Epic Beef Habanero Cherry Protein Bar

in Running, Fuel

Taste test: Protein bars and snacks for runners

Protein bars and snacks

Sweetwood Cattle Co.’s Fatty meat stick, two Bonk Breakers, an Epic beef bar and a Thunderbird energy bar. Burp.

Protein can be the step-child in discussions about what runners should eat while training. It’s there, but no one’s that focused on it (until someone says “chocolate milk”).

Protein’s best function is after a long run, for recovery. But I have to say: These new 14, 15, 18 mile runs lately have me positively craving protein about three-quarters of the way in, something fierce. When I satisfy the craving, my body responds with such gratitude, I can almost feel it crying. The Luke’s Locker ladies at the register say I must be craving salt and fat.

I picked up a selection of protein snacks and bars to try out. I haven’t tested them on the road yet — and you might want to keep protein as a post-run thing — but this is how they taste and feel.

Epic Bar

Beef Habanero + Cherry

Epic Beef Habanero Cherry Protein Bar

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Taste: Like salted flesh
Texture: Like shredded, salted flesh, compacted back together into a mini-loaf shape of smashed flesh.
Notes: The texture was soft and almost powdery in my mouth.  That probably makes it more digestible on the go, but I expected more of a traditional beef jerky feel. I wanted to like this because Epic seems like such an environmentally conscious and animal-friendly company (as animal-friendly as you can be while still planning to kill and eat them). I could only get through two bites, so I never encountered a habanero or cherry taste. Just pulverized beef flesh.

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 bar
Calories: 190
Fat: 11 g (2 g saturated)
Protein: 13 g
Carbs: 10 g
Sugars: 9 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 240 mgs
Ingredients: Organic beef, walnuts, dried cherries, lactic acid (not from dairy), salt, celery powder, fine black pepper, crushed habanero

Sweetwood Cattle Co. Fatty

stick1Original Flavored Hickory Smoked Meat Stick

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Taste: Like smoked sausage
Texture: Juicy and even. Still kind of a sausage feel, but it’s more even than the mystery ratatouille of meats you detect on that first snappy bite of most sausage or meat sticks.
Notes: Oh my gosh, I could eat this just for no reason at all. This is quality stuff, as far as meat sticks go, and it’s super tasty and juicy. It’s kind of long, so I’m not sure how I would stash-and-carry on a run. I would probably stash it in my FlipBelt, and just let it conform to she shape of my body. It’s bendy.

Nutrition
Serving size: 2
Calories: 140
Fat: 11 g (4 g saturated)
Protein: 9 g
Carbs: 1 g
Sugars: 1 g
Fiber: –
Sodium: 700 g
Ingredients: Really want to know? Actually it’s not that bad: Pork, beef, water, sea salt, dextrose, sugar, pepper, celery juice powder, garlic powder, encapsulated citric acid, in collagen casing.

Bonk Breaker Energy Bar

Peanut Butter & Jelly

Bonk Breaker Energy Bar for protein

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Taste: Like some serious PB&J action
Texture: Somewhere between a muffin and a soft cookie
Notes: This is crazy-tasty. I really felt like I was eating a square baked good instead of an energy bar. These Bonk Breakers are kind of big, though. I’d like to try it on a run, but it’s definitely not going to fit in my current carrying situation.

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 bar
Calories: 260
Fat: 10 g (saturated 1.5 g)
Protein: 8 g
Carbs: 36 g
Sugars: 17 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 130 g
Ingredients: Brown rice syrup, peanuts, gluten-free oats, honey, strawberry jam [sugar, water, strawberry puree, glucose syrup, citric acid, pectin, natural flavor, natural red radish pigment (for color)], rice flour, rice protein, rice crisps (rice flour, sugar, salt, calcium carbonate), flaxseed meal, sea salt.

Bonk Breaker Protein Bar

Peanut Butter & Jelly

Bonk Breaker Protein Bar

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Taste: Again — It didn’t disappoint on the PB&J front
Texture: Surprisingly, not much different from its Energy cousin
Notes: When a bar touts “protein” on the front, I immediately lower my expectations on taste. I tell myself, “It’s got a job to do. Just let it do its job.” While there was a slight texture difference, only a tad. It tasted and felt really good.

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 bar
Calories: 245
Fat: 9 g (saturated 1 g)
Carbs: 25 g
Sugars: 16 g
Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 15 g
Sodium: 170 g
Ingredients: B-Breaker TM (rice nectar, natural crunchy peanut butter [peanuts, salt], honey), gluten free organic oats, non-gmo brown rice protein isolate, strawberry jam (strawberries, fruit pectin, cane sugar), flaxseed meal, rice crisps (rice flour, rice nectar, salt), sea salt

Thunderbird Energetica

Hyper Hawaiian Crunch

Thunderbird Energetica for protein

Inside Thunderbird Energetica for protein

Fruity-tart goodness

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Taste: I could shove the whole thing into my mouth in one bite.
Texture: Chewy and a little sticky
Notes: I know, I know. What is this doing in a roundup of protein solutions? I wanted a wide variety of protein levels, so this one has the lowest amount. It’s probably the most balanced bar on this list: plenty of carbs/sugar and some salt, with a touch of protein. And MAN is it tasty! Tart and sweet.

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 bar
Calories: 145
Fat: 0 g
Protein: 2.5 g
Carbs: 30 g
Sugars: 22 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 125 g
Ingredients: Organic prunes, organic buckwheat groats, papaya, organic raisins, organic mango, pineapple, Hawaiian black lava salt

Accel Gel
Accel gel with protein

Citrus Orange

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Taste: I’d prefer if it was a little more mild. Very orangey.
Texture: It’s a gel, with about the same thickness of other, mainstream gels.
Notes: Bingo! This is not an protein bar! You guessed it. But it’s my first energy gel with protein, and I’ve been very pleased with it. I can feel the protein hitting me mere minutes after taking it. It’s not going to solve my monster protein/fat/salt craving, but it’s been a great late-run addition for me.

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 packet
Calories: 100
Fat: 0 g
Protein: 5 g
Carbs: 20 g
Sugars: 13 g
Fiber: –
Sodium: 110 g
Ingredients: Water, fructose, sucrose, whey protein isolate and hydrolysate, maltodextrin, glycerin, natural flavors, citric acid, malic acid, salt, ascorbic acid, vitamin E acetate, vegetable color, soy lecithin