Are Clif Bars Good For Runners? Yes, But Why?

Written By: Jeremy N

Clif bars are a well-known performance fueling brand for a wide range of athletes, and endurance athletes (like runners) are no exception.

Although it may be commonplace to see runners snacking on a Clif bar throughout the day, does that mean Clif bars are actually good for runners?

As a general rule, If eaten within the correct window (60-90 minutes) before your training run or workout, Clif bars can be an excellent source of carbohydrates and protein to fuel your training effectively with little to no stomach irritation. 

In this article, we will cover the nutrition facts of a Clif Bar, go over the advantages and disadvantages of eating one pre/post-run and finish with our favorite flavor, and how we would suggest implementing a Clif bar into your fueling routine.

Are Clif Bars Good For Runners? Yes, But Why?

Are Clif Bars Good For Runners? Yes, But Why?

Clif Bar Nutrition Facts - FuelUp for Running, Why Do They Work For Runners?

Let’s look at the nutritional label of a Chunky Peanut Butter Clif Bars and unpack some of the nutrients that would make this a solid choice for pre-run fueling option for some runners.

Clif Bar

Calories - 260 calories per serving

It is no secret that it requires an adequate amount of calories to fuel training and aid in performance and recovery. There is nothing quite like the bonk of running on too few calories to get you thinking that you should fuel before your run in most cases.

Carbohydrates - 40 grams per serving

No two ways about it, carbs are the body’s primary source of fast energy. Carbs are converted into glycogen inside of the liver and then sit at the ready to be used for any sort of moderate to high-intensity physical exertion.

As a runner, we should always seek to top off our carbohydrates before getting into a run or workout session.

For best results, aim to eat one of these Clif Bars about 1-2 hours before getting into your workout, this will leave your body time to digest and convert these carbs to energy. Eating any closer to your run might lead to cramps or an upset stomach.

Protein - 11 grams per serving

Although less essential to ingest before physical activity, having a little protein before physical activity won't hurt if it digests in time for your activity.

10-11 grams of protein is a good amount before your run because it will give your body some amino acids to utilize to avoid too much breakdown, but will not slow digestion enough to inhibit your run if eaten 1-2 hours before (in most cases).

We did touch upon this, but ingesting a little protein before your workout will mitigate the catabolic state your body enters after a workout session.

Amino Acids will be used to aid in rebuilding your body immediately after your run, and this means you won’t have to worry quite as much about strictly refueling in a 30-minute window after your run.

Potassium - 251 mg per serving

Essential for fluid absorption, potassium is a mineral that runners require for recovery and hydration. It is often found abundantly in bananas, but Clif Bars have about 15% of your recommended daily value.

This is a good amount to take in preparation for a run or workout.

Furthermore, potassium also assists in nerve function, which is essential for runners as well. Running is really a mechanical and neuromuscular sport that has aerobic benefits, so having a highly functioning nervous system will only benefit you.

Magnesium - 25% daily value per serving

Magnesium is important for proper muscle contraction and functioning. This is a mineral that many runners never get enough of, so it would behoove you to make a point of including it within your diet.

Thankfully, Clif Bars contain 25% of your recommended daily value, which is a perfect amount to be ingesting 1-2 hours before your run.

B-Vitamins - All of them

Another vitamin that runners cannot get nearly enough of, B-vitamins is essential for metabolizing food and turning it into energy, and aiding in proper cellular function within your body.

Clif Bars include nearly all of the B-vitamins so you can make sure you can keep your energy levels sufficient for your next session.

Advantages Of Fueling With Clif Bars

Easily Digestible

Clif Bars are made to be easily digested and absorbed into the body. The ingredients are not exclusively simple and easily digestible, as there is some protein and dietary fiber, but most will have little to no issue eating a Clif Bar 1-2 hours before exercise.

Furthermore, snacking on one of the Clif Bars in smaller bites even closer to your workout time (45-30 minutes) is still quite possible for most if you do not have a temperamental stomach.

Ultrarunners will often eat Clif Bars during a long race because it is easily digestible even when the digestion system is under a certain amount of distress.

Great Nutrient Profile - Great Energy Source

We talked about this before, but a single Clif Bar does contain most of what endurance athletes need to optimally fuel performance. Between the calories, carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals, there are a lot of boxes checked for an athlete.

Not to put extra emphasis on one nutrient over the other, but the calories and carbs will be the most important nutrients to take in before hopping into a run or workout (especially if you plan to run for over an hour).

Clif Bars contain around 40 grams of carbs and about 250-300 calories per bar, and that is a great intake before exercise to make sure you will stay strong through your entire session.

“Bang For Your Buck”

All of this, in a single energy bar, is hard to pull off. Clif Bars really do deliver a great nutritional bang for your buck.

Being able to fuel with all of the macro and micronutrients with a single bar is convenient and portable. These are aspects most endurance runners require.

Furthermore, Clif Bars work as a post-workout session recovery snack as well because it has protein and calories to allow the body to repair itself immediately. There may only be 11 grams of protein per bar, but that goes a long way if you’ve depleted your body.

Disadvantages Of Fueling With Clif Bars

Digestion Problems

Although Clif Bars are made to be easily digested and turned into energy, some may have trouble processing an entire energy bar before a workout session (even if it is 1-2 hours before). So this is a chance for you to experiment and see what works best for you.

A suggestion that we have found works is to start by eating only half of a Clif Bar 1-2 hours before your workout session.

If you feel like that worked out well then stick with that for a while, but if you thought you needed more than you can continue to eat a little more of your bar each time and see how it works.

Too Much For Some

Many runners are used to training on a relatively empty stomach, which is totally natural if you wake up early for a session or just prefer working out feeling empty.

It’s completely possible that many runners will just find a Clif Bar to be too much to take in before a workout session.

Clif Bars are an acquired taste and texture that might not be ideal for all people before embarking on their training session.

Favorite Flavor (and Why)

CLIF BARS - Energy Bars - Best Sellers Variety Pack- Made with Organic Oats - Plant Based (2.4 Ounce Protein Bars, 16 Count) Packaging & Assortment May Vary (Amazon Exclusive)

Blueberry Crisp

A sweet treat before your run that hits the spot at all times of the year!

After testing out most of the flavors to bring you this article, we have decided that Blueberry Crisp is our favorite Clif Bar for its more broadly appealing taste and texture.

It rides the line of sweet and savory well, leaning more towards sweet.

We have found that—especially for pre-run fueling—it is more broadly appealing to have a sweeter tasting bar than savory, as it just sits better while training over a heavier flavor like peanut butter or chocolate chips.

Keep in mind that this is for runners in particular, so this may not apply to other sports who seek to fuel with Clif Bar. 

Last update on 2023-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

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