately needed oxygen during my strenuous runs. If I’m redlining it and have no option to back off, just the thought of putting something in my mouth to chew becomes downright dangerous. Surprisingly though, when I’ve been doing my 4 hour training runs, the Bloks tend to work pretty decently. Sure, I have to push 3 of them into the corner of my mouth like a chipmunk preparing for hibernation, but they actually chew up pretty easily and don’t impede my breathing too much if I take them in on a flat section of the trail. I’ve also noticed they stave off the mild hunger I start to experience on longer runs, where the gels tend to go down too quick, the Bloks take a little longer going down and leave me feeling a little less empty than the gels do. Now, if you do plan to take these on a run, I would suggest cutting the tops off the packaging. The Bloks are stuffed in tight enough that they won’t pop out and squeezing them into your mouth will be that much easier. I know of a mountain biker who takes them out of the package completely and sticks then under the lip of his cycling shorts for easy access. Yeah, that sounds pretty gross to me too and certainly wouldn’t work for runners for obvious reasons, but it’s an idea. The greatest drawback to Bloks are their size, of course. Unless you are carrying a waist pack, camelback or something else, they won’t work to well for you. Maybe Clif should start offering them as a smaller 3 pack?

Clif Bars

These are the hands down best product Clif offers out of their entire line. Granted, they aren’t for taking while on the run (though I did try it towards the end of one of my runs this weekend…with unpleasant results), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a necessary complement to your performance. Clif Bars are dense chunks of great tasting nutritional awesomeness that offer the prescribed 4:1 carb to protein ratio (40+ carbs to 10g protein) in each bar. These are great for both pre or post workout fueling. They are made with natural ingredients and packed full of nutrients to aid in recovery and energy delivery. On a side note, I’ve found that Clif Bars are great snacks during the day if you don’t want to eat too heavy leading into a run. Despite their playing card size, they tend to fill me up sufficiently and stave off hunger for quite some time, helping me go into a workout fueled, but feeling light. I could go on and on about each flavor I was supplied with, but let me just say that Carrot Cake has been my long time favorite, although Black Cherry Almond is an amazing complement with a cup of coffee, and the brand new Coconut Chocolate Chip is also outstanding. You just really can’t go wrong with any of their flavors.

Clif has an even more extensive line of products, most vegan, some not, but they are all of high-quality and always geared toward active lifestyles. I’m stoked Clif Products continued to grow from their small start and give us vegans an awesome array of foods we can trust to be healthy and ethically produced (save the few non-vegan offerings). I would find it weird if you have never tried anything they make, but if you haven’t, don’t pass it up next time.

I feel so special! Any other companies want my supremely expert and unbiased review of your products....send them my way!!!

P.S. – I’m really not getting anything else from Clif Products (that I know of) and am not trying to sell you on anything. These are just thoughts on my experience using their products, both good and bad. Take them for what you will, but just know I’m not snake oiling you here.


21 responses to “Clif Products Review

  1. Good post. I’m a Clif fiend, using bars mostly for pre fueling and minis sometimes during a workout. I find they work great and are a nice alternative to gels. Builder bars are good for me after the workout. Might have to try the shots sometime.

    • Oh man, I wish they would have sent me the Builder Bars. I love those things. I make it a point to get 1 or 2 of those after an extra hard workout…for the protein content. I like how the Clif Bar packaging once said, “Do not eat in replacement of a meal”. Yeah, whatever. 🙂

  2. I like the bloks too, but agree about the packaging/size. Too awkard for running or cycling. They taste great though.

    Clif bars are the saviors of vegans everywhere! I ‘eat ’em like candy too.

    • The Bloks grew on me, but I think they are more suited to cycling than running. Having Clif Bars at the CVS across the street from my work has saved me from some miserable, starving days. They are no raspberry twinkies mind you, but I suppose they’ll do. 😉

  3. I’m always so skeptical of any ‘bar in a packet’….but sounds like they might be worth a go 🙂

  4. I use the Bloks for running (and I tend to cut the end of the pack as you suggest) and I quite like them. The one caveat is that you really want to have a drink after chewing one of those, so unless you’re carrying something with you, you have to time it right — in a race for instance. My pick at the moment is the Black Cherry one, which has a nice caffeine boost as well.

    • Yeah, you MUST take water with the Bloks, unless you have either grown gills or developed a way to breath through your eyeballs. I also really like the Black Cherry Bloks, though I thought I wouldn’t at all.

  5. Wow, your opinions and experience with their products mirror mine completely! Thanks so much for contacting them. I would like to do the same by sending the link to this blog entry, and stating that I strongly agree. I think the more feedback they have from endurance runners, the better.

  6. Am quite a fan of the bloks, am taking them (probably strawberry, nerdy) on my first triathlon in a few weeks and am hoping they help me do okay! I do find the sweetness of the aftertaste a bit overwhelming though.

    Your blog/training is so dope, all the best.

    • I think the Bloks should work well for you as long as you aren’t maxed out on your breathing when trying to take them. And I agree, the after taste is quite sweet, but not bad when taken with water. Good luck on your race!

  7. I really love their shots on my long runs (3-4 hours as of late), the other brands seem too runny/messy for my liking. Did you happen to pick the bars up at WalMart when they were $4 for a box of 5 recently? Oh man, the checkout lady thought I was nuts, I had 1/2 a cart full of bars 🙂 Plus my kids love them too and I don’t feel *too* guilty letting them snack on a Clif bar.

    • I’m surprised you like the thickness, but glad they work for you! I didn’t pick mine up at Wal-mart (I never shop there), but did notice that Target had some deals awhile back (didn’t even know they carried them!). I usually buy mine by the singles, but we’ve been talking about picking up the cases through the Performance Bicycle deals. I’d say the bars aren’t too bad for kids, but we tend to give our son the kids version.

  8. I completely agree about the bars for post-race and… hmm… whenever hungry. 🙂 Carrot cake is AMAZING… how they made it taste that close to the real thing is beyond me. Tastes better than most “vegan” carrot cakes, actually.

    As for training though, the Clif Bloks only real work for biking in my case (as do Luna bars), but not running. I like the extra salt margherita ones. I’m not a fan of the Clif Shots for the reason you mentioned: too gooey. I only do Hammer or GU gels–and only in vanilla.

    • My wife loooooves the marghertia Bloks and buys up the case whenever she can find them…they are rare around us for some reason. They are also nice because they have twice the sodium than all the other Bloks, which aids in preventing cramping.

      Have you ever tried the Powergels? The flavor is a little State Fair Cotton Candy-esque, but they are so thin and go down quick.

  9. Clif Bars are a little over-sweet for my palate, unless it’s inter/pre workout. If I don’t feel like my usual pre-race oatmeal, however, the carrot cake flavor is a good option that’s certainly lower volume. For general snacking, however, I prefer Larabars. I try desperately not to fall in to the “all processed food is evil” camp, but there’s something to be said for food that’s just food.

    • I do really enjoy Lara Bars and make it a point to buy either those or Raw Revolution bars for my stepson if we are out and need a snack, but I prefer the Clif Bars for their nutritional content as they are higher in both carbs and protein, which I need a good deal of during training….which is always. 🙂

  10. I was a big fan of the Clif Gels and Clif Shot Bloks, yet I must admit that I now choose Gu Gels and Chompers when in need.

    In regard to Clif bars, I remembered reading this article which was very alarming regarding the soy “organic” ingredients of Clif bars.

    I would be very interested to hear from them whether this information is true or not.

    • CB, I just can’t handle the thickness of Gu’s. I really like the size and find them sufficient for fueling nutrition, but the thickness is just tooo much.

      That article is interesting…I’ve never come across that. Thanks for the link.

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