Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Review: Clif Builders vs. PowerBar Protein Plus

This year, protein has become a big part of my recovery after long runs or any other hard workout. I find that if I have a protein bar or shake immediately after I get back from my run, I feel a huge difference in my legs the next day. The Running Times has a great article (see it here) on protein which also has a formula for calculating how much carbs and protein you need post-run.

Most of the time I don't really feel like eating right after my run, so I've tried a few different products to see which I can get down quickly AND don't bother my stomach too much. Nowadays I alternate between bars and shakes for variety, but today I'm reviewing two protein bars:

  • PowerBar Protein Plus in Cappuccino Caramel Crisp
  • Clif Builders Bar in Chocolate

PowerBar Protein Plus
PowerBar boasts proteins from 3 difference sources: whey, milk and soy. The bar is covered in chocolate, and most of it is a soft, nougat like-layer. There is a crispy layer on top but it's very light--almost like a very thin layer of Rice Krispies with a little bit of caramel.

The bar has a light coffee flavor but as expected, it's nothing like a real cappuccino. But the taste isn't bad, and the soft texture of the bar makes it easy to eat. I didn't have a problem scarfing one down, and no issues with my stomach after eating it.

Clif Builders
Clif is known for making all-natural, great tasting bars so I was really looking forward to trying out the Builders Bar. As it states on their website, "CLIF Builder’s are free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives..." The bar also has 23 vitamins and minerals.

The Builders bar is covered in chocolate, and inside you can see two distinct layers: 1) a softer, more nougat or peanut butter-like layer on top, and 2) a crispy layer on the bottom.

The bar isn't very soft so you definitely have to give it a good bite to break into it. As expected the Builders bar is very tasty with a natural chocolate flavor (ie nothing tasted artificial). The crispy bottom is much like a hard granola bar. For me, the bar was actually quite stodgy and this made it difficult for me to eat. While I really liked the taste, I felt like it took me ages to the finish the bar--not ideal when you're trying to get protein in your system as quickly as possible. I had no stomach issues after eating it but it did make me feel quite full.

So what's the verdict?

While both protein bars were tasty enough, caused no stomach issues AND helped with recovery the next day....PowerBar Protein Plus WINS! While I could argue that the Clif Bar was tastier, the PowerBar was so much easier for me to eat. I'm a slow eater anyway, and I found trying to eat the Clif Bar just too tedious.

Below is a chart that helps to compare the two bars (please note that this information is based on a quick internet search):

If you don't mind a heavier bar (this is likely due to the rolled oats) or you need more protein than the PowerBar, Clif Builders could be an option for you. The PowerBar has more than enough protein for someone of my size.

It's worth mentioning that neither of these bars have the recommend carb-to-protein ratio (4:1) for recovery. While the protein is probably enough for most people, the amount of carbs is too low. PowerBar has a Protein Plus Energy and Protein bar which has a higher ratio--this is next on my list to try. It will be interesting to see if the increased carbs actually makes a difference!

Do you use a product that has the ideal carb-to-protein ratio? Either way, please share your favorite aids because I love hearing what works for other runners!

Here's to a great recovery!

To get an idea of how much protein you need, here is the formula from The Running Times article:


  1. Interesting, thanks for that! I'm more interested to know that you find protein bars aid recovery - I used to use For Goodness Shakes but apart from giving me bad wind, I found they had little or no discernible effect!

  2. @JovialGnome

    Funny...I've tried FGS once after getting a free sample, and I didn't feel very well afterwards! I took a quick look at the nutritional info and FGS only has 3.3g of protein. That's not very much so it might be why you didn't feel a benefit.

    I've pasted in the formula from The Running Times above so you can get an idea of how much protein you would need.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I think protein has helped me too. I like to have chocolate milk w/yogurt & grapenuts after a run but if I'm not home, I use these:


  4. @Lisa

    Thanks for sharing that, Lisa. Not sure why I never tried the PowerBar that clearly says 'recovery' on it! Seems to have the right ratio of carbs-to-protein, too! Will definitely give it a try!