Top Energy Bars for Endurance Athletes

Whether you're gearing up for a marathon, cycling race, backpacking trek, or another endurance sport, how you fuel your body is as important as how you train it. While complex carbohydrates offer energy at a slower rate—think pasta meals before a big race—when you need a quick boost during your exercise, it's crucial to consume simple carbohydrates balanced by protein and fat that your body can consume immediately.

When you can't make your own sports nutrition snack, energy bars are a convenient, on-the-go option that can provide a replenishing boost, but it's important to read labels because some can have as much fat and as many calories as a candy bar. If you're preparing for an event, be sure to test different options during practice sessions so you know what works best for your body.


Lärabar and Lärabar Minis

Larabar. Courtesy of Amazon

Founder Lara Merriken came up with the idea for her eponymous bars when she was hiking in Colorado and wanted a snack made with simple fruits and nuts. She tested recipes, taking cues from popular ice cream and pie flavors, and came up with the gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free Lärabar. The bars have roughly 200 calories each with minimal ingredients, like their Banana Bread flavor made with just almond, dates, and unsweetened bananas. The company also uses both Fair Trade-certified cocoa and coffee in certain bars. Most of the flavors don't have coatings that could melt in hot weather and they also have a texture that's easy to bite into without crumbling. If you're conscious of portions, Lärabar comes in 100-calorie miniature versions, too.


Clif Bars

Clif Bar
Clif Bar. Courtesy of Amazon

If you have a more heavy-duty workout ahead, Clif Bars may be a better energy replenisher. At 220 to 250 calories, they're packed with carbohydrates like organic oats, about 10 grams of protein, around 6 grams of fat, plus added vitamins and minerals. Even if you don't need quite that many calories but prefer one of the classic Clif flavors—their other lines have a more limited selection—they're easy to split in half and carry as a snack. Look for seasonal flavors like Peppermint Bark and Spiced Pumpkin Pie.


KIND Bars and Mini Bars

KIND Minis

 Courtesy of Amazon

Think of Kind bars as trail mix in bar form, combining nuts, fruit, and sometimes chocolate to give you a boost from sweet ingredients and some replenishment from sea salt. Both gluten-free and non-GMO, these bars are melded together via honey, which can provide a much-needed quick energy burst. While the regular size bars have about 180 calories, their miniature versions clock in at 100 calories. Keep in mind some Kind bars are drizzled with chocolate, which can be messy during long excursions on hot days.


Kate's Real Food Bars

To fuel her long days on the slopes in Jackson Hole, self-proclaimed "ski bum" Kate Schade created these all organic, gluten-free energy bars with ingredients like oats, almond butter, coconut, and dried mango. They come in a pocket-size shape—each bar is hand-rolled—touting 240–300 calories, 6 grams of protein, and up to 20 grams of fat.


Luna Bars

Clif Luna for Women
Clif Luna for Women. Courtesy of Amazon

Choose from blueberry, peanut butter, caramel, and other sweet-leaning flavors from this line of gluten-free bars that have 200 calories each, 7–8 grams of protein, and about 2.5 grams of fat. The base is typically made of an organic oat-rice flour bend, and most are partially coated but shouldn't melt much in your pack. While they're said to target women, the ingredient list isn't gender-specific.


Clif Mini Bars

Clif Bar Mini Energy Bars
Clif Bar Mini Energy Bars. Courtesy of Amazon

While Clif Mini Bars may not come in as wide a variety of flavors as the regular size bar, the Minis come in an easier-to-stash size. Made with fiber-rich carbohydrates like organic rolled oats, 4 grams of protein, about 6 grams of fat, and added vitamins and minerals like B12 and C, they have an easy chew that doesn't crumble or melt. Flavors include Chocolate Chip, Crunchy Peanut Butter, and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, ranging from 100 to 260 calories per piece.


Taos Bakes

Two skiers created the first Taos Bakes bar based on a family recipe that has since spawned six total flavors—all of which are gluten-free and made with non-GMO ingredients, like oats, almonds, flaxseed, and heart-healthy pine nuts—made in small batches at their solar-powered factory in New Mexico. Each of the pocket-size bars has about 200 calories, 10–15 grams of fat, and about 6 grams of protein. For an added boost, try their Piñon Coffee + Dark Chocolate flavor, made with coffee, which is known to enhance physical performance.


Clif Kid ZBar

Clif Kid Z Bar Organic Energy Bar
Clif Kid Z Bar Organic Energy Bar. Courtesy of Amazon

Clif's ZBar clocks in at about 120 calories per bar with all organic ingredients, including rolled oats, peanut butter, and figs—and never any high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients. Though it's geared toward children with flavors like S'mores and Iced Oatmeal Cookie, the size makes it an ideal choice as an adult energy snack. Like the other bars in the Clif line, its non-crumbly consistency is still easy to chew on the go.


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