Sometimes, energy gels and bars can be a bit too much on the stomach. You need something a little less sweet and sticky, but still packing the necessary calories to get you home. It might be time to consider a 9Bar.
Manufactured by Wholebake Ltd in Wales, and billed as ‘the great tasting nutritious energy bar’, at first glance you might think a 9Bar is just another cereal bar. But the main ingredients of 9Bars are seeds - sunflower, sesame, poppy, pumpkin and hemp - rather than the usual grain products found in cereal bars.
The seeds are held together with honey, raw cane sugar and vegetable oil, and topped with a layer of carob. The end result is a very distinctive texture, and an almost savoury taste - not sweet or sticky at all.
9Bars come in five varieties - original, organic, pumpkin, nutty and flax - though the main ingredients of all varieties are similar.
First, I tested the pumpkin flavour bar, which doesn’t have the carob, but has more (you guessed it) pumpkin seeds than the others. It was surprisingly tasty. A bit dry in the mouth, not cloying or chewy, but easy to swallow - although I needed a couple of swigs on the bottle to wash down the last bits.
On the energy front, each 50g pumpkin 9Bar contains just over 250 calories (about 2000kj). This consists of about 21% protein, 30% carbohydrate and 35% fat (of which 29% is unsaturated, 6% is saturated). The packaging indicates the bars also contain fibre, a trace of sodium and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Next, I tried an original flavour bar. The carob looks like chocolate, but in keeping with the theme it’s less sweet and more healthy. It also makes the bar very tasty indeed, though the breakdown alters slightly: 18% protein, 29% carbo and 40% fat (of which 10% is saturated).
But whatever variety you go for, there’s no doubt this is a healthy mix. The bars are also dairy-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, egg-free and wheat-free, and Vegetarian Society approved. Carnivores may smirk, but vegetarian and vegan athletes often struggle to take on protein, and 9Bars do the job here perfectly. And as you might expect, they’re also free of additives, preservatives and artificial colouring.
So - are they easy on the stomach? Yes, definitely. I first tested them at my desk (well, you’ve got to be thorough). No problem at all. Then on some long training rides. Still great. I was always looking forward to the next one, whereas with some other energy products I find myself forcing them down.
Do they provide the energy to get you round a decent distance? Yes. For club-runs and leisure rides, as well as audax rides and longer challenge rides, if you’re not pushing your limits to extreme, the energy provided by the 9Bars is fine.
Will they get you through a long race or hard sportive? Even more important, will they give you a kick for the final hills? Maybe not. The better-known brands of bar and gel made specifically for use during endurance sport tend to have a greater proportion of carbohydrate and less fats than 9Bars (although if they contain protein it’s usually around 20% - about the same as 9Bars) and, personally, I find the caffeine, electrolytes and other additives in the better-known bars very handy as well. But I also find too many gels hard to take, so on my next sportive, I’ll certainly be using a mix of 9Bars and some other more ‘sporty’ brands.
Another benefit of the 9Bars’ lack of stickiness: the bars comes out of their packets easily - an important consideration if it’s been in your back pocket on a hard ride for a few hours.
Finally, a word about the hemp. Each 9Bar contains about 3% of dehulled hemp seed. Hemp is often billed as a wonder-crop, used in the manufacture of paper, textiles, biofuel, biodegradable plastics, medicines and cosmetics, as well as in food, where its nutritional values are better than most other seeds and cereal crops, but it’s frequently maligned because of its association with illegal drug-use (although the hemp that contains the chemical that produces a ‘high’ is a different sub-species).
Having said that, 9Bar is an intriguing choice of name for this product. I have a hazy idea that a ‘9 bar’ is a term for a quarter of a kilogram of cannabis resin (ie, 9 ounces, there being about 36 ounces in a kilo), but surely there’s no deliberate link between the bar’s name and one of its minor ingredients?
But enough idle musing. Back to the basics. You can buy 9Bars in supermarkets and healthfood shops, where they cost from around 70p each or from £1.49 for a packet of 4. Boxes of 16 for £10.80 to £13.60 (depending on flavour), post free, direct from the 9Bar site www.9-bar.co.uk
This is a very tasty, very healthy energy food. And fairly priced too. If you can’t take too much sticky energy product - or prefer not to - then 9Bars should be part of your nutritional armoury. Eat them on your bike, or even at your desk.
road.cc test report
Make and model: 9 Bar Original and Pumpkin flavours
Size tested: Box of 16 bars
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"9Bar is a deliciously nutritious seed bar designed to get the maximum nutritional goodness from seeds in a convenient and tasty way, so its no great surprise to find the main ingredient of a 9Bar is a blend of wholesome seeds. Sunflower seeds form the main base of the bar but the mix also includes pumpkin, poppy, sesame and the legendary hemp. The flax variety has added flax, or linseed as it is often better known, one of the best plant sources of Omega 3. Seeds are a nutritionally dense food containing a wide range of nutrients including minerals, vitamins, essential amino and fatty acids. As part of a balanced, healthy diet seeds can provide a wide range of nutrients."
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes
About the tester
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,