We’ve elsewhere reviewed energy gels, energy chews, and energy drinks. But what if you prefer chewing on something a little more substantial? I know I do, so today we’re reviewing the best energy bars for runners.
These healthy bars are a nice snack during or after a run, and pack a carbohydrate punch to keep your energy levels up.
Most of them also contain a small dose of protein, and some even contain electrolytes to keep you from feeling woozy due to mineral loss. Whatever your preference, there’ll be an energy bar to suit you.
Although every bar on this list is a worthy choice, our favorite is the Picky Bar. It’s calorie-friendly at just 180 per bar, contains 25 grams of carbs and 7 grams of protein, and comes in a bunch of funky flavors so you never get bored.
Depending on your ingredient choices – plus flavor and consistency – we’ve found many other great options. Here are our top choices!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Honey Stinger Organic Waffle
1. Picky Bars
Picky Bars are perfect for both picky eaters and those who eat everything. They’re made of real food ingredients and are free from gluten, GMOs, and soy, so they’re likely to be easy on even the fussiest of stomachs.
They’re even suitable for vegans and vegetarians, although they’re made in a facility that also processes non-vegan things, so it depends on whether you’re comfortable with that. The only type of person they may not suit is one with a peanut allergy.
These bars offer a moderate 25 grams of carbs and 7 grams of protein packed into 180 calories, which is actually on the lower-calorie end of the spectrum. They’re perfect for health-conscious and calorie-conscious runners alike.
They also come in a cool range of flavors, with names like Need for Seed and Smooth Caffeinator. What’s not to love? They’ll give you the bonk-preventing energy boost you’re looking for and taste good along the way.
- 180 calories per bar
- 25 grams of carbs, 7 grams protein
- Variety of interesting flavors
- Real food ingredients
- Not suitable for runners with a peanut allergy
2. Clif Bar
If you prefer a high-carb energy bar, this one packs a punch while also offering a decent bit of protein (9 to 11 grams). Considering what you get in them, they’re well worth the price, winning our top value spot.
Surprisingly, considering the nutrient counts, they clock in at only 250 calories each. 40 to 45 grams of carbs (depending on the flavor) will give you the bonk-averting boost you need.
If you’re conscious about sugar, be aware that these bars contain around 20 grams of it. But it’s quickly and easily absorbed for that extra burst of energy. If you’re sensitive to it, you may find that you crash after your run.
With more than 20 unique flavors, you won’t have a chance to get bored with these. The only danger is that sometimes, the flavor doesn’t quite taste like what’s advertised on the packaging, but that could be down to one person’s perception.
Clif uses sustainably sourced ingredients and recycled packaging, and is Rainforest Alliance Certified.
- 250 calories per bar
- 40 to 45 grams carbohydrates
- Sustainably sourced ingredients
- More than 20 different flavors
- Some flavors don’t taste like the flavor mentioned on the packaging
3. Honey Stinger Organic Waffle
Waffles are the perfect food. You can have them for breakfast, as a sweet brunch, an adventurous lunch, a cheat dinner, or a dessert. Now, you can have them in energy bar form too!
Depending on the flavor, they’re between 140 and 160 calories per serving, which will provide you with 19 to 21 grams of carbs. There’s very little protein in these waffles, with every flavor containing just one gram.
They’re USDA Certified Organic, so you know what goes into them is healthy and natural, even down to the flavoring.
- USDA Certified Organic
- Naturally flavored
- Approximately 150 calories per serving
- Individually wrapped servings
- Runners who are sensitive to egg or gluten may find their stomachs don’t like these
Top High Carb Energy Bar
4. Science In Sport GO Energy Bars
Runners who compete seriously, whether against the clock or against themselves, will benefit from these bars. They’re not only high in healthy carbohydrates, but they’re completely free from any ingredients that are considered to be banned substances in the world of sports, as per their Informed-Sport Certified badge.
This bar is packed with energy-restoring carbs with a nice 26 grams per bar (11 grams from sugar, though). It’s rounded off with just under 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat.
Made from easily-digestible fruits, other natural ingredients, and soy protein isolate, each bar should provide a good burst of energy not too long after eating it.
They’re little, easy to chew, easy on the stomach, and should do the job well. Vegans and celiacs won’t be able to eat these, unfortunately.
- Informed-Sport Certified
- 26 grams carbohydrates
- 138 calories each
- Easy on the stomach
- High sugar content may make it inadvisable to have more than one at once
- Not suitable for vegans or celiacs
Best High Protein Bar
5. Vega Sport Protein Bar
If you’d prefer an energy bar that racks up some protein for muscle building as well, this could be the one for you. At 290 calories, you’ll be getting a perfectly good dose of carbs (24 to 26 grams depending on flavor), but the real draw is the high protein count – 20 grams.
Whether you’re an omnivore or a vegan, you’ll be able to eat these bars guilt-free. They’re particularly great for vegans who have trouble hitting their protein count during the day. Every gram is plant-based and high-quality, made from a blend of pea and brown rice protein and a variety of nuts.
You’ll also find 3 grams of fiber, which is always helpful for digestion. You won’t find an artificial or synthetic ingredient in either flavor, and they’re non-GMO verified and vegan-certified.
Regardless of whether you eat animal products or not, you’ll be able to chew on one of these during a race for some guilt-free extra energy.
- 20 grams of plant-based protein
- 290 calories per bar
- No artificial colorants of flavors
- Non-GMO verified and Vegan certified
- Some have found that the energy bar leaves a bitter aftertaste
Lightest and Easiest to Carry
6. Bonk Breaker Energy Bar
One of these little bars weighs just 2 ounces, taking up hardly any space and just about no weight in your pocket or pack. The only danger is forgetting that they’re actually there!
Despite their small size, each one is loaded with 260 calories, 36 grams of carbs, and 8 grams of protein. You’ll also find a small dose of sodium and potassium in each bar, which helps replenish electrolytes as you lose fluid.
They’re vegetarian-friendly, but do contain peanuts, so be careful if you’re sensitive to them.
Another thing to be careful of is running with these bars close to you in the heat. The combo of body heat and atmosphere can make these bars kind of mushy, which could become a bit of a mess when trying to eat them on the road.
- 260 calories per bar
- 300+ milligrams of electrolytes
- 4:1 carb to protein ratio
- These bars can melt or become mushy in the heat, making them difficult to eat on the go
Top Meal Replacement Bar
7. ProBar Meal
While we never recommend replacing a meal with a supplement, be it a tablet or an energy bar, sometimes it just happens that we run out of time to have a full meal.
These bars not only give you a well-rounded “meal”, but they’ll keep you fuller for longer, thanks to their high-quality, all-natural ingredients. They’re actually pretty nutrient- and calorie-dense, and you may be surprised at how much one little bar fills you up.
Their low glycemic index also does wonders for preventing the dreaded sugar crash later on. As if they needed an extra thumbs-up, they’re also preservative-free and made with sustainably sourced non-GMO ingredients.
The protein-sodium balance is carefully controlled in the recipe to make them easier to digest with less water. Perfect for on the road, when you need to control your water intake to make sure you don’t run out!
With a carb content of around 23 grams, the added energy will spur you on and keep you filled up until your next real meal.
- Made with organic ingredients
- 180 to 200 calories per serving
- Sustainably sourced ingredients
- Non-GMO Project Verified
- These bars are more expensive than most
Best Variety Pack
8. Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars
Variety is the spice of life, as they say. That’s true for this pack – you’ll get a mix-n-match of 3 flavors so you can pick a different one each run.
They’re high-quality, containing natural ingredients with not a GMO in sight. This makes them easy on the stomach, and the fact that they’re gluten-free, kosher, and vegan means just about everyone can partake.
An unusual thing about these bars is that they come in some savory flavors too! That makes this variety pack even more interesting.
Although they state that the bars are dairy-free, the ingredients list milk. Check the flavors carefully before buying if you’re lactose-intolerant!
- Natural, non-GMO ingredients
- 220 calories per serving
- Gentle on the stomach
- Gluten-free, kosher, and vegan (check for milk in some flavors)
- Some flavors may melt in the heat
- They state that the bars are dairy-free, but milk is on the ingredient list
Top Nut Butter Bar
9. Clif Nut Butter Bar
If peanut butter cups are your weakness, you should definitely try these energy bars! You don’t need to stick to peanut butter, either. Choose from peanut, almond, and hazelnut, in varying flavors.
With a carb count in the high 20s and a moderate amount of protein, they’re like a sweet cheat treat while still being organic, all-natural, and useful to beat the bonk during a day on the trails.
And the filling doesn’t melt in the heat, which is a bonus.
- 7 grams plant-based protein
- USDA Organic certified
- 230 calories per serving
- No artificial flavors
- Not suitable for runners with a peanut allergy
Best Almond Nut Bar
10. KIND Bars
KIND bars are renowned energy bars, and if you’re a Banting diet fan, you might prefer these over others. They contain just 16 grams of carbs, but feature a much higher fat count than others, at 15 grams.
The low carb count allows them to be legitimately low in sugar, which means less chance of crashing when your sugar-fueled energy burst is done. Fats release more slowly, providing sustained energy as you finish your race.
They’re packed with nuts, so may not be a good choice for anyone with a nut allergy or sensitivity. But at 180-ish calories each, you can’t beat these for a good, tasty, nutty treat on the road.
- 180 calories per serving
- Low glycemic index
- 6 grams of protein
- Gluten-free and non-GMO
- These bars can be very hard, so be careful if you have sensitive teeth
Top Gluten-Free Bar
11. The GFB Bar
Runners who need to avoid gluten, you’re in luck. Many of these energy bars are gluten-free, so thankfully you have a decent array to choose from. This is our choice for the best gluten-free bar.
GFBs are made in a facility that’s zero-waste and sustainably operated, so the whole process is undertaken with care. Their bars are certified gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Seven yummy flavors offer between 230 and 250 calories, 10 to 13 grams of protein, and around 30 grams of carbohydrates each.
- Products are made in a sustainably operated, zero-waste facility
- 230 to 250 calories per serving
- 10 to 12 grams of protein
- Certified gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan
- These bars can go stale quickly, so be sure to store them correctly
Trying to decide if you should go for an energy bar instead of gels or drinks for your run fuel? Here are some frequently asked questions to give you more info and help you make your decision.
What are Energy Bars?
Energy bars could be considered supplemental food bars that provide athletes with quick, easily accessible energy.
They generally consist of easily-digestible, high-energy carbohydrates, with small amounts of fat and protein.
If you spot some in the store, they appear to be something between a candy bar and a granola bar. Once unwrapped, you’ll notice that, even though they may contain bits of chocolate, caramel, or other sugary things, they usually contain some form of cereals, and often bits of dried fruit.
Why Should Runners Eat Energy Bars?
Energy bars are great for runners for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they’re small and easy to carry with you in a pocket, running belt, or backpack.
Secondly, they’re a slightly healthier version of a candy bar that will give you a quick energy boost when you start to feel yourself wavering. If energy gels don’t do it for you because they’re just not substantial enough, an energy bar should do the trick.
How Much Protein Should an Energy Bar Have?
This really depends on the type of energy bar you’re looking for. Yes, there are different types! You’ll find:
- High carbohydrate
- Moderate carbohydrate
- Low carbohydrate
- High protein
Generally, a runner will go for a moderate-carb bar. These usually offer between 20 and 25 grams of carbohydrates, with 5 to 15 grams of protein.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing a high-carb bar if you wish, most of which offer 40 or more grams of carbs, and less protein.
It’s only really advisable to choose a high-protein energy bar if you’re doing an exercise routine with the aim of building muscle.
Low-carb bars aren’t going to be helpful if you need energy!