CLIF BARs are portable, high energy snacks suitable for people doing physical activity. However, their appealing flavors may lead people who are inactive to select them.
Due to the high sugar and carbohydrate content of the bars, eating them without exercising may result in weight gain.
In this article, we look at the nutrition in CLIF BARs and advise who can eat them and who is best to avoid them. We also suggest alternative healthy snacks that people can eat at home or when out doing exercise.
CLIF markets its bars as energy snacks to keep someone going during hikes, sports, or other outdoor pursuits. The company claims to prioritize organic, plant-based ingredients from sustainable sources, using 70% organic ingredients in their bars and avoiding high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Most of the bars that CLIF offers are vegan, although a few contain whey protein or honey.
The ingredients in a CLIF BAR vary depending on the flavor, but they typically include:
- brown rice syrup
- rolled oats
- soy protein isolate
- cane sugar
- soy flour
- rice flour
- oat fiber
- sunflower oil
- sea salt
The bars also contain vitamins and minerals, such as:
The macronutrients, in grams (g), and calories in three popular flavors of CLIF BAR are as follows:
Macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and protein — are the essential nutrients that the body needs to function and stay healthy. We look at each of these in more detail below.
Carbohydrate and sugar content
CLIF BARs contain an average of 40-45 g of carbohydrate per bar. Therefore, a single CLIF BAR provides about one-third of the 130 g of carbohydrate per day that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend for an adult.
The bars contain sugars in the form of cane sugar and brown rice syrup. The company points out that it does not use high fructose corn syrup, which some research links to obesity and diabetes. However, even natural added sugars contribute to a person’s total added sugar intake.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars to 36 g per day for males and 25 g per day for females. CLIF BARs contain, on average, 20 g of added sugars, which is not far off the limit for females.
Therefore, a person eating a CLIF BAR should try to avoid consuming too many other foods and drinks containing added sugar during the same day. The AHA warns that just one 12-ounce can of soda can contain 32 g of added sugar, which is more than a day’s allowance for females.
A Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF BAR contains 7g of fat, which equates to 63 calories — just over 3% of a person’s daily calories if they eat 2,000 calories per day.
CLIF BARs do not contain any trans fats.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adult females and males eat 46 g and 56 g, respectively, of protein per day. A Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF BAR would, therefore, provide about 20% of a male’s daily protein requirement.
CLIF BARs use soy protein isolate, which some
The company website advises people to eat CLIF BARs before and during physical activity lasting more than 1 hour. For instance, the bars could be suitable to replenish glycogen stores when someone is hiking, cycling, or climbing.
However, they may not be suitable for a snack just before or during high intensity exercise, as they could cause digestive discomfort. A person could eat a CLIF BAR to replenish energy following a high intensity workout of more than an hour, though.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes who have a larger body or engage in high volume or high intensity exercise may not eat enough food to meet their daily calorie needs. For these people, a CLIF BAR may be a convenient way to consume more calories and macronutrients.
CLIF BARs have a high carbohydrate and sugar content that could cause someone to gain weight if they are not exercising regularly.
Some people may choose to eat CLIF BARs as a regular snack or dessert. If they are sedentary, this could take their added sugar intake over the recommended daily limit and increase their risk of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Less active people should choose healthy whole food snacks instead. The following section gives some options.
People with a nut allergy may also wish to avoid some flavors of CLIF BAR. They should check the ingredients lists carefully before trying any of the bars.
Whole food snacks are a healthy alternative to a CLIF BAR. Options that someone could transport easily for hikes or sport include:
- protein balls made from oats, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and a spoonful of pure maple syrup
- a container of carrot and celery sticks with a spoonful of hummus
- home-made trail mix with plain nuts, seeds, and coconut
- a boiled egg and two oatcakes
- a banana or apple
Healthy snacks to eat at home include:
- Greek yogurt with fresh berries or grated apple and plain chopped nuts
- mashed avocado with oatcakes
- a small portion of olives and feta cheese
A CLIF BAR can be a suitable snack for someone who is physically active. The bars may help replenish glycogen during exercise that lasts for at least an hour. Athletes who perform high intensity exercise and find it challenging to eat enough calories may also find CLIF BARs helpful.
However, for people who do less activity or have a sedentary lifestyle, eating CLIF BARs could lead to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes. Anyone trying to manage their weight should choose whole food snacks instead.