REVIEW: CLIF Builder’s Bar

February 6, 2024
REVIEW: CLIF Builder’s Bar

In my quest to find the best protein bar on the market, today I’m breaking down CLIF Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter bar.

CLIF Builders Bars have been around for a while. But CLIF Bars have long been marketed as energy bars for the likes of hiking or biking, which means most people don’t think of them as protein bars. CLIF Builders Bar, however, focuses on protein — probably because they want to hit the protein bar segment of the market.

But first things first…

Who is CLIF?

According to their website:

CLIF Bar was born on a bike and built with athletes in mind. Today we continue to make organic, plant-based energy food that begins with a recipe and the latest nutrition science—and not just for performance. We make a wide range of foods expertly designed for different moments— from the epic to the everyday.

So, they should be making high quality plant-based energy bars, right?

Well… only one way to find out.

CLIF Bar Ingredients

CLIF says, “CLIF Builders tastes great and is crafted with high-quality ingredients to help achieve total body fitness and provide lasting energy.” 

But is that really the case?

This review takes a discerning look at the breakdown of CLIF’s ingredients, shedding light on the subpar choices that will raise eyebrows among health-conscious consumers.

Let’s ignore the Nutrition Facts for a moment and just focus on the long list of ingredients on the image above. The first thing that you’ll notice is that their top ingredient is soy protein powder — and I’ll go into why that’s bad in a minute. But then you might notice the next three ingredients: sugar, sugar, and more sugar! 

If only there were a better way to create protein bars that aren’t just candy bars in disguise. (Foreshadowing)

So, let’s break these ingredients down into an easy to read list.

  1. Soy Protein Isolate
  1. Organic Cane Syrup
  1. Organic Cane Sugar
  1. Organic Brown Rice Syrup
  1. Palm Kernel Oil
  1. Vegetable Glycerin
  1. Organic Soy Flour
  1. Organic Rice Flour
  1. Chicory Fiber Syrup
  1. Organic Peanuts
  1. Natural Flavors
  1. Organic Peanut Butter
  1. Cocoa Butter
  1. Cocoa
  1. Organic Soy Protein Concentrate
  1. Sunflower And/Or Soybean Oil
  1. Salt
  1. Rice Starch
  1. Soy Lecithin
  1. Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant)

As might already know, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list their ingredients in order by weight.

Which means that the CLIF Chocolate Peanut Butter bar is filled with mostly ultra processed soy and sugar. Sure, it contains 20 grams of protein from soy protein isolate, but surely there are better alternatives to getting 20 grams of protein without all the damaging chemicals and ultra processed ingredients.

Too Much Soy?

Soy protein — as we’ve covered in an earlier review — might be one of the worst sources of protein in food manufacturing. Not because of the protein itself, but because it is very difficult to source high quality soy. Some reasons you should steer away are:

The Problem With Soy:

  • Soy is high in phytic acid which inhibits nutrient absorption.
  • Trypson-inhibitors that interfere with the absorption of soy.
  • Goytagens - anti-nutrient that interferes with iodine absorption
  • Contains high levels of phytoestrogens.
  • Contamination with pesticide residues. Majority is grown on large farms using glyphosate. 94% of soy is GMO which is heavily sprayed with round-up ready glyphosate. Soy can also be contaminated with aluminum due to the tanks it is processed in.

Plus 20 grams of protein in a 68 gram bar means that roughly a third of the CLIF Builder’s bar is made from low quality ingredients.

Too Much Sugar?

Did you notice the three ingredients after soy?

I’ll give you a hint: 

It’s sugar, sugar, and sugar!

Organic cane syrup, organic cane sugar, and organic brown rice syrup will spike your glucose through the roof. So, unless you’re eating this during a marathon, it doesn't really make any sense to have this much sugar. 

Plus, if you’re trying to lose weight with exercise and calorie restriction, then you should go for low carb, high protein snacks.

Organic is a nice touch, but most of the other ingredients (like 20 grams soy protein) are not organic.

Problematic Palm Oil

According to the World Wildlife Fund: 

“Palm oil is a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species — like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. 

This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. 

There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour.”

There are ways to get sustainable sourced palm oil in the market right now, but CLIF hasn't mentioned if they’re using such sources. I mean, if CLIF was using such palm oil, they would 100% have mentioned it on their website… but that’s just my speculation.

Also, palm oil is the cheapest oil you can buy — which is why almost all long shelf life packaged food has palm oil as the source of fat.

Yeah, and also CLIF doesn't use organic palm oil.

Other Not So Great Ingredients

Glycerin: Glycerin is something you typically find in skincare. But the food industry also uses glycerin to keep packaged food moist. It’s a sugar alcohol like maltitol, so too much glycerin can cause gut problems.

Chicory Fiber Syrup: It’s a better alternative to regular sugar because of its lower glycemic index. But since it’s so low on the list, it just seems like it’s there to make the label look good. Not to give you a higher quality product.

Final Verdict

CLIF Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter bar is packed with cheap ingredients. Soy protein and palm kernel oil are the cheapest sources of protein and fat on the market. But at least they don’t use many synthetic/artificial ingredients like food colors.

Plus I think they have too much sugar for a protein bar.

And it’s exactly for these reasons I can’t recommend it to you. 

But if you’re looking for a real protein bar with real ingredients, see below.

Tejesh Reddy

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