Energy Bars vs Gels

Greetings to all,

I have been having questions of how/when to go for bars and gels.
On one side, I like the “food” feeling of having a bar but I prefer by far the energy delivery of gels. Maybe it is because they are easier to time; one every hour and you feel the effects almost immediately.Then I wonder, why go for bars when I am looking to feel good and perform?

With that said,what I would like to clarify (and need your help for) is; why, when and how to go for a bar over a gel and vice-versa.

Also, how to choose one brand over another? There are so many out there and most have organic and vegan options so these criteria are no longer show stoppers.

Thanks to all,

It depends :slight_smile:
On a group ride I tend to go with the bars for the first couple of hours and then switch to gels for the last couple of hours.
Bar and gel brands - it is a try it and see. Try out different ones on the indoor trainer or on shorter rides as you’ll want to see how your body takes to different types and also what you like in flavours, but to not get on with one indoors then out on a long ride.


There are two answers to this:

  1. Which do you tolerate better under high stress? I know folks who cannot tolerate gels at that level and others who cannot tolerate any form of food.
  2. What is the purpose of your ride? If you need energy FAST, gels are the way to go (actually, a high blend drink mix like CarboRocket might be better suited but you didn’t mention this). If you are on a five to six hour endurance ride and you need a slow burn, bars or better yet (and if you can tolerate it) rice cakes with something mixed in.
    Now, if you need to recover from low blood sugar (aka, the Bonk), gels are the preferred way to bring up your blood sugar quickly. Follow that with a bar to sustain.

When I’m out for a long ride at an endurance/low tempo pace I can eat whole foods. Bars, skratchlabs rice crispy squares or bars.

But when I’m under a lot of stress I can’t chew and breath as easily,. Then I switch to gels or Skratch labs superfuel. I prefer superfuel because I can grab a bottle easily, reaching into my jersey and opening a gel can be a challenge in a fast-moving group.


Chewing a bar and heavy breathing at the same time. That really is not fun. I was on a ride once where a photographer caught me eating, open mouthed. Not pleasant :slight_smile:


I have never heard of CarboRocket, actually never seen it here in france. Took a quick look online and it packs power! 82g of carbs per serving!

I take bars and gels together. I eat bars when riding at a lower intensity and gels at a higher tempo. On a long fast 6+ hour endurance ride I usually start by eating bars and then switch to gels later on. All taken alongside a water/energy mix.

As for which brand to choose, I look for the most natural and least processed ingredients and preferably organic. They also have to taste good! I personally like Veloforte as a brand, but they are UK only.

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Just tried TORQ for the first time. The Apple Crumble Gel has a pretty good taste.

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Also recently introduced is Skratch Superfuel. I’m looking for single servings before I commit a lot of funds to it. 86g carbs per bidon.

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The TORQ gels are pretty good, probabaly the only gels that don’t taste like some kind of chemical toilet cleaner!

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I eat Clif bars on the bike for easier rides.

I make my own drink mix, its much, much cheaper than Torq/SiS etc. Studies have shown the body is capable of taking on over 100g carbs/hr.

I find as I have gotten fitter and FTP is higher, taking on carbs during intense sessions is more important as the total calorific deficit is greater at the end of a session. Team Scream for example is a 1060kj workout now so taking on ~300kcal of carbs intra-workout really lowers the RPE and means I don’t feel like I have to empty the fridge after harder sessions.


I go for food first, (bars) and use gels as a get out of jail food, some of the longer tougher suff workouts just need energy fast so gels may have a place

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If you want a smile, I was running marathons when gels first came on the scene.Not having pockets, I pinned a couple of gels to my shorts, they flapped about so I stuffed them inside my shorts. Unfortunately, the gels leaked .It was almost impossible to get my shorts off to shower at the end of the race my dangly bits and shorts had solidified together


Gels are usually all carbs; bars often hav some protein in them. According to my reading about fueling, for any ride of 2 hours or less, carb only drinks/gels are good. But for 3 hours or more, a bar with a little protein - 1 gram of protein for every 7-10 grams of carbs is better than just carbs. Most electrolyte/fuel drinks are all carbs, but there are endurance drinks with protein in them for long rides and ultra runners. When you push your body hard enough for long enough, it will start to break down muscle tissue, so the protein in the bar/drink helps prevent that. Personally, I find Lara bars and Clif bars work well. They are not too gooey, so I can break them into smaller pieces and eat them a little bit at a time. Plus my stomach is happy with them.


@wmalexmann That last statement is REALLY important. The last thing you want to do in the Peloton is heave. The next worst is the break in The Rookie that the rider has to take…(visiting the Loo whilst riding is not a fun event, no matter the consistency).

Trial and error basically is the answer to all those questions.
Some people find they can chew and swallow a bar under high stress, for example when working hard. For most, a gel will be easier but then some find that affects their gut. One big benefit of energy bars I find is that feeling that you’ve had a snack or a treat, whereas a gel often just feels like fuel.
As for which brand, that is very much a case of get samples and use them in training. I’ve found similar profile energy drinks that have affected me quite differently. But once you find a product you like, it’s worth noting that down and using that one regularly.
Also bear in mind that energy drinks have there place too!


Like many folk have already posted here, for 2+ hour outdoor rides I start on bars and towards the end of the ride I start using gels. I also use energy powders in my bottles.
The problem I have with gels is that Somehow I can only get 50% or so out of the tube when I’m fuelling on the bike. No matter how hard I try squeezing from the bottom. I guess I could just stop and make a decent job of squeezing every last drop of gel out of the tube, I tend not to though.
I’m reducing my use of gels and taking on more bars and powdered additives in my bottles instead. This also helps me better gauge how much carbs I’ve consumed.

Yep. Same as many above. Depending on the event and exertion levels, I might start with a banana, a couple of fig newtons (basically same as a bar), then as the pace picks up and I’m more fatigued, gels. Further, in one water bottle I’ll have added ~100 cal of fruit juice and a pinch of salt (or diluted sports drink). The worst, IMO, are those gummy chews. They stick to my teeth and I feel the chunks present a real inhalation hazard.

A minor point, but I usually get Clif gels because I like the captive tear-off tab.


I currently do:

i. Tailwind sports drink mix (3 to 4 scoops in a bottle)
ii. Honeystinger gels, they are devastatingly sweet but i have a sweet tooth, so i like it. My stomach tolerates gels just fine and i like that you can stuff them in so many easily accessible places (like in the leg band of your shorts)
iii. Either blocks (usually honeystinger) or a giant, pre-opened bag of gummy bears. I like that you can just reach in and snack a little at a time

i find if i use bars, i tend to fall behind on fueling, just because of the extra friction of opening, chewing, stowing them, etc.


I cut the tops off the bar wrappers before I set out, and stow them in my jersey pocket for easy access. Saves some of the hassle that way :slight_smile: