We’d like to thank Rob Shaul at Mountain Tactical Institute for allowing us to re-publish this article. The MTI site is a wealth of information on training, nutrition and performance for hunters, mountain guides, ski mountaineers, alpinists, whitewater kayakers and other mountain athletes. It’s been a key resource for us here at the JOMH. Find more information at www.mtntactical.com.
Analyzing Calories Per Ounce
We sought to analyze which supplements and candy bars provide the greatest caloric density per ounce and are therefore ideal for backcountry or event nutrition. We analyzed the most popular supplements used in endurance sports and compared them by calories per ounce, caffeine per packet, and cost per ounce.
We did not analyze commonly prepared foods typically found at endurance events or used for backcountry excursions such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or meal replacement bars such as ProBars or Cliff Builders Bars. We strictly analyzed popular, prepared, on-the-go snacks.
All the nutritional information expressed in this table was taken directly off the labels of these supplements/snacks or from the brand’s website. The cost of these supplements was calculated per packet from the brand’s website. If cost wasn’t displayed on the website we calculated the cost per ounce by buying wholesale from Amazon.com.
We included caffeine into our considerations as caffeine has well documented ergogenic (performance enhancing) effects for endurance exercise. An 8 oz cup of brewed coffee generally contains anywhere from 80mg – 135mg of caffeine. The optimum caffeine dosage for ergogenicity is 3 – 6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh roughly 70 kg the optimum caffeine dosage for performance enhancing effects is 218mg – 436mg. That’s the equivalent of drinking anywhere from 2 – 6 cups of brewed coffee before an event. Take these numbers into consideration when looking at these supplements as most of them contain less caffeine than half a cup of coffee. Also, note that unless you are training while supplementing with caffeine don’t start taking large amounts of caffeine for a specific event or outing as caffeine does have a diuretic effect in non-habitual caffeine users that can put you at an increased risk of dehydration due to increased urination and increased risk of gastrointestinal distress.
|Brand/ Supplement Name||Calories per Ounce||Caffeine (mg)
Per bar/packet unless noted
|Cost per Ounce|
|Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate Bar 70-85% Cacao||168||136.5||$0.95|
|Twix Peanut Butter||152||5||$0.61|
|Honey Stinger Waffle||151||none||$1.31|
|Special Dark Chocolate Bar||150||31 per serving||$0.35|
|Symphony Milk Chocolate Bar||149||8||$0.72|
|Kit Kat Bar||145||5||$0.38|
|Hershey’s Chocolate Bar with Almonds||144||6 per serving||$0.52|
|Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups||144||4 per serving||$0.38|
|Peanut M&M’s||144||15 per serving||$0.20|
|Twix Caramel Bar||143||5||$0.32|
|Clif Bloks Energy Chews||94.3||25 or 50 (depends on flavor)||$0.95|
|Clif Shot Energy Gel||91.7||25, 50, 100 (depends on flavor)||$1.04|
|Honey Stinger Energy Chews||90.9||32 mg if purchasing the caffeinated chews||$1.25|
|GU Energy Gel||88.5||0, 20, 40 (depends on flavor)||$1.32|
|GU Roctane Energy Gel||88.5||0 or 35 (depends on flavor)||$2.27|
|Honey Stinger Energy Gel||88.5||32 mg if purchasing the caffeinated gel or Gel Ginsting||$1.26|
|GU Energy Chews||85.7||0 or 20 (depends on flavor)||$1.25|
|EFS Liquid Shot||80||None||$1.20|
|Hammer Gel||77.6 can vary with flavor||Espresso 50 mg, Tropical 25 mg||$1.20|
- Dark Chocolate and candy bars are the most calorically dense snacks per ounce
- Clif Energy products are not only high in caloric density but also the highest in caffeine compared to other brands
- Clif products are the cheapest compared to other endurance/ performance supplements
- Most supplements do not contain enough caffeine to produce profound performance enhancing effects
- GU and Honey Stinger Products are moderately calorically dense yet are often the most used and tend to be on the more expensive side
- EFS Liquid Shot may be convenient but it is not calorically dense
- If calories and weight are primary considerations consume predominantly candy bars and dark chocolate
- GU Energy Chews contain an ideal sugar profile containing primarily maltodextrins. These glucose polymers are most quickly absorbed by the GI tract allowing them to reach working muscle fastest. These products are expensive but excellent for nutrition during an activity. You would need additional forms of energy as well however.
- We recommend consuming other forms of energy during events to get a more complete meal in terms of macronutrients and supplementing water with electrolyte mixes to maintain ideal hydration and electrolyte levels.
MTI exists to improve Mission Performance for mountain and tactical athletes and keep them safe and performing at the highest levels. This focus on “mission direct” solutions, enhancements and improvements drives their work and research. Mission performance is their obsession.
To this end MTI is not boxed in by convention, tradition, orthodoxy, public opinion or any other artificial constraint driven by inside or outside forces. Their facility in Jackson, Wyoming is a Strength and Conditioning Laboratory and a Mission Performance research space.
MTI began in 2007 as Mountain Athlete with the aim of developing programming for mountain guides, ski mountaineers, alpinists, whitewater kayakers and other mountain athletes. They quickly learned that fitness programming for these unique sports was immature and incomplete, and soon realized they needed to re-build mountain athlete programming from the ground up. To do so they developed their own unique training methodologies and testing facility. Find out more at www.mtntactical.com.