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7 best all-natural energy foods – From shakes to bars

Hiking, running or riding long? Here are the best products for on-the-go energy

We spent the past two months sampling the best on runs, hikes, rides and sometimes as a midday snack ( Primal Pantry )

If you want a hit of energy but without lots of man-made artificial ingredients you can’t pronounce, you’re in luck. The selection of all-natural energy-boosting snacks you can now choose from is growing fast. From fruit and nut combos to fruit-based gels, they’re not only made from a handful of instantly recognisable ingredients, but they’re often much tastier than their chemical counterparts too.

What to look out for?

If you’re using these foods during endurance exercise like a long ride or an ultra run, the most important considerations after how much energy does it supply are: What’s it made from? Does it taste good? Is it easy to digest? You’ll also want to be sure it’s easy to stash in a pocket or bag with risk of splitting and causing unpleasant stickiness.

Most of these foods are designed to be consumed on the move and, can largely be eaten as a quick alternative to breakfast before an event, during to top up energy stores, or even afterwards to help replenish depleted stocks of carbs and protein and speed recovery. Some may need water, others can be eaten on their own.

If you plan to use it as fuel for an activity it’s best to look for options with higher levels of carbs. Recovery foods should have a balance of carbs and protein. 

We spent the past two months sampling the best on runs, hikes, rides and sometimes as a midday snack. We judged them on portability, the hit of energy, taste and, of course price. And here are the best all-natural energy foods you need to stick in your backpack right now.

Veloforte Energy Bars: £6.99 for pack of 3, Veloforte

Calories per pack: 254-294 depending on variety
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

Based on an ancient Italian snack carried by the Roman legion, Veloforte bars are made from a blend of fruits, nuts and spices. Nice and portable, the 70g bars are great for taking on your own modern day march or cycle. More importantly, they taste delicious – the citrussy Classico and red berry, almond and pistachio Pronto have both won Great Taste awards. There are six different options including naturally caffeinated bars to keep you going for longer, protein-packed recovery options and salted for all-day energy. Pricey, but they do use high quality ingredients.

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33Shake Pre and Post-Workout Shake: £20.99 for a pack of 3, 33Shake

Calories per pack: 340
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

With an all-natural ingredients list reading likes a who’s who of superfoods – turmeric, goji berries, hemp and spirulina are all on there – these shakes are designed for runners, cyclists and triathletes tackling endurance events. Used as a pre-race drink they supply steady energy throughout a race or tough training session, while the plant-based proteins are ideal for aiding recovery after. 

Coming in easy single-serve sachets – no messing around with serving scoops – and three flavours, we reckon they taste better mixed with nut milk, but you can use dairy milk or water if you prefer. The dried fruits and nuts give a bit more texture than your standard shake, but we liked that.

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Spring Energy Gels: £24.37 for 12 pack, Spring

Calories per pack: 100
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Vegetarian and vegan options available 

Made from fruit puree and rice, these smooth textured gels taste like the concentrated fruit bit from the bottom of a crumble. Very palatable.

Easy to transport and get down your neck on the run or bike, they offer a nice little energy kick for longer sessions. The natural ingredients are much kinder on the tum than traditional gels, so they’re ideal if energy products usually give you stomach issues. 

There are six different options with slightly differing makeups designed to help sustain endurance, give you an energy spike during high-intensity activities or recover after exercise. There’s even a caffeinated version called Hill Aid – we’ll take all the help we can get.

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Huma Gels: £21.99 for 12 pack, Amazon

Calories per pack: Around 100
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

These all-all-natural gels from the US use finely milled chia seeds, fruit puree and brown rice syrup to give you energy on the go. They’re inspired by the chia-seed blends used by the Tarahumara tribe of Mexican Indians who run ultramarathons as part of their culture. But even if you’re not running 100+ miles, you’ll find they have a reassuringly natural taste without the frogspawnny texture of some chia products.

If you’re training in hot weather or you’re a big sweater, try the Huma Plus options, they contain coconut water and salt to deliver twice the electrolytes.

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Luchos Dillitos: £14.99 for 10 pack, Luchos Dillitos

Calories per pack: 88-120 depending on flavour+
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

One of the best ways to describe these Colombian guava and sugar bars is like eating a solid lump of jam. Personally, we like the taste, but they may be a bit sugary for some. Designed to be eaten on the move for an energy boost, they’re small and portable enough to fit in your pocket, bum bag or backpack. Be warned though, while the biodegradable dried leaves they’re wrapped in are great for reducing plastic use and preventing littering, they can split in your shorts – messy on hot days. Alongside the original guava flavour there are two new options, one with coffee and another with raspberry (our favourite).

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Primal Pantry Energy Bars: £24 for 18 bars, Primal Pantry

Calories per pack: 192-213
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

A classic cold pressed fruit and nut bar, you may well have seen Primal Pantry bars on the shelves of UK health food shops and supermarkets. Easy to get hold of, each bar contains just a handful of real food ingredients. A great snack on a bike or when hiking, or for slow-release energy pre-exercise.

The high protein varieties, which contain up to 27 per cent hemp protein, are particularly good for muscle recovery after a tough session or gym workout.

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OTE Apple & Cinnamon Vegan Anytime Bars: £15.60 for 16 bars, OTE

Calories per pack: 257.5
Gluten-free: Yes
Dairy-free: Yes
Vegan/vegetarian: Yes

These natural flapjacky snack bars should come with a warning – they’re killer moreish. Designed to be eaten, as the name says, anytime, they’re also a great source of carbohydrates, ideal for additional energy before a workout. 

We found them handy for eating on a bike or hike and during longer runs too – although if you’re not used to eating real food when running it’s best to practice first, rather than try during a race. They’re also nut-free – a rarity in natural bars.

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The verdict: All-natural energy foods

With its great combination of high quality, well balanced ingredients, hit of portable energy and a delicious range of flavours, Veloforte’s bars are the standout option for refuelling on the go. 33Shake’s shake is fantastic a pre-exercise option, particularly if you like something lighter to eat before working out, while Spring’s energy gels are easily the best all-natural energy in gel form we’ve tried.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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