We all know that staying hydrated while cycling is very important, but sometimes we need food too! For longer, harder rides, simply replenishing your water stores and electrolytes is not going to be enough. You need energy. You need calories.
Food on the bike is necessary in endurance efforts to literally keep your body moving and avoid “bonking”. Bonking happens when you no longer have the fuel you need to ride.
If it has happened to you, you will know. Pretty much your brain tells your legs to spin, and your legs promptly refuse. They just won’t go anymore.
Sometimes it’s less severe, and you will find yourself falling off your normal pace, or find yourself falling off the pace of your group. You can’t keep up, and you have no idea why.
If you fuel properly before and during your rides, however, you can avoid the bonk! One way to avoid bonking on the bike is by eating energy chews.
What Are Energy Chews?
Energy Chews are like big, awesome fruit snacks. Think gummies. Little packets of absolute deliciousness!
All chews have some form of sugar for energy, and may also have electrolytes, caffeine, and/or vitamins depending on the brand or chew.
It’s fun to change up your fuel sources, and sometimes you need calories quicker than you can drink them. Also, for some, ingesting a lot of liquid at once can upset your stomach and cause bloating.
Read on to learn more about our favorite cycling chews, as well as when and how to use them!
Why Energy Chews?
Energy chews are a great, efficient way to take in fuel on the bike.
Many cyclists swear by eating real food and real food alone to fuel their rides before, during, and after. For example, raisins are a great way to get sugar in and absorbed by your body quickly.
Also, I love to make tasty rice cakes. Especially with dark chocolate chips and blueberries. I use the Sky cycling team’s recipe and they are delicious!
Sometimes, though, this isn’t always a practical choice. Prepping your fuel takes time that you might not always have.
Also, pre-packaged food is non-perishable so it lasts longer, and it also tends to hold up in the back pocket of your jersey better. Finally, energy chews taste great. I mean, really great. Definitely better than raisins!
I was always the kid at school who sat there with her sad little package of fruit snacks eating them as slowly as I could. There was never enough! No matter how hard I tried to space them out, they were still gone so fast.
Imagine my delight when I learned that one of the perks of cycling fuel was the ability to eat some delicious chews. These chews bear a strong resemblance to fruit snacks, gummy candy, or even jelly beans.
Seriously, Jelly Belly makes ENERGY BEANS! How cool is that?
When To Eat Energy Chews (and How Much!)
Energy chews are not the only food that cyclists will bring on the bike. If you are doing a long endurance ride you will likely need more than just straight sugar.
You will want to have some more complex carbs like bananas, energy bars, or even waffles like these honey stinger ones.
Energy chews are best, though for when you need to quickly replenish your sugar stores.
You will notice the impact of energy chews generally quicker than that of other carbohydrate sources that take longer to digest.
According to this brief but informative article from USA cycling, after about 60-90 minutes of exercise you want to start replenishing your glycogen (carbohydrate and glucose) stores.
About an hour before cycling you want to take in about 200-300 calories of carbohydrates…something easy to digest like toast and peanut butter or a banana.
Or even shove that banana on there and make peanut butter banana toast!
Also according to USA Cycling, once you are on the bike, you want to take in about 30-60 grams of carbs, or 120-240 calories per hour.
If you are going to be riding for a very long time, say in excess of three hours, then make sure that you actually take in even more calories per hour (180-260) to keep those glycogen stores topped off.
Energy chews, along with some slower digesting carbs like Honey Stinger Waffles, are a great way to keep your legs spinning for those longer rides.
What to Look For In Cycling Energy Chews
You will find that most energy chews have tapioca syrup and cane sugar as main ingredients. Both of these ingredients are designed to get your glycogen stores replenished quickly.
There are some differences in size, taste, and ingredient specifics, however. Depending on your needs you might want to choose one over the other.
Some chews have more calories per pack than others. Some have caffeine for that little extra burst of energy, and some don’t.
There are some that are 100% organic and frankly just a little more natural than others.
Size can also be a factor. Some chews are bigger which means that one can feel like a LOT in your mouth, but also means that you don’t need as many to get your calories, and you don’t have to worry about dropping them.
Below is a list of five of our favorite cycling chews and why we recommend them.
Our Recommended Cycling Energy Chews
Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews
The Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews are high up on our list of favorites. They have the shortest, easiest to understand ingredient list, and they taste absolutely amazing.
According to their website, Skratch Labs was created by Dr. Allen Lim. Lim is a sports scientist and cycling coach who developed natural products with less sugar and increased electrolytes.
Dr. Allen Lim wanted to fuel riders without upsetting their stomachs, and Skratch products do exactly this. On the package it says “Our Sport Energy Chews are made with simple ingredients and flavored only with real fruit, for a clean bite that isn’t coated in wax.”
This is absolute genius. Instead of wax, they coat the chews in what tastes a little like a sour patch kid coating. The result is a slightly sour start, and a fruity finish.
I know, I just referred to the finish of an energy chew! But seriously, these truly are that good.
They do have less total grams of carbohydrate per serving than the other chews on this list, which is important to note.
Skratch Labs Energy Chews also have a bit more sodium than some of the others too, which is helpful to replenish with all of the salt that you sweat out in a longer/harder effort.
I find the size of these chews to be just about perfect. They are not too big, and not too small.
Though they have fewer flavor options than other chews on the list, they do have both options with and without caffeine depending on whether you want that additional boost.
Honey Stinger Energy Chews
Honey Stinger Energy Chews are another excellent choice. They do have more ingredients than the Skratch Labs chews, but they are all organic.
Honey Stinger Chews also taste absolutely incredible! The pomegranate passionfrut flavor is so delicious. Definitely a favorite!
Additionally, their size is comparable to Skratch, and they are not too big and not too small. They do contain organic honey as well, though it should be noted that tapioca syrup and sugar come before honey on the ingredient list.
Finally, though I haven’t tried them, Honey Stinger also has a “performance chew” with additional electrolytes and caffeine. These come in a convenient longer package that reminds me of the CLIF BLOKs energy chews.
CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews
CLIF BLOKS energy chews are the ones that I feel like are the most prevalent, and that just about every endurance athlete has tried. I find CLIF products are always delicious, and the CLIF BLOKs are no exception.
They have a wide variety of flavors, and are organic. Additionally some of the CLIF BLOKs have caffeine added for an additional boost.
Others, like salted watermelon, have additional sodium for those days where you are sweating out a ton of water and salt and need to replenish both.
In terms of size, these are by far the biggest chews of the bunch. Depending on your preference this can be either a good thing or a bad thing.
I have a friend who doesn’t like them because it’s just too much of a chew in her mouth at once.
Others prefer having a larger chew because it means you need fewer of them.
If you are really focused on just getting the chews into your body as quickly as possible and you don’t feel like stopping to eat, the combination of the larger size and the packaging really helps with this.
The packaging of the CLIF BLOKs is by far my favorite from an efficiency standpoint. They come in a long sleeve, so you can very easily take them out of your cycling jersey while pedaling, and just slide one up and pop it in your mouth.
I will say the texture of these is a bit harder to chew than some of the others on the list. Also, for me personally, the size is a bit cumbersome. I will find that I try to bite off pieces of the chew in my mouth at a time when what I really want is something more bite-sized.
PROBAR Bolt Organic Energy Chews
The PROBAR Bolt Organic Energy Chews were the first chews I ever tried! A friend in a group ride shared them with me, and I was instantly hooked.
These chews are soft and delicious. They are a good size, I would say somewhere between the size of CLIF BLOKS and Honey Stinger Chews. You can easily tear off a corner and push through however many chews you feel you need.
They are also all organic, and have Vitamin C, Niacin, and Vitamins B6 and B12. If you want a little bit of extra vitamins in your chews these may be the ones for you!
Jelly Belly Sports Beans Energizing Jelly Beans
You cannot fully imagine my surprise and delight to find that Jelly Belly offers energy beans.
I am a HUGE lover of jelly beans, and Jelly Belly ones in particular.
The Jelly Belly sports beans have the same basic combination of ingredients as other energy chews.
They also have electrolytes, and Vitamins B&C (though when you look at the nutrition information it doesn’t say how much Vitamin B, and it’s only 6mg of Vitamin C).
Like many energy chews you can also elect to get Jelly Belly Energy Beans with Caffeine for that extra energy boost.
I will say these packets of beans are smaller and have less calories than other energy chews, and the beans (not too surprisingly) are smaller too. They are around the size of your traditional Jelly Belly.
Because of the size of the packs, and the fact that there is only 100 calories or so per pack, you might want to bring more packs than you would with another type of chew for longer efforts.
Jelly Belly Energizing Jelly Beans are best for those who like to stop and have a snack, as opposed to snacking while riding, because of their packaging and their size.
The packaging is actually pretty awesome. They come in a resealable pouch so that you can have a couple of beans and seal them up tightly until you want a few more.
I am going to be very real here. You see, I was the MOST excited to try these, and I found them to be just a bit disappointing.
They aren’t bad! Honestly they are quite good. I simply find that they tend to not pack the same kind of flavor punch as regular Jelly Bellys, which is probably not fair, but here we are.
I also find that they have a tendency to stick to my teeth more than any of the other chews which is a little annoying.
It’s important to note, though, that the sheer flavor selection is QUITE impressive! Which is kind of expected since that is a trademark of Jelly Belly. You can opt for packs with a single flavor, or for packs with a mix of flavors. There is even a smoothie flavor assortment!
Fuel, Fuel, Fuel!
So there you have it! These are five of our favorite energy chews. You now know why replenishing your glycogen stores is so important, how many calories you should be taking in on long rides and have a fine selection of chews to help!
Fueling for rides is a very personal choice, and you will likely find that you prefer one brand of chew over another. You may love raisins and prefer raisins as a way to quickly replenish your sugar on endurance efforts, and that’s totally fine too.
It is so important to stay properly fueled for endurance rides, and the right energy chews, hydration mixes, and real food can go a long way to help you achieve your cycling goals.