I have a love affair with protein bars. As bar back as I can remember, which includes childhood, I have been devouring protein bars.
The popularity of protein bars has only seemed to increase with each passing year. As our society continues to get faster and we have less and less time to actually sit down to eat a meal, protein bars have become a diet staple for many.
Protein bars are a life saver for me on a near daily basis. Although I prefer to sit down and eat an actual meal, I don’t always have time to do that.
Being able to grab a protein bar and eat it while I’m driving to work or between errands helps to stave off hunger for a few hours until I have time to eat again.
While I have tried a ton of various protein bars, the Clif Builder’s Protein Bar has been one of my go-to choices for a protein bar in recent years.
As I’ve probably eaten a few hundred of these bars over the last 2-3 years, I think I’m adequately qualified to provide you with a thorough and expert review of them.
Read on for my Clif Builder’s Protein Bar Review.
Clif is a really cool company. They were created by a guy named Gary Erickson and are based out of Emeryville, California. Erickson started the company in 1990 after being disappointed with the energy bars currently on the market at that time.
Erickson believed that he could create a better bar so he went to work in his mother’s kitchen. 29 years later I would have to say that he accomplished his goal, as Clif energy bars are widely known as one of the best energy bars available
The company was named after Erickson’s father, Clifford, which I found interesting as I had no idea what the name of the company meant after all these years.
Clif looks to be a very progressive company that truly cares about the environment, the community and it’s employees, which is important to me.
Being an employee for Clif seems particularly awesome. They offer paid volunteer and workout time along with six-week paid sabbaticals and a stock ownership program. Can you imagine being given time at work to workout? Sign me up!
Clif has always been associated with outdoor sports. I vividly remember seeing the iconic mountain climber on the packaging on their energy bars when I was a kid and thinking how cool they looked. That was in the early 90s and their packaging has not changed. Why mess with a classic?
While the energy bars are what Clif continues to be known for, they have expanded and created a few different types of bars since the company started. They currently make Luna bars aimed towards women, Clif Kid Z bars for children as well as a Whey protein bar that’s separate from their Builder’s protein bar. They’ve also stayed true to their roots and produce energy bloks and gels for endurance athletes amongst other products.
I tried to find what year Clif introduced the Builder’s bar but sadly I was unable to find it. I’m going to venture a guess that they were introduced within the last five years since that’s when I remember seeing them everywhere but it may be closer to the ten-year mark.
For those of you who are into adventure races, Clif Builder’s bar is the official bar of Spartan Race, which is pretty badass.
I would categorize the Builder’s bar as a protein energy bar perfect for activities like the Spartan Race. It’s a bit of a hybrid. Most energy bars don’t focus on protein and rarely contain much of it. Builder’s bars contain 20 grams of protein.
According to the description on the back of the bars, “Builder’s has 20g of complete protein, with essential amino acids to help repair and build muscle, and carbohydrates to help replenish your muscle glycogen stores after a workout”.
The bar is low-glyemic and sourced from non-gmo ingredients. The bar is not certified organic although it does contain many organic ingredients.
As the bar is low-glycemic and contains ingredients like rolled oats, it’s going to digest slower and provide a more steady release of energy over a prolonged period as opposed to an immediate spike in your energy and blood sugar that other bars deliver.
The protein in the bar comes from soy protein isolate and concentrate, which I know will be disappointing to many. There’s also added vitamins and minerals in the bar for good measure.
Clif currently makes 7 flavors of Builder’s bars which are chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter, cookies and cream, vanilla almond, crunchy peanut butter, cinnamon nut swirl and chocolate.
Most of these are pretty standard flavors for protein bars. The cookies and cream, cinnamon nut swirl and chocolate mint stand out however, and are a nice change. The same chocolate and chocolate peanut butter flavors made by most of the other protein bar companies get old after a while.
Overall, these bars taste pretty good. I have tried every flavor more than a few times. They’re not the best tasting bar I’ve ever had, but they are a very decent tasting bar and better tasting than many on the market.
My favorite flavor is the chocolate mint by far. Chocolate mint is my favorite flavor for most things though so I’m a little biased.
Although I have slowed down with eating these bars, if I buy them I usually buy chocolate mint. The cinnamon nut swirl is very good as well and I would highly suggest it if you do decide to try them. I don’t typically like anything with cinnamon and I was very pleasantly surprised with the taste of it.
Due to the sugar content and the fact that they don’t use stevia in the bars, these taste fairly sweet so keep that in mind if you are thinking about trying them.
This is where my main criticism with these bars lie. Before I go further, I have bought these bars for years and have eaten an ungodly amount of them.
Clif does a great job with their ingredients overall in my opinion. They don’t use artificial ingredients or preservatives and use things like organic and rain forest alliance certified ingredients in the bars.
There’s a few things about the ingredients in this bar that I don’t like although it obviously hasn’t prevented me from eating them.
The first thing I don’t like is that the protein is derived from soy. As I a rule, I avoid soy in my diet because it’s been found to disrupt testosterone levels and increase estrogen levels. That’s not good for regular guys but even worse for bodybuilders. Soy has also been linked with tumor growth and just something I want to avoid. This is the main reason I have limited my consumption of these bars in recent months.
The second thing I don’t like is the amount of sugar in the bars. For someone eating these before and after endurance sports, these are great. For those looking to keep their sugar levels low, this is not going to be your best option.
The third issue I have with the bars is the carbohydrate content. 30 grams of carbs is a lot for a protein bar and for those of us on low-carb diets, which is me currently, it’s almost an entire days worth of carbohydrates. I’d prefer to get my carbohydrates from food if possible.
These bars are sold far and wide, including internationally. Due to that, I can’t give you an exact price for the bars. I often see them on sale at my local grocery store and have even purchased them in bulk from stores like BJ’s. Since they are so widely available, they are unlikely to be the same price where you live as they are for me.
You can currently get a variety pack of Builder’s bars containing two of each flavor on Amazon for $26.34. That’s just under $2.00 a bar. I usually end up paying about $1.75 when I buy them in singles at the grocery store, so the price is usually somewhere within that range in my experience. That’s a fair price for a bar in this category.
Pros and cons
- Widely available
- Reasonably priced
- Variety of flavors
- Low glycemic
- Good amount of protein
- Contains soy
- High in carbs
- High in sugar
Overall, I do like these bars and would reccomend them despite their flaws. After the Atlas bar, this is the next bar on the shelf that I’m usually grabbing. While I do not eat as many of them as I used to, I still eat them from time to time.
Although these are marketed as a protein bar, I would say that these make a better meal replacement bar due to the fact that they are higher in carbohydrates. Typically, I use them as a meal replacement. I will eat one as a meal, usually breakfast, if I don’t have time to sit down and eat a real meal.
I think that these bars can be a great option after a workout due to the protein content and carbohydrates but I know that many of you will feel the same as I do about soy, and opt for a different bar or protein powder free of soy. If Clif just substituted the soy protein in these bars with whey protein I have no doubt they would sell a lot more.
Have you tried any of the Clif Builder’s bars? I would love to hear you opinion of them, both good and bad, below!