02 November 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Clif Shot Roks

As one of those vegetarian types, I'm often asked by non-vegetarians just how I get enough protein. Over the course of my 13 years without meat (inspired, of course, buy a girl who not only now eats meat but is married to another woman) I have had the opportunity to be a 24-hour racer, bike messenger, mountain bike guide and to complete the 2,800 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Despite a lifestyle that would presumably require a good deal of protein and muscle, I really don't think much about the stuff. Like most riders, I try to eat well by listening to my body and paying attention to what works for me (and what doesn't).

Sill, when training for my annual 24-hour race or trying to squeeze three big rides into a long weekend, I can't help but notice that the correct recovery foods will help me recover more quickly between workouts. Replenishing sodium and other electrolytes has become easy with the multitude of energy drinks on the market. Protein, one of the primary building blocks of muscle, is a bit harder. My stomach has never really taken to some of the denser, higher-protein energy drinks on the market and it's often hard to remember to put together a post-ride protein smoothie (I like a can of pineapple blended with some whey and soy protein powders). When a ride starts and ends at the car, post-ride nutrition can be difficult.

This September at Interbike, I had the chance to talk to Kate and Chris from Clif Bar. Clif is one of those rare sports nutrition companies whose products people actually look forward to. Don't believe me? Try to finish a ride with an unopened carrot cake Clif Bar in your pack. When they came out, the company's Shot Bloks were a welcome gel replacement for me and many riders I know- they keep well when opened (if you don't want a whole package worth of energy) and are much more appealing than a couple of tablespoons of goo when trying to placate an empty stomach. Kate and Chris walked me through the company's new flavors for 2009/2010 but were most excited about a new product- Shot Roks.

I'm usually not very interested in protein bars. So uninterested, that I have the majority of a case sitting in my pantry (which I'm saving for the End of Days)- but was pleasantly surprised by my Shot Roks tasting. Shot Roks are melon ball-sized soft "protein bites in a protective shell." The closest food comparison would be Whoppers, but rather than being dry and crunchy in the middle, they're a bit like a dense Milky Way bar. The idea is that not everyone will want (or be able to eat) 20g worth of protein after every workout, so they're broken into more manageable chunks. Each $3 Roks bag holds 10 2g bites which, I have to say, are pretty darn tasty. This allows the rider to tune their post-ride protein intake to the ride's intensity or (more likely in my case) snack their way to a good recovery during the drive home. Clif & Company saw my interest and offered to send out a few packages in order to allow us to do some more in-depth product testing.

To that end, I shared the chocolate (chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter are also available) Clif Roks with everyone I ride with. The reaction was strongly and unanimously positive. People thought that they tasted a bit like Whoppers (though softer) and even thought that they might make a good mid-ride snack. Dan claimed that they were "infinitely easier to eat" than anything else he'd tried and promptly ordered some for his shop. Listening to my body, I went through nearly an entire bag during the 20min drive home after a 3hr ride.

Any complaints? None, really- like all good things, I would love it if they were a bit less expensive- $2 seems like it would be the sweet spot- but anyone who's bought organic ingredients (of which 49% of the chocolate Roks are made) lately knows that those can be pretty pricey. Clif also seem to be dialing the recipe in a bit- some of my Roks were a light brown, others much darker (see photo). They're both chocolate, but people seemed to prefer the lighter ones. I wondered if the Bloks' magic was in their bite size and tried to salvage one of the protein bars in the pantry by cutting it into chunks and throwing those in a plastic bag. The result was less intimidating than an entire bar- but nowhere near as tasty as the Roks. All in all, just like they did with gels and before that energy bars, Clif have done a great job making recovery food appealing. Shot Roks make an excellent post-ride snack and will help to make two or more hard rides in one weekend or building up strength and power that much more enjoyable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.



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