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PowerBar is well-known sports nutrition brand, with a wide range of bars, gels, drinks and other products – including Performance Smoothies. Fairly unusual as energy products go, but as you'd expect, smoothies sit halfway between gels and drinks. They're a tasty and a reliable source of carbohydrate – especially handy if you find 'normal' food difficult to absorb on a long bike ride, or if you don't like the texture of traditional gels.
The main ingredients of Performance Smoothies include various fruit purees, maltodextrin (or glucose) and fructose. The combination of glucose and fructose is not uncommon in energy products; according to PowerBar (and other manufacturers) the glucose and fructose combo is a more effective way to provide energy, compared with glucose alone.
The type of fruit puree in the mix depends on the flavour of the smoothie. There are three favours available: banana and blueberry, mango and apple, apricot and peach. We're testing the latter. It's a very pleasant flavour, with a definite fruit pulp texture, not quite the same as a proper smoothie drink, but pretty close. And while it's not as glutinous as a gel, it is still quite sweet, which might not suit everyone, but the more liquid consistency makes it more refreshing.
I've used the Performance Smoothies on a few long rides, and they definitely provide some energy, and make a welcome addition to my usual selection of bars and gels. Particularly useful is the screw-top which means you don't have to consume the smoothie all in one go. You can enjoy a few squirts, put the top back on and then enjoy a few more squirts a little farther down the road. On the downside, most riders will need two hands to hold the smoothie pouch and unscrew the top, which will mean stopping or riding no-handed, depending on your skills.
Each pouch weighs 90g (quite a size compared to most gels) which provides around 500kJ (120 kcal) of energy, consisting of 28g of carbohydrate plus a tiny dash of protein and no fat. This means there's around 60g of water in each pouch. This ratio will be fine for some riders – it means the smoothie is refreshing, and helps keep you hydrated – but other cyclists will be happy getting their liquid from their drink bottles and wanting a greater proportion of carbs from their gels. For example, a High5 gel weighs 38g and provides 28g of carb, while a ZipVit 7 gel weighs 60g and provides around 50g of carb. But this is a personal thing.
On price, a single Performance Smoothie pouch retails for around £1.50 to £1.75. If you buy in bulk, a box of 16 packets is around £20, or a few quid less at the usual on-line retailers.
On a blunt carbs-per-quid basis, PowerBar Performance Smoothies are an expensive way to take on carbs (the aforementioned ZipVit 7, providing almost double the carbs, sells at about the same price). But PowerBar Performance Smoothies is more than just a supply of carb for long bike rides. It's tasty and refreshing as well, and for many riders that will be the major plus.
As with all nutrition products, you should try Performance Smoothies when you're not training hard, just to make sure the ingredients agree with you on a personal basis. If you like them, stick with them. If you don't, then try something else.
Unusual and effective source of energy that's also tasty and refreshing; not cheap, but will be worth the money for some
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Make and model: Powerbar Performance Smoothie
Size tested: 90g, Apricot Peach
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?
This product is a source of carbohydrate (glucose and fructose) for energy. It's aimed at cyclists doing long or hard rides - mostly this will be racing or taking part in sportives. The PowerBar website says:
"For successful intense training or competition you should top up your energy levels before you start and refuel during exercise with carbohydrates. Performance Smoothies are made of min. 65% fruit purees and deliver C2MAX, a scientifically developed, 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose sources. They have a smooth natural taste, are easy to swallow and fuel you like a PowerGel."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The PowerBar website goes on to highlight these points:
"Improved recipe: more carbohydrates** plus extra sodium gives you the same functionality as one PowerGel
Scientifically developed C2MAX Dual Source Carb Mix contain a 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose sources
Ideal combination of the advantages of bars and gels: easy to swallow without chewing, higher satiety feeling than PowerGels
With extra sodium, the main electrolyte lost through sweat
More than double the energy on average compared to usual fruit purees
Based on min. 65% natural tasting fruit purees
No added flavours, colours* or preservatives (*by law)
Lactose- and Gluten free"
As a source of energy, the PowerBar Performance Smoothie is very effective, although for most adults the 28g of carb provided will provide fuel for only around half an hour of exertion (after an initial two hours).
Each Smoothie pouch weighs 90g, consisting of 28g of carbohydrate. This means there's around 60g of water in each pouch. This ratio will be fine for some riders – it means the smoothie is refreshing, and helps keep you hydrated – but other cyclists will be happy getting their liquid from their drink bottles and carrying lighter gels (providing the same amount of carb) in their back pocket.
On a blunt carbs-per-quid basis, Performance Smoothies are not good value. But the pleasant refreshing taste distinguishes this product from other 'normal' gels, and for many riders that will be the reason for buying.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Refreshing flavour, pleasant texture, resealable top.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Weight. At 90g a go, it's difficult to carry more than a few of these Smoothies in your jersey back pocket.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, with other bars and gels.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, especially if they didn't like normal gels.
Use this box to explain your score
Overall, these Performance Smoothies perform very well - they're a tasty and effective supply of energy - and on that basis they'd score 9. But they're not cheap, and their sheer size will make them unsuitable for some cyclists, together docking a point, giving an overall score of 8.
Age: 53 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 10.5 stone / 69kg
I usually ride: an old aluminium Marin Alp for audax riding and winter training, an old steel Jensen for tootling and commuting, a steel Cotswo My best bike is: an old classic carbon Giant Cadex for sportives
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, general fitness riding, Trail riding, gravel 'racing', rough-stuff, CX sportives (and anything off road on a road bike)