Generally I don’t pay enough attention to the brands of gels or bars that I use when I’m riding to bother writing a review about them. Normally I just stop into my local LBS and grab a mix of whatever they have as long as it’s fruit flavoured, has caffeine and/or some protein in it. But I recently started using Xact Nutrition bars almost exclusively on my rides and during races so I’ve been paying some attention to what I like and don’t like about them.
First off, I have to admit that when it comes to bars and gels, I don’t generally put much stock into proprietary performance enhancing gimmicks. If we get down to brass tacks, almost every gel and energy bar is basically the same, they’re just a wad of high fructose corn syrup with some flavouring and maybe some caffeine. But to be fair, that’s all they really need to be because that’s all you really want when you’re racing or riding hard. The point of these energy bars is to maintain blood sugar levels to preserve your muscle glycogen as long as possible. While the health conscious folks might see HFCS as the anti-christ, it’s really more of a magic elixir for endurance athletes. So when a company releases a product boasting a ‘new formula’ that has x% more energy than the leading brand or some ridiculous claim like that, I tend not to pay attention. Just give me the sugar-filled goo blob and no one gets hurt.
And that’s why Xact appeals to me. There are no silly gimmicks involved. In fact if you go to their website the first thing that comes up is their products laid out in a straight forward way: fruit bar; caffeine fruit bar; protein bar. You would never know at first glance that these things are actually vegan friendly and made with actual fruit so, as it turns out, they don’t even have any HFCS in them at all. Rejoice! But that doesn’t really matter to me. And the the fact they are vegan friendly and made of real fruit doesn’t affect my opinion of these bars at all. What I like is their utter simplicity, their taste, and their ease of consumption.
On the Fruit 2 and Fruit 3 the packaging is perfectly clear, one is a basic fruit bar that offers the simple sugar boost you need with classic fruit flavours and the other is the same but with caffeine. If there is one thing I find pointless and irritating it’s when nutrition companies offer performance gels in silly hipster flavours like Coconut Graham Cracker. When I’m in a crit race and I’m digging through my pockets for a gel, I don’t need to satisfy my complex pretentious hipster palette. I just need something that tastes good enough that I don’t want to spit it out all over the other riders. And in this area, Xact hits the mark with flavours like Orange, Strawberry and Apricot.
Their Pro Krunch protein bar comes only in chocolate, which is good, because if I’m going to stuff a protein bar in my mouth I at least want to pretend that it’s a delicious Kit-Kat bar and not actually something that’s good for me.
The two fruit bars are delicious. I wish they came in the bulk bins at the grocery store because I would snack on them like candy. And that’s really all I need to say about that.
Ease of Consumption
This is definitely the most important part of a good bar and the Fruit 2 and Fruit 3 pass this test with flying colours. They’re soft and manageable. They don’t get gummy in your mouth so you don’t have to spend the first 5 minutes after swallowing one using your tongue to get the gooey remnants off your teeth. While they aren’t as easy to open as a gel (a quick work around is to just open the package a little before you take off on your ride or race) they definitely don’t give you that feeling like you want to throw up a little when you first put them into your mouth like a gel –is it just me that this happens to?
The Pro Krunch Bar is definitely the most surprising of Xact’s offerings. Most protein bars are dry and heavy and give you gut rot if you don’t chug 2 bottles of water immediately after swallowing. This bar is surprisingly light and easy to swallow –literally. It doesn’t mess with my stomach at all. Because it’s lighter than most bars I do find that it doesn’t feel quite as filling. I need to eat two after a long ride in order to feel somewhat satisfied. Of course, you should never rely on protein bars alone for post-ride/race food but sometimes it’s all you get until you can make dinner or get somewhere where there is more food available.
Overall I really like both the fruit bars and the protein bar that Xact offers. The only downsides are that protein bar isn’t as filling as I would like and the fruit bars do get a little squishy on hot days in the back of your jersey pocket. Fortunately, they don’t get sticky, just a little softer than usual. If there’s one thing I hate is having my jersey pockets full of stray goo from empty gel packets. This doesn’t happen with the Fruit 2 and Fruit 3 bars.
Check out Xact Nutrition and try some of their stuff.