Another Interbike theme was food. After flying in from San Francisco, having munched on some raw food bars from my back pack, I planned to invest my lunch calories in food samples, which are plentiful.
Powerbar was there with it's high protein bars and a new flask containing fruit mash. I stay clear of protein bars containing isolated soy protein, since I don't digest it well, but I tried the mush. It reminded me of my days eating Gerber's baby food. Actually, I don't remember those days, but it reminded me of baby food anyway. Indeed I've heard of ultra-endurance riders preferring baby food on their rides, so the new Powerbar product has precedent. But I'd rather just eat fruit. They also had gel blocks.
Clif was there in force, with Clif Bars, Luna Bars, their granola bars, and their relatively new Lara Bar rip-off. The Lara Bar varient was good, a lot like Lara Bars. Clif Bars and Luna Bars, like Power Bars, are made with soy protein isolate (probably because it's so cheap) so I tend to avoid them, although the concentration in the traditional carbohydrate-focused bars is a lot less than in the protein-rich versions.
Better than the Clif bars were the real food bars from Raw Revolution. These bars are organic, which is a plus, but that didn't explain why I found their taste superior to Lara and the Clif version of same. I asked the guy at the booth and he said it was the higher fat content which was responsible. I like bars with fat on long rides: it's more satiating, more sustaining. For high-intensity rides like races I stick more to gels and carbohydrate-rich bar.
Hammer had their bars, the only vendor I saw to supply full-bar samples. You'd expect Hammer, with its scientific focus, would have some sort of proto-bar, but their bars are whole food based and are quite good.
PR Bar was there. I was a bit surprised they were still around: they go way back, the first of the Zone bars with 40:30:30 carbohydrate:protein:fat calorie ratio. The deal with the Zone diet is this ratio was designed for sedentary people on a weight loss program; it was never designed for on-the-bike. But that aside, the macronutrient ratio isn't the only thing, it's also how you get those calories, and even Barry Sears, who invented the Zone diet, argues whole foods are the best source. These bars taste more like candy than real food. In any case they use soy protein isolate so I passed them up other than a very small taste.
Bonk Breakers take the V with their protein-rich flavors
The best of all, however, were the Bonk Breaker bars. They had two new protein-rich flavors, with easier-to-digest rice protein instead of the cheaper soy protein used by the big names. These were really good, the fats and proteins proving a very tasty gcombination. I'll definitely buy some of these.
Another contribution to the protein selection were protein-rich Jelly Bellys. I don't like jelly beans much, but these were good. They reminded me a lot of Clif's protein shots. The beans are much smaller, however, which ironically probably means a tendency to eat more of them (mass-wise).
Honey Stingers showed they've transcended honey with their various flavors of wafers and gel cubes. Gel cubes pretty much all taste the same to me, functional, so there's not much to say about these. The wafers are tasty but the packaging is hard to open controllably on the bike. I noted this to a guy at the booth and he said they were aware of this and were updating the package.
Gatorade also had gel blocks, which were good. I'm not sure how they compare with the myrid of other gel blocks available, but one thing I liked was they didn't have caffeine. Caffeine has its place in endurance sports: it's a great late-ride boost in competion. But it must be used in moderation to be effective. The virtual ubiquity of caffeine in gels and blocks suggests it's being used in anything but moderation.
In the drink mix market Scratch Labs managed to get their product distributed liberally around the floor. It's good, with a light taste, mixed to only a 3% carbohydrate concentration. Osmo, a product originating close to my home, is very similar. Each is mostly cane sugar and some flavor. I talked to Lisa Hunt, who was in the Osmo booth with Stacey Sims (who is responsible for the philosophy behind their product) and she said liquid is for hydration, food is for calories. Hammer Nutrition has long promoted this sort of separation, perhaps using a thick drink for calories but a low-carbohydrate solution for hydration, getting electrolytes from their tablets. The thing about this is the drink mix may taste good, but I can get the same effect by dumping an appropriate amount of sugar into my bottles. But I'm tempted to get a pack of Osmo to try it out.
Also on the hydration front were samples of coconut water. The growth in the availability of coconut water has been huge lately. I wonder at where all of this coconut water originates: how may acres of land in Thailand are dedicated to supplying the western world with this stuff? I certainly love coconut water, but from an environmental perspective I generally object to hauling fully-constituted drinks back and forth across the ocean. For on the bike, I'll stick with sugar water, although coconut water remains a guilty post-ride indulgence.
So despite technically skipping lunch, I was well fed during my day at Interbike. Afterwards, I joined some good friends at at a really good Pan-Asian restaurant where the food was perhaps on the rich side but neverthless delicous. It was a surprisingly enjoyable trip to Las Vegas, and I suspect I'll be back.