CLIF BARs are high-energy snacks suitable for people doing physical activity. However, due to their high sugar and carbohydrate content, eating them without exercising may result in weight gain.

This article looks at the nutrition in CLIF BARs and discusses who can eat them and who is best to avoid them. It also suggests alternative snacks that people can eat at home or while exercising.

A quick look at CLIF BARs

CLIF markets its bars as energy snacks for use 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

Some flavors of CLIF BAR also contain vitamins and minerals, such as:

The macronutrients, in grams (g), and calories in five popular CLIF BAR products are as follows:

Macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and protein — are the essential nutrients 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 carbohydrates per day that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend as a minimum for adults.

The bars contain sugars in the form of cane sugar and cane, tapioca syrup, or brown rice syrup. The company points out that it does not use high fructose corn syrup, 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 daily 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.

Eating too much added sugar puts people at risk of various health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Learn more about the risks of eating too much added sugar.

Fat content

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that for adults ages 19 and over, 20–35% of daily calories should come from fat. The guidelines also recommend less than 10% of these calories should come from saturated fats.

One CLIF BAR contains an average of 1–2 g of saturated fat, which is less than 1% of a person’s daily calories on a diet of 2,000 calories per day.

CLIF BARs do not contain any trans fats.

Protein content

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that as a minimum, adult females and males eat 46 g and 56 g, respectively, of protein per day. Therefore, a Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF BAR would provide about 20% of a male’s daily protein requirement.

Learn more about how much protein a person needs.

CLIF BARs use soy protein isolate, which some research suggests is beneficial for regulating weight, synthesizing muscle protein, and supporting weight and bone health changes in menopause.

However, other research indicates that soy protein may cause allergic reactions in some people, and the FDA lists soy as one of the eight most common allergens.

Learn more about which foods are high in protein.

People who are going to engage in high intensity exercise can consider eating CLIF BARs before, during, or after their workout to get energy to the muscles and replenish glycogen stores.

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 relatively high carbohydrate and added sugar content compared to other snacks. They may exceed the daily nutrition targets of people who do not exercise regularly, which could lead to weight gain if eaten regularly.

Some people may choose to eat CLIF BARs as a regular snack or dessert. 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.

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.

The company website advises people to eat CLIF BARs before and during physical activity that lasts over 1 hour. For instance, the bars could be suitable for replenishing glycogen stores while hiking, cycling, or climbing.

The authors of a small 2021 study created high protein bars using whey and soy protein isolate to act as a meal replacement for eight caucasian athletes. They found that consuming a high protein bar after a workout reduced oxidative stress and helped the athletes recover from exercise-induced muscle damage.

In the study, the authors viewed the effects of both whey protein and soy protein. As CLIF BARs use soy protein, they may be a beneficial snack post-workout.

Another recent study compared the effects of eating carbs or protein before a cycling workout with exercising after an overnight fast. The results suggested that consuming protein before exercise could help to promote energy balance while keeping the body in a state of fat oxidation — or fat burning — during exercise.

The authors concluded that either an overnight fast or eating protein before exercise can increase fat burning during shorter high intensity workouts.

This suggests that CLIF BARs may benefit people looking to exercise to burn fat.

Learn more about the best foods to burn fat.

A person should check the protein, carb, and sugar content of their chosen CLIF BAR to make sure that it will not take them over the recommended allowances and aligns with any diet they are following.

People with allergies should carefully check the ingredients in a CLIF BAR as they may contain nuts and soy.

Further to this, while the majority of the CLIF BARs are suitable for vegans, certain products contain dairy.

There are various types of CLIF BARs.

Best for all physical activity: CLIF BAR

This is the original bar that CLIF claims is an ultimate energy bar suitable for any physical activity. It contains sustainable and nutritious ingredients such as organic rolled oats.

Some flavors include:

CLIF also sells mini and thin versions. Various multipacks are available, including seasonal flavors, a trial pack, and coffee flavors.

CLIF BARS cost $18.29 for a pack of 12.

Best for hunger cravings: CLIF Nut Butter Bars

The company states that these bars are a quick and easy snack that satisfies hunger. They contain 5–7 g of protein to provide an energy boost.

Flavors include:

  • chocolate chip and peanut butter
  • peanut butter
  • chocolate and hazelnut butter

A pack of 24 CLIF Nut Butter Bars costs $42.29.

Best for muscle support: CLIF Builders

CLIF claims these bars may help support and build muscles because they contain essential amino acids and complete plant protein.

Flavors include:

  • chocolate
  • chocolate peanut butter
  • chocolate mint
  • chocolate chip cookie dough with caffeine
  • crunchy peanut butter
  • vanilla almond
  • cookies ‘n cream

CLIF Builders cost $23.65 for 12 bars. Mini versions and variety packs are also available.

Best snack: CLIF BAR Minis

These mini CLIF BARs are a snack-sized version of the original energy bar.

The company claims they contain an optimal blend of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Flavor options include:

  • chocolate chip
  • crunchy peanut butter
  • white chocolate macadamia nut

These mini bars are available in a pack of 20 for $16.46.

Best low calorie: CLIF Thins

These thin versions of original CLIF BARs contain 100 calories and 5 g of sugar per two thins.

There are three flavors available:

  • chocolate chip
  • chocolate peanut brownie
  • white chocolate macadamia nut

These thin bars are available in a pack of 7 for $8.22 or a variety box of 21 for $24.67.

Additional products

CLIF also sells cereals with whole grains, protein, and less sugar than other popular brands. Additionally, CLIF offers energy gels and chews in a variety of flavors.

Learn more about energy gels here.

CLIF also sells a children’s range of energy and protein bars.

The table below compares each CLIF BAR product for protein, fat, carb, and sugar content.

Whole food snacks are a healthier alternative to CLIF BARs. Options that someone could transport easily for hikes or sports 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
  • homemade trail mix with plain nuts, seeds, and dried 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

Learn more about what to eat for energy here.

Below, we answer some of the top frequently asked questions about CLIF BARs.

Are CLIF BARs good for weight loss?

CLIF BARs are not recommended for weight loss as they are high in calories, carbohydrates, and added sugar.

They are marketed as a way to provide energy before, during, or after a workout and they are not meant to replace meals.

People trying to lose weight should try whole food snacks over CLIF BARs.

Are CLIF BARs a good meal replacement?

Although CLIF BARs can help a person to feel fuller for longer through their protein content, they do not contain balanced proportions of essential nutrients required to make it a suitable meal replacement.

What are the benefits of a CLIF BAR?

CLIF BARs contain enough carbohydrates to help provide energy for exercise and protein to help with muscle recovery after a workout. The carbohydrates within the bars also help fuel muscles and replenish glycogen stores.

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.

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