WHAT: Balance Bar TrailMix Energy Bar WHERE: www.balance.com HOW MUCH: $1.39 each
Someone once told me that there's no such thing as unhealthy food, because everything you eat fuels your body in one way or another. It only took one pre-ride stop at McDonald's (and one post-ride toilet thrashing) to disabuse me of such a foolhardy notion. However, I'm still nowhere near becoming an energy bar convert. I'm not convinced that those gritty lumps are any more energy-rich than a multivitamin and a peanut butter sandwich. And for a product that often resembles, in both appearance and taste, fecal matter, I usually can't justify spending the two dollars.
Enter: Balance Bar's new TrailMix bar. Like an energy bar missionary, the Chocolate Chip version landed on my desk to challenge all my preconceptions about pre-ride fuel and convert me into a bar man. So I did what any fitness nerd would do—I looked at the Nutrition Facts and wondered just how much sugar they had to pump into this thing to make it tolerable.
The answer: 14-grams. But to Balance Bar's credit, they left out the high-fructose corn syrup, instead taking the natural route and using real sugar and sugar cane syrup. Scarfing this bar before (or during) a ride would definitely give me a tasty lift, but would I suffer an insidious bonk at the hands of another glorified candy bar?
Not if the rest of the ingredients have anything to say about it. With its concoction of rolled oats and almonds, the TrailMix provides a solid dose of unsaturated and saturated fats, thankfully none of the trans- variety. With only 22-grams of total carbohydrates, it's not the most carb-laden bar on the market, but it does include a bit of potassium and an array of 23 vitamins and minerals to make that energy easily accessible.
The Balance Bar is also equipped to make up for a sweat-soaked jersey with 13-percent Daily Value of sodium. Perhaps its best feature, though, is its protein content: at 14-grams, it boasts much more than the average bar. However, checking the ingredients reveals that some of it is gleaned from less-than-ideal casein. But perhaps most importantly, Balance Bar claims the glycemic index of the TrailMix to be a lowly 30, indicating that the bar won't spike your blood sugar like others might (spikes, of course, being the precursor to bonks).
So I ate the thing. With the consistency of a Chewy bar, it had a pleasant Rice-Krispie feel and even though the chocolate was a nice touch, the bar wasn't overly sweet. It was a little broader than a typical Balance Bar, and less dense, but I was still left wondering why the packaging was so damn big in comparison. Though its size made it easy to open, I had visions of the oversized wrapper turning into a big bag of slop on a hot day. I stuffed the wrapper in my pocket and got my cycling gear.
Planning to crank on the bike for an hour or so, I brought my heart rate up to 75 percent of my max and waited for any sign of a sugar induced wimp-out. Nothing. Just a solid ride. Granted, it's not as if I was out of the saddle and singing Broadway anthems, but I felt good. The ride ended without any struggle and I didn't really think anything of it, until I reached into my pocket on the way home and found the TrailMix wrapper. Touch, Balance Bar. Touch.