When we think about holiday indulgences, sports nutrition doesn’t usually spring to mind. This time of year, thoughts of a lime electrolyte beverage will have you pleading for the eggnog. And nobody, I don’t care how hard you think you your feast-day run was, is going to be craving a raspberry gel. (Can anyone say, “pass the cranberry sauce?”)

Thankfully, some nutrition companies are demonstrating that decadence doesn’t have to bypass triathletes when the holiday bells start ringing. So this year, why not load up your Bento Box with something that says “festive” a little better than the usual? Trust us, these are products from people who know and respect the dirty little secret triathletes harbor: We do it (mostly) for the food.

Erin Baker’s Limited Edition Holiday Breakfast Cookies

Erin Baker

One of the best packaged cookies on the market

These new cookie flavors from the tri-friendly company show that the company is as concerned as Aunt Bea with feeding you well. And the ingredients they use aren’t far off what you’d find on the family dessert platter, either. When it comes to supporting triathlon, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rival baking company: their granola became the first official granola of Ironman in 2008, and they now run a successful non-profit called Heathy Start, as well as sponsor a triathlon team.

The Gingerbread variety has a remarkable ginger-molasses flavor and a surprising homemade texture and flavor for a packaged item. We were happy to see that the first ingredient is whole grain oats, followed by unbleached flour, prune puree, and molasses. We looked hard for ingredients we couldn’t pronounce, but found none. Brown rice syrup, water, chicory extract, ginger, sea salt, cinnamon, white pepper and cloves make up the rest of the list, which left us wondering why they didn’t include “holiday deliciousness.”

Per cookie: Calories-290, total fat-4.5, sodium-250mg, carbs-56g, fiber-6g, protein-7g. It also supplies 6% of your daily Vitamin A requirements, 2% Vitamin C, 4% Calcium, and 20% Iron.

The Pumpkin Spice flavor has an almost identical nutritional profile, but supplies 20% of daily Vitamin A requirements. The addition of pumpkin puree and nutmeg make this cookie taste more like a slice of grandma’s pie than a mid-ride energy bomb. Trust us, you’ll be glad you left those grocery-store energy bars on the shelf.

You might be asking how the Double Chocolate Chunk Cherry flavor fits into the holiday theme, but once you taste it you’ll no longer care. When that hard-to-place flavor of almond and cherry hits you, you’ll feel like you’ve just had an Amaretto shot and a big piece of black forest cake. The big chunks of dark chocolate and chewy dried cherries up the calorie and fat content only by a margin, at 300 calories and 6 g of fat and protein each.

Clif’s Holiday Energy Bars

clif coffee

Not a suggested presentation, but it’s pretty, right?

Clif, a legendary company in cycling and multisport, has always done a good job keeping the cardboard taste out of their products. (In a blind test conducted in the summer, we found their crunchy granola bars unparalleled.) This holiday season, they debuted three holiday-themed chewy bars to fill jerseys … er, stockings, the world over.

While the Spiced Pumpkin Pie Clif bar doesn’t have quite the same fresh, pliable quality as Erin Baker’s, it certainly fits with Clif’s natural and tasty lineup of bars. It delivers a denser, more “backwoods” style pumpkin hit, and if you’re really watching the health factor, this one has fewer calories, more protein, and supplies more of your daily vitamin requirements. That said, the ingredient list (while thoroughly organic), contains a few more mysteries than the cookies do.

Per bar: Calories-240, total fat-4.5, Sodium-170mg, carbs-45g, fiber-4g, protein-9g. It also supplies 10% of your daily Vitamin A requirements, 50% Vitamin C, 25% Calcium, and 25% Iron.

The Iced Gingerbread variety is much sweeter, and while we found it a bit cloying, the underlying gingerbread flavor is still there. The nutritional profile of this flavor is almost identical, however, even with the addition of “icing,” which is really more like stripes of white candy across the top.

The Cranberry Orange Nut Bread bar was by far our favorite, with subtle winter spices and flavors mingling to deliver a less over-the-top taste experience. It’s like a dense, chewy trail mix cookie with the warming sensation of orange zest.

These bars come with a side perk, too. For the first time, 1% of sales from Seasonal bars will directly benefit the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the first and only national organization of its kind for human-powered snow sport enthusiasts and winter wildland conservationists. Also, Clif has one of the coolest websites we’ve seen on the tri-nutrition scene.

GU’s Seasonal Flavors

Gu holiday

Chocolate Mint gel? We have a winner

You gotta hand it to a gel company for attempting holiday flavors, long the domain of snacks that deliver some roughage with their energy boost. When we heard GU was debuting two seasonal flavors for 2010, however, we just had to get some in our jerseys. Buy now, and you can get a free six pack if you buy three, perfect for stocking those stockings.

While the Mint Chocolate gel delivered decadent refreshment on a 50-mile Thanksgiving ride, the Vanilla Gingerbread variety didn’t really cut it. Our theory is that some flavors just don’t do so well with the gel textures, but that said, everyone has different preferences. If you’re a fan of Vanilla GU, and wouldn’t mind an extra kick of cinnamon-sweetness, this flavor might be for you. If not, stick with the After Eight-esque concoction of mint and chocolate. One word: YUM.