I discovered Clif Shot Bloks by accident. At packet pickup for the 2013 Flying Pig Marathon attendees were herded through the entire expo before being allowed to exit. Like the little sheep that we all turn into in a crowd, I did what those in front of me did, so when people popped energy chew samples into their mouths, I popped energy chew samples into their mouths. (Don’t do this the day before your race. Especially if it’s a marathon. Just as you shouldn’t mess with new clothing *cough* like the race t-shirt *cough* immediately prior to or during an event, you shouldn’t try new food if you can possibly help it. I have kind of delicate digestion on a good day, so this was particularly not smart of me. Do as I say not as I do!) I particularly enjoyed some large (maybe 75% of the size of a standard domino), dark chews that had a non-sticky feel to them in addition to good texture and taste. After the race I took the plunge and bought a box of Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks from Amazon. Well, whatever those chews were at the expo, they weren’t Clif Shot Bloks. If I can find those, cool, but I’m really not too worried about it, since Clif Shot Bloks are freaking great. How’s that for serendipity?
I’ve tried three flavors of Clif Shot Bloks: Tropical Punch, Cran-Razz, and Black Cherry. They all taste delicious, and not in a ‘maybe I can choke this down with a lot of water so I don’t keel over during my race’ way. More like a ‘somebody should probably hide these so I stop eating them’ way. These mostly organic chews have the texture of fresh gummy bears and a mildly sweet taste – no punch of sugar here. You’ll still feel like you’re eating candy, but you know, healthy mostly organic candy. With caffeine.
Each six-chew pack contains two 100-calorie servings. The packs aren’t re-sealable, so the two serving gimmick is probably just to calm the squawking of dieters or food regulators. Make no mistake: if you’re fueling up for a run, you probably shouldn’t be trying to cut calories. Calories are fuel. Cut sugar or fat (or don’t cut fat, if you’re into that Vespa stuff, you hardcore ultrarunner/paleo dieter, you), but certainly don’t look to cut calories when you’re after fuel.
The tea-derived caffeine concentration varies across the flavors of Clif Shot Bloks. Some varieties contain extra sodium and no caffeine. Here’s the breakdown of the flavors I’ve tried:
Black Cherry: 50 mg caffeine/serving (equivalent to ~1 cup of coffee), 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 100 mg caffeine/package (equivalent to ~2 cups of coffee), 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)
Tropical Punch: 25 mg caffeine/serving (equivalent to ~0.5 cup of coffee), 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 50 mg caffeine/package (equivalent to ~1 cup of coffee), 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)
Cran-Razz: 0 mg caffeine/serving, 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 0 mg caffeine/package, 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)
Of these flavors, I’ve only had multiple boxes of the Black Cherry flavor, probably four or five boxes at this point. One box each of the Tropical Punch and the Cran-Razz. The Tropical Punch flavor tastes a lot like Gushers to me, a nostalgic plus and a far cry from the vaguely medicinal taste of a lot of other fruit punch flavored products out there. I tried it since I was seeking a lower caffeinated option that still contained some caffeine. I was thrilled with the taste, and really pleased that the chews aren’t blue! Despite the blue packaging, the chews are red, phew. They’re currently my favorite, with the Black Cherry a close second. Cran-Razz is tasty and tangy, but doesn’t really pack a caffeine punch.
How I Use Clif Shot Bloks:
Most week days I’ll wake up sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am to run. I like to have a snack, let my stomach settle, hydrate, read a book a bit, do some chin-ups and push-ups, and use the bathroom before I lace up. Clif Shot Bloks have become my go-to pre-run snack at that time since they help me shake off the morning cobwebs. I eat the whole package even if I’m only planning to run four miles. (I try to run no fewer than four miles. When it’s cold, if I’m going to bother taking the 15+ minutes necessary to bundle up, I’ve got to run for a while. Ditto with the treadmill — if I’m going to suffer, I might as well suffer a lot.)
During a weekend long run (10-20+ miles) I’ll carry two packs with me and eat them during the run for a boost of energy. The packages are easy to open while running, so it’s not necessary to stop, however I haven’t mastered the technique of opening only the top of the package and squeezing out one Shot Blok at a time that’s recommended on the box. Too advanced for me. As long as I can run with the product without dropping it everywhere while trying to open it, then I’m happy.
I don’t need to take a swig of water to wash down a Shot Blok – they easy to chew and don’t get stuck in my teeth since they aren’t overly sticky or too soft. Word to the wise: they are heat/cold sensitive in that they’ll firm up in the cold and they’ll get softer if carried close to the body during a run, but they have never once melted or lost their shape for me. I don’t really have the patience to suck on a Shot Blok until it dissolves, so if you like keeping a chew in your mouth for moisture during a run, these will last plenty long enough for you. It’s easy to run with the slim package in one hand if you don’t want to eat them quickly or risk putting the non-re-sealable package back in your pocket.
1. I’m not a coffee drinker and I’ve gone from being a daily soda drinker to an almost-never soda drinker, so the caffeine has a noticeable effect for me. When I first started with Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks I noticed a diuretic effect from the caffeine. That’s gone away with time, but keep in mind your caffeine tolerance and overall caffeine intake when considering these.
2. Occasionally when I bite down on a Shot Blok I feel like I’ve bitten down on a piece of grit, sand, or a seed particle. I don’t know if this is some artifact from all of the natural goodness that goes in to Clif Shot Bloks, but biting down on something that makes a crunch sound when I’m expecting pure gummy texture is unnerving, not unlike finding a bit of shell in scrambled eggs or in a crabcake. Kind of ruins the experience. The funny thing is that I’ve never been able to isolate the gritty bit in my mouth, so it may be a piece of undissolved sugar that quickly dissolves once in my mouth. Smaller, slower bites seem to mitigate this occasional issue.
By the Numbers:
Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks
Packaging: 7/10 (I’d love 3-piece packs or re-sealable packaging)
Energy Boost: 10/10 (Sometimes I feel like a Fast & Furious car with the nitro engaged – the boost can be a bit much for me if I do something stupid like eat a whole pack and follow it up with a Clif Bar that also contains caffeine, but it is as advertised, so I can’t in good faith dock any points here.)
Tropical Punch Clif Shot Bloks
Energy Boost: 10/10 (half-caffeine is enough for me)
Cran-Razz Clif Shot Bloks
Energy Boost: 6/10 (I prefer some caffeine)