Secret Training is the brainchild of Tim Lawson, an elite masters track cyclist who's been working on sports nutrition products for 20 years. JLT Condor are listed amongst others on the website as using the products, and if they're good enough for them I thought I could give the brand's new Juice Bars a go.
The Juice Bar is more akin to a gel as it's based around fruit juice. It comes in two flavours, apple and blackcurrant or orange and pineapple.
There are a lot of gels on the market, and in my experience they're all OK: they generally taste a bit sickly, sit alright on the stomach but always give me annoyingly sticky fingers as I try to make sure I get my money's worth out of the wrapper. I find them a pain for that reason, and whilst I'd never litter myself, I'm not surprised so many wrappers end up blighting the landscape when the wrapper ends up so unpleasant.
Enter the impressively titled 'Secret Training Stealth Juice Bar'. Its key selling point is that it's a gel that isn't a gel - because it's a bar. It's hard to describe the texture but it's a bit like a fondant - you do have to bite it and it pushes up out of the wrapper, but there's little chewing necessary (that said, the need to chew is a benefit - your body starts breaking food down when you chew it so this will start to get into your system quicker than a gel).
It's unlike any other bar I've tried as they tend to be compressed dried fruit or oat-based which require a lot of chewing. It's worth noting at this point the Juice Bar is vegan-friendly, whereas a lot of 'firm' fruit-based products are held together by gelatine. A 50ml pack gives 27g of carbohydrates.
If you've ever cooked sushi rice or sticky rice you'll know it gets very gloopy, and the Juice Bar uses rice, rice starch plus a couple of gelling agents which results in a product with structure. There's no evidence of rice in the end product though - it's a very smooth and consistent firm fruit dough/fondant type thing (I hate to use the word 'thing' but it is quite unique in its texture).
Within the Juice Bar there's run-of-the-mill maltodextrin and sucrose but also isomaltulose, which is apparently a slower releasing form of sugar. It's impossible to say to what extent the staggered release of energy works out on the road, but a quick read on Google suggest there's some sound science behind it. There's also some B and C vitamins, sodium and potassium in there too.
You've no doubt had apple and blackcurrant squash before and the apple and blackcurrant Juice Bar tastes pretty much like that. It's fine and inoffensive, not that sweet and you'd probably be able to get through a few before you tired of the taste. The orange and pineapple was the flavour I preferred, since it had a slight zing to it.
In use on the bike it just eats like a soft, slightly chewy bar that's easy to get out of the wrapper. Because little chewing is required you can eat one quickly without finding yourself unable to breathe for an extended period. A quick squeeze gets anything else out of the wrapper which can then go in your pocket without sticking to it.
Whilst gels obviously do work (and Stealth do have a range of gels), this is best option I've tried simply because there's no mess and you do get a bit of a mouth feel that's more satiating than super-sweet runny gels. The only downside is the price at £25 for 16 which means they're slightly expensive per gram of carbohydrate.
I'd definitely use them again on a long ride though when I can't carry enough bananas. There's some great looking flavours on some of Secret Training's other products, which will hopefully make their way across to these Juice Bars soon.