Featured Nutrition Reviews

MuleBar ReFuel

MuleBar ReFuelCyclo has long admired the products from MuleBar and used both their Kick Gels and Energy Bars across numerous long rides, what we haven’t done – until now – is use and review their equally delicious MuleBar ReFuel Bars…


MuleBar was born after a climbing trip to cerro Aconcagua in 2002 where co-founders Alex and Jimmy say they simply couldn’t stomach any more of the energy bars on offer from their guides. After five years of experimentation, research and (presumably) eating the company produced their first commercial available products in 2007 and in many ways things haven’t changed much since as they still product nutrition bars and gels based on their founding principles of nature, taste, performance, environment and simplicity.


The MuleBar ReFuel certainly ticks all of these boxes: In terms of ‘nature’, they use no synthetic ingredients, artificial preservatives, colourings, flavourings or palm oil, just a blend of bogoya banana, Fairtrade dates, Fairtrade almonds, cocoa and chocolate drops to produce either their Chocolate Banana or Chocolate Date flavour. Trust us, that blend also covers ‘taste’ – both flavours are excellent, with a sticky moreishness that fools you into thinking that they can’t be good for you.


But of course, they are. The MuleBar ReFuel Chocolate Date is made from 23% Fairtrade dates and delivers 240Kcal, 31g of carbohydrate and 13g of high quality protein per 65g bar, whilst the Chocolate Banana (same size bar) is 25% Bogoya banana to give 246Kcal, 34g of carbs and 14g of protein. The commendably stripped back ingredients also ticks off ‘simplicity’ from the co-founders list.


That leaves only ‘environment’ and it’s good to know that not only do MuleBar use Fairtrade ingredients (ReFuel is the only Fairtrade protein bars on the UK market), they are also Vegetarian Society approved and are signed up to the 1% For The Planet scheme which sees 1% of annual sales donated to sustainability initiatives.


MuleBar ReFuel RRP at £2.50 per 65g bar or online at at £30 per box of 12, £60 per box of 24 for either flavour or mixed boxes of both flavours. Go on, treat yourself…


Featured Nutrition Reviews

Nordic Oil Omega 3

Nordic OilOmega 3 oils, it would seem, are useful at almost every stage of life, but because the body doesn’t produce it naturally we need to find either a rich dietary source or through supplements such as those produced by Nordic Oil. As a ‘modern diet’ is so often lacking in Omega 3s of sufficient quantity or quality, the latter is invariably the better option.


Nordic Oil uses only premium quality Omega 3 oil sourced in deep, clear waters from cold-water anchovies, herring and sardines (some of the best sources available) and ‘deep’ and ‘clear’ are key for a rather odd reason. The fish themselves are no more capable or producing Omega 3 that we are, instead they get it in turn from their food source (often krill) and the better quality the water, the better the fish food, the better the fish, the better the Omega 3s… the better the product. Phew.


Nordic Oil produce a range of products which includes the bottled High Grade Omega 3; it’s cold-pressed and triple-filtered, which improves both purity and quality, and if you’re concerned about the taste (memories of childhood?) the edge is somewhat removed with a dash of natural lemon flavour. If supplementing with capsules looks like a more attractive proposition the Nordic Oil 1000mg capsules go down easily but deliver less than half of the EPA and DHA (the two key components of Omega 3) that the straight-from-the-bottle oil serves up. They are still a solid option when you consider that at least part of your Omega 3 requirements are likely to be being met through diet alone, especially through ‘oily’ fish, soybeans, walnuts, flax, etc.


Omega 3 provides a range of benefits, but to be (very) reductive it reduces stress (systemic not mental), which can be particularly beneficial to endurance athletes. However it has been subject to controversy in 2013 with large sections of the media have had a field day with ‘links’ between supplementing and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Almost all of this has been the result of media misrepresentation and a lack of understanding of results (by the press) but if you want to do your own research – and if you’re going to stick something in your body Cyclo would always recommend you do – then the abstract from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that inadvertently kick-started it all can be found here.


Public Service Announcement over – we can probably get on with supplementing and being healthier, happier cyclists. Nordic Oil High Grade Omega 3 500ml bottles retail at £26.99 (£15.99 for 250ml) and 60x1000mg Omega 3 Capsules – a month’s worth – RRP £9.99. Further detail and online purchase at


Vegetarians looking for a supplementary source of Omega 3 might consider a product like Chia – take a look at the Cyclo review here.





Featured Nutrition Reviews

GU Energy Gels

GU Energy GelsFor more than 20 years GU have been at the forefront of the energy gel business and although a few (minor things) have been tweaked here and there they are still largely unchanged since their launch in 1991 – testament to the mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’


Don’t be fooled by the somewhat miniscule 32g GU pack size; they deliver 100kcal per serving – equal to many larger gels – from 25g of carbohydrate, a blend of 70-80% maltodextrin and 30-20% fructose (depending on flavour variety.) The mixed carb source has several benefits: fructose absorbs quickly and so goes to work fast, but the gentler on the stomach maltodextrin – a starch derivative – absorbs slower for sustained energy but still quickly enough not to shunt blood away from otherwise preoccupied muscles. Combined, the fructose and maltodextrin provide a steady energy source without the peaks and troughs of simple sugars. To aid carb absorption and to help fight off muscle fatigue each serving also contains 450mg of amino acids in addition to sodium and potassium to counter ‘body salts’ lost through sweat.


GU also offers a wide range of flavours – Jet Blackberry, Chocolate Orange and Cyclo’s favourite Vanilla Bean amongst them. All of the flavours are well balanced (tasty without being overpowering) and the consistency is closer to a paste than most gels, which takes some getting used to and does require a swig from the bidon to wash down.


GU certainly delivers on the energy front and those with sensitive stomachs should benefit from the maltodextrin biased carb content, flavour range means there is (probably) something for everyone and their tiny packet size – half of a Maxifuel Viper for similar energy delivery for example – means there is less bulk in the jersey pocket. As the makers say: ‘Just suck down a packet of your favourite flavour and go (big)!’


GU Energy Gels are £36 per box of 24, further details and online purchase from


Featured Features

Nigel Mitchell Nutrition Talk

Nigel MitchellNigel Mitchell, Head of Nutrition at Team Sky (and GB Cycling Team Nutritionist to boot), knows a thing or two about what it takes to provide power to the pedals. Last year he was part of the team that helped power Sky to a Tour de France one-two podium finish and go on to help Wiggins and co tear up both track and road at the London Olympics – this year, of course, it was Froome’s turn for a TdF win. Taking time out of his busy Schedule, he talked to Cyclo to discuss  diet  and help answer the question: How can your average rider come close to the nutrition perfection practiced at Team Sky?


CaloriesIt’s a very individual thing obviously, but a Team Sky rider is probably using about 6000kcal on a long leg of the Tour de France for example. But then if you’ve someone doing a six or seven hour sportive you’re not going to be a million miles away from that. The foods are going to be similar, just that the amount is going to be scaled up or down. You have to remember that if you eat on the bike you can easily be taking on 80g of carbs (360kcal) per hour whilst riding. It’s not as big as you might think….


Getting the mix rightAt Team Sky we work on about 60-90g of carbs per hour and that can be done with a mixture of race drinks, a nutrition bar, maybe a gel and rice cakes, paninis are good. Just simple ever-day foods. This will depend on the intensity of the racing, but dead Easy.


Fast and slow release carbsYou have to think about delivery systems – it’s a little bit like transport networks; if you’re running barges that travel at 5miles an hour but they are delivering every five minutes, then you have an effective delivery system. If you have a Ferrari but it only runs once a week then it’s not as effective as using the much slower barges.


Having some designated fast carbs, like gels, is particularly useful if you are going into something that’s going to be a big effort: bottom of a climb, something like that. A lot of the foods that we tend to give our riders is more of the medium glycaemic, but they are eating on a very regularly basis so they are meeting that delivery system. If they need, let’s call it ‘quick energy’, then a gel makes sense. Gels for your sportive rider are ideal if they are starting to flag or are getting fatigued, it’s a good fuelling system and they can get most of what they need there. Having a caffeinated gel in reserve can be really useful too.


FluidsTaking on adequate fluid on the bike and off of the bike is important to manage your hydration.  In Team Sky our energy/hydration drinks are provided by Gatroade.  We recommend one bidon of the race drink per hour, as it gets hotter we just get more fluid from water.  Everyone has different sweat rates you can check your weight before and after training, take into account any fluid drunk and work out the weight difference and therefore your approximate sweat rate.  This is easily done during a 60-minute turbo session.


Pre- and post-ride foodsBreakfast might be omelette and rice or porridge – that’s popular with our guys. Some fruit juice is great. After the bike for your sportive riders – chicken, fish, meat, rice, potatoes, vegetables – exactly the same as our guys are eating. It’s all very simple, straightforward stuff…


ProteinThe foods that I’ve mentioned already have a lot of protein in too. The rice cakes that we make have cream cheese in, the bars are a flapjack-type made by CNP, which have protein in, paninis tend to be ham and cheese. So our riders are eating protein on the bike.


You have different metabolic pathways and protein isn’t directly involved in carb metabolism but some of the amino acids and nitrogenous compounds that you get from protein are involved. It’s not a direct effect – the role of protein on he bike isn’t about performance, it’s a recovery thing. It helps them or you ride again the next day. To put it very simply the carbs are for fuelling you and the proteins aid recovery…


The simplicity of milkI’m a big believer in dairy products in general and in milk particularly – I think it’s fantastic. What you can do very easily with milk is add a couple of bananas which will boost the carb content if you need that, but a pint of milk alone will deliver about 20g of carbs just by itself. It’s a great recovery product, just not always that convenient post-ride…


Vegetable juicesWe use a lot of vegetable juices at Team Sky and, again, your sportive riders can do this just as easily. The reason we use fresh vegetable juice is that it’s an easy way to consume the goodness of the vegetable without the bulk. If you’re scaling up your diet and you have to get through loads of pasta or whatever then if you can reduce the bulk that’s needed to be eaten as far as the vegetables are concerned, by getting it in the form of a juice, then you can clearly see the benefits of that.


Additional supplementsGenerally I don’t think they’re necessary – perhaps the only one where there might be a real benefit is the Omega-3s, the fish oils, because it’s difficult with a modern diet to get all of the Omega-3 fats from food alone. The quality of the supplement product is vital though – the one we use in the team is very high quality, it’s the CNP Pro-Omega.


Beetroot supplementsThere’s probably not a huge benefit, but then again they probably won’t hurt anyone. The worst it will do is turn your pee pink. Under a controlled trial you can show some benefits, but for your sportive rider I’d say save you money and spend it on a set of lighter wheels and do a bit more training. Most benefit comes from training. Basically there are other things you can focus on to improve your performance. Get out on the bike a bit more is key….


Weight-loss for cyclingWhat you want to be doing is protecting lean tissue and dropping fat, the best way of doing that is making sure you are getting good quality, regular protein intake and bringing down the calories just a bit. If you don’t get the balance right you end up losing a lot of functional tissue and muscle mass and that, of course, will affect your performance adversely. Some people get it completely wrong and end up looking fatter than before because they have lost proportionally more muscle than fat – they develop what I call the ‘skinny-fat look’, which isn’t at all good.


Personal favourite bike foodIt’s bananas for me. If you do a four-hour ride it’s difficult to carry enough for the full four hours, but I love them… 


Featured Nutrition Reviews


ElivarThe sports nutrition market is a crowded one and barely a couple of months pass without a new contender fighting for shelf space. Elivar is the latest offering, claiming to bring something new to the mix with products aimed squarely at the 35+ age range.


Elivar is a complete three-part system for pre-, during and post-exercise (the Holy Trinity of sports nutrition) with unique blends to support the needs of older athletes, undoubtedly a smart move given the rise in numbers of so-called MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) and equally their female, non-acronymed, equivalent. The range – Prepare, Endure and Recover – comprises of a variety of blended carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals that have been tailored to ensure that even during intense workouts and rides all bases are covered with fortification and the use of low GI (slow release) carbohydras.


Taking each in turn: Prepare, for use around 90minutes before exercise, uses a blend of fast and slow proteins – 27g per 65g serving – for muscle mass maintenance (and, in part, to begin the recovery stage even before training), combined with an equal quantity of carbohydrates, only half of which are sugar derived, 3.1g of fibre and vitamins B6 and B12 to aid the immune system. The flavour, chocolate, is perfectly palatable and the mix blended, we found, quickly and without clumps clogging our bottle, although retaining a slightly gritty texture.


Endure in Orange and Mango flavour – personally less to our liking, with a somewhat artificial aftertaste – is a 45g serving, which again mixed quickly to a relatively smooth drink for use on the bike. It delivers 32g of carbohydrates (13g from sugars) balanced in a 4:1 ratio with 8g of protein. The inclusion of thiamine, riboflavin, biotin, vitamin C and B12 all help to promote energy metabolism, with the addition of calcium and vitamin D for bone strength (an increased necessity for older athletes) and, again, vitamins B6 and B12 for the immune system.


Back to chocolate again for the Recover (ditto for the blending, non-clogging qualities) and a mix of whey powder and cassein to extend the ‘recovery window’ with 27g of protein and 28g of carbs (50% sugar derived) per 65g serving hopefully making quick work of getting you ready for the next ride. Again this is fortified with B6 and 12 for the immune system – which ironically can be somewhat compromised by endurance exercise – and calcium and vitamin D for the bones.


Because we often know so little about how our food is produced, harvested, stored and transported even those paying close attention to their diet could certainly do well to consider both food/sports nutrition fortification and vitamin supplementation and Elivar certainly addresses this admirably along with bringing a good range of additional benefits to boot.


The RDA (Recommended Dietary/Daily Allowance) percentage of vitamins varies throughout the range but taking vitamins C, D and E as a fairly representative example they are: 21%, 47% and 30% respectively for Prepare, 21%, 35% and 26% for the Endure, and 39%, 48% and 33% for Recover. Although all three products do contain sodium it was a surprise not to find the inclusion of potassium (possibly zinc and magnesium too) to aid hydration and replace the ‘salts’ lost through sweating during endurance exercise, especially as these form part of the complete package offered by the likes of Apres (review here) and For Goodness Shakes (review here)



Possibly this will be addressed in time along with the flavour (and flavour range); but for now Elivar is an excellent choice for those 35+ year-olds with a lust for life and desire to put in the miles on the bike.


Elivar Prepare and Recover are available in boxes of 12 individual 65g servings at £24.99 or 900g tubs (13 servings) for £34.99 and Elivar Endure in boxes of 12 individual 45g servings at £19.99 and 900g tubs (20 servings) at £24.99. For further details on Elivar and online retail see


Featured Nutrition Reviews


ChiaIt’s inarguable that modern diets are woefully short of Omega 3 – an essential fatty acid most commonly consumed in the form of oily fish. Its use has long been associated with a range of impressive sounding health benefits including blood pressure reduction and, perhaps more importantly for cyclist, reducing inflammation throughout the body, which in turn brings biomechanical gains during exercise.


One of the latest ‘superfoods’ to market, packed to the brim with Omega 3, protein, antioxidants and fibre is Chia; cultivated for centuries by the Aztecs and tribes of the Southwest of America it was once so highly prized as to have been used as currency. The Chia Co actually produce all of their products in Australia (a similarly ideal climate) and follow a broadly environmental regime for minimal global impact.


The seeds themselves (or the oil, which is also available) can be used in many ways – added to smoothies or breakfast cereals, baked into flapjacks or homemade energy bars, sprinkled on salads or added to a variety of recipes, many of which are available on the company website. Eaten alone they have relatively little taste, slightly nutty – rather like a bland sunflower seed.


Usually we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending a natural ingredient that contains so many potential health benefits; however recent studies (particularly those led out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center [sic] in America) have suggested a link between Omega 3 fatty acids and an increased risk of prostate cancer. In actual fact most of the ‘links’ are the result of media misrepresentation and a lack of understanding of results (by the press) but if you want to do your own research then the abstract from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that inadvertently kick-started it all can be found here. Chia is certainly a potent source with much to recommend it.


Chia is available in a variety of pack sizes from 8g ‘shot’ packs (£4.79 for ten) to 1kg jars at £19.29 – further details and the new UK online shop can be found at


Featured Nutrition Reviews

Creative Nature 38g Bars

Creative Nature 38g BarsIf you about what you put in your body (and frankly you really should) you can’t help but have noticed the proliferation of natural-credential energy bars hitting the market recently. Now Creative Nature a young, ethical organisation established to ‘promote health, creativity and respect for the environment’ have launched Creative Nature 38g Bars. The bars come in four flavours – Blissful Berry, Heavenly Cacao, Sublime Seed and Tropical Treat – all cold pressed and using 100% natural and, with the exception of the seed bar, raw ingredients.


The Blissful Berry variety contains cranberry (an excellent source of polyphenol antioxidants) and goji berries along with apricots, pineapple and sultanas. There is a refreshing tartness to the bar that cuts through the sweetness and it delivers 122kcal with 27.9g carbs, just 0.1g of saturated and 6g of dietary fibre.


Heavenly Cacao is a mix of dried fruits including dates, cranberries and cacao (i.e. cocoa) in a blend of powder, nibs and butter – with a taste like luxury fruit truffles it’s easy to forget that this bar is actually healthy. 132kcal per bar with 26g carb (just 14 of which are sugars, lower than the Blissful Berry) and – to be expected – higher saturated fats at 1.1g, still nothing to be concerned about.


Tropical Treat – the juiciest of the bars by far – blends pineapple and coconut, but it’s the tang of raw ginger that comes through. 124kcal per bar with 24.5g of carbohydrates (13.8g from sugars), 2.7g of fibre and 2.8 of fat – 1.9g of which, the highest of the varieties, is saturated.


Sublime Seed, the only one of the four varieties we didn’t much like, uses roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds and hemp protein to serve up 170kcal, 16.7g carbs and 3g of fibre. Although not personally to our taste, the bar is commendable in delivering a seed bar that is moist and easily digestible rather than being like something to hang in a birdcage. With 6.5g of protein in the mix it’s also the most useful bar for post-ride recovery.


The range is an excellent addition to the natural energy bar market; good clean tastes, ample ‘goodness’ (two to three bars per hour for a hard ride – on par with most sports-specific gels) and with bountiful green and ethical credentials to back them up. Given their small, jersey-pocket-friendly size they definitely deliver; the Heavenly Cacao, for example, hits you with the same carbs as the much larger 55g, similarly marketed, Chimpanzee bars (see Cyclo review here).


Creative Nature 38g Bars RRP £0.99 and are available, from amongst other places, – for further information on the company see


Featured Nutrition Reviews

MuleBar Energy Bars

MuleBar Energy BarsAn energy bar with impeccable organic and Fairtrade credentials, an energy bar highly rated by top athletes (including many Tour de France riders), an energy bar that tastes great. Most manufacturers would rest on their laurels if they could tick just one of those, not so Mulebar who seem determined to go the extra distance on all counts. So how do the MuleBar Energy Bars stack up?


Variety is key when it comes to getting adequate nutrition on the ride and MuleBar offers a choice of seven unusual flavours: Liquorice Allsports, Pinacolada, Mango Tango, Summer Pudding, Apple Strudel, Hunza Nut and Jimmy’s Choc Orange – intriguing, no? We found all but the Liquorice Allsports both tasty and true to description (different strokes, etc. and you may well love the Allsports too), and crucially, so as to avoid hydration issues, the bars are moist and easily digested without recourse to the bidon.


Not only do these taste like real food, they’re made from it too and the company is committed to introducing further organic and Fairtrade ingredients as they become available – want more ‘green’ credentials? Some of the wrappers are decompostable (and more will be soon) and the company is signed up to the ‘1% For the Planet’ scheme where 1% of sales goes to a network of more than 3000 approved environmental organisations worldwide. Nice to know that something fuelling your ride is also helping protect the planet…


Nutritional values natural fluctuate between flavours but to take Summer Pudding (our flat-out favourite) as a fairly typical example a 56g bar serves up: 187Kcal, 38g of carbs (29g of which are sugars – most of which from the fruit ingredients), just 3g of fat – 0.4g saturates – and 3g of fibre for good measure.


There is, of course, a growing move towards all things natural – even organic – but MuleBar are far ahead of the game when it comes to variety and taste. Summer Pudding will fuel us through the next few months and when the weather changes we’ll gladly switch to Hunza Nut. Or Apple Strudel. Or Mango Tango. Or…


MuleBar Energy Bars are available at with boxes of 12 are £19.00 and boxes of 24 £38.00