What Are Your Favorite Energy Gel Flavors?

Yesterday, I was organizing the iRunFar offices while also helping my girlfriend pack for the Marathon des Sables stage race. That combo led to my pondering, “What gels would I take for an unending stage race?” Fortunately, I had all my energy gels laid out on my desk. I’ll let you know what I’d bring, as I think it’s representative of my favorite gels. What are your favorite energy gels when you fit the trails?

My Fin du Monde Stage Race Gels

  • Clif Shot: Double Espresso – A great, earthy taste and 100 mg of caffeine (about as much as a cup of coffee) make this my wake up gel whether it’s breakfast time or late at night.
  • Gu Energy Gel: Jet Blackberry – I received some sample Mountain Berry Gus. They’ve disappeared quickly. I’ll be sure to throw at least one in the pack for every long adventure until they run out!
  • chocolate agave number 9Chocolate Agave #9 – This low glycemic index (46) gel gel has fewer calories (70) than most gels. An enjoyable, complex chocolate taste from just two ingredients – organic agave and breakfast cocoa. Note the lack of added salt. Unlike other gels, this is not a significant source of electrolytes. Adjust accordingly.
  • Gu Energy Gel: Vanilla Gingerbread – I’m pretty sure Gu originally named this flavor “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gingerbread”… or at least they should have! The best thing about this gingerbread is that it’s not going to go stale in a week. Just thinking about this gel makes me want to eat on. I just may. They’re that good.
  • Gu Energy Gel: Just Plain – Plain. Good and simple. Plain Gu is the gel I eat when I don’t feel like eating a gel or, often enough, when I want a Plain Gu.

Of course, this being the selection for an unending stage race, I’d include primarily “energy dense” gels. Good thing I created an energy gel comparison chart last year that looked at energy density. (iRunFar Energy Gel Comparison article)

That’s it from me. Let us know what your favorite energy gels are and why!

There are 44 comments

  1. Brandon

    I've been testing out the different flavors of Clif and PowerBar gels lately and especially enjoy the PowerBar Gel Tangerine flavor! It has 50mg of caffeine as well, which is a plus.

  2. Chad R.

    On a different note, I took a tongue-in-cheek stab at perhaps some of the most unpopular gel flavors.

    Least Popular Real Food Gel Flavors in no particular order:

    1) French onion

    2) Hot dog water

    3) Guacamole

    4) Chicken gravy

    5) Parmesan peppercorn

    6) Au jus

    7) Mustard

    8) Ketchup

    9) Soy sauce

    10) Licorice

    11) Tomato soup

    12) Pea soup

    13) Prune juice

    14) Wasabi

    15) Deviled eggs

  3. ChrisG

    My favorite gel flavor used to be the Honey Stinger Chocolate. It is like licking a brownie bowl. YUM! The banana flavor was also fabulous. After an important lesson in hydration and electrolytes and what not to do, now Honey Stingers only bring to mind nausea and vomit :( I have not found a new gel to replace the hole in my heart (stomach?).

    Not to be a trouble-maker, I think I'd slam a Pea Soup or Licorice gel. They both sound tasty.

  4. Jason D.

    I'm not quite as much of a caffeine junkie and I generally like the fruit flavors more than the chocolate ones, so I prefer either the Clif Shot Raspberry (no caffeine) or Strawberry (25 mg caffeine). I've tried Gu and Hammer Gel here and there but Clif seems to go down easiest for me.

  5. Will T

    I too am not a caffeine guy and wish that energy gel makers would produce all flavors in a caffeine-free option. It seems that at least 50% of gels have caffeine these days and that limits what flavors I can choose from.

    I've found the Hammer Nutrition gels to taste the best, go down the easiest, and not cause trouble once they are down. I as well will take some red Licorice flavored gels. Licorice is one of my favorite aid station foods.

  6. Michael Helton

    This post made me think about the Harry Potter Jelly Belly flavors; such as boogers, vomit, dirt, etc. I don't know if I would laugh or cry if I dug out a gel 30 miles into the race and it was baby poo flavored.

  7. Nrmrvrk

    Favorites in no particular order:

    Hammer Gel Apple Cinnamon (tastes like the filling of a Hostess Apple Pie)

    Hammer Gel Espresso

    Hammer Gel Chocolate

    Power Gel Vanilla (Tastes like frosting in a can)

    Gu Chocolate Mint

    I like that you can buy big bottles of Hammer Gel and just mix it up in a flask if you want to.

  8. Tom Wilson

    Gu Roctane Vanilla Orange and PowerGel Strawberry Banana. Both have a nice dose of caffeine, good flavor, easy on the gut, mix well when squeezed into a water bottle and use maltodextrin rather than that awful rice syrup as the carbohydrate source.

  9. Bruce

    I'm partial to the plain flavours e.g. from GU and HammerGel. Over the long haul, everything gets so sickly that I prefer as low a sweetness profile as possible. CarbBOOM Double Espresso ones are an awesome pick-me up, but don't have too many late in a race or you can't sleep afterwards :-)

    For my stage races, I have used a concentrated Hammer Sustained Energy solution that ends up being gel-like and lasts for up to 8 hours. Same effect as gels, without the weight to carry over multi-days: you just mix it when you need it. It also has a bland, non-sweet taste that you don't get sick of eating.

    I find PowerGels way up there in sweetness, and when I was using them at Leadville, I started a Pavlovian dry-heave whenever my watch beeper went off to remind me to eat another gel. I never actually puked, but it was mighty uncomfortable….and I have always gagged whenever I have come close to a PowerGel since then.

    I'll add another vote for savoury-flavoured gels. Aren't we all tired of the standard vanilla, chocolate, citrus variants and berry? Nice that some companies are expanding their taste offerings these days.

  10. Clynton Taylor

    I really like Chocolate #9. While far from an endurance runner now (though I have dreams to be!) I find the gels very good for a boost of sustained energy. Taste great and just love that they're agave-based and only 2 ingredients – agave + chocolate.

      1. Jason D.

        Thanks a lot for that link. Led to some good reading on the nastiness of Agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin. Now I'm even happier I happen to like Clif Shots and their brown rice syrup.

  11. Tracy K

    I alternate Gu Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate and PowerBar Vanilla.

    On a slightly different note, does anyone know why regular (non-Roctane) Gu Energy gels all contain 100% Vitamin C and E per serving and almost all contain caffeine? It seems like over the course of a multi-hour run, that could add up to a whopping vitamin dose, jitters, and an upset stomach!

  12. Mark Berry

    No gel per se, but rather Power Bar Gel Blast (especially raspberry). Great taste, less messy than gel packs. Good stuff!

  13. Paul

    I would ice a cake with Chocolate #9…that stuff is AMAZING! I usually alternate between that, Honey Stinger Gold and Ginsting and Gu Roctane

  14. Gina

    Pineapple Roctane wins by far. I'm even tempted to eat it when I'm not running, which says a lot. Tastes good drizzled on a banana, too. Blueberry Pomegranite Roctane and Jet Blackberry tie for second.

  15. Travis

    Tried GU Jet Blackberry after a few years off from GU and thought it was great! I've been sticking to the Clif blocks, GU Chomps, and Sport Beans as of late becuase the texture seems less likely to make me gag. However, for a boost late in a race, I like Double Espresso from Cliff.

  16. Anthony

    None if I can avoid them, in the past I have noticed my system doesn't like the heavy hand of a gel. But if I have to have some I stick with Hammer Gel, Apple Cinnamon. But some cheap PowerGel from any grocery store will do when you have to have some emergency fuel in your pocket.

    Not the same thing but Clif Blocks (Lemon Lime, Raspberry – Margarita is too much) are pretty good too.

  17. Terri Schneider

    For staged races I never use gel. Its too heavy to carry. I bring Carbo Pro, and Perpetuum in powder form and then mix them each morning (separately) into a paste type consistency which then goes into gel flasks. Much lighter for the calories and both have a neutral taste so I don't get "sugar fatigue" during later stages of the event. I do "splurge" and bring some blocks – just for flavor variety.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Terri, I still need to experiment with daily powder to gel mixing before my next self-supported stage race. I'm sure there are some weight savings even after accounting for things like gels flasks and baggies strong enough not to spill the unmixed powder. However, I doubt I'd ever go this route at Marathon des Sables, at least not completely. MdS does not count powder mixes toward the daily caloric minimum (2,000 kCal), so this might put me under. Last go around, I already had a significant number of "uncounted" calories in the form of First Endurance Ultragen.

  18. Steve P

    I've got one I like and have been using a lot that hasn't been mentioned yet.

    First Endurance Liquid Shot….like water pouring down the throat. It is a little sweet, but what gel isn't? This one doesn't stick in your mouth like the others.

    Also like to chew on Marguerita Clif Shot Bloks….

    Just ran Bel Monte 50 miler on 3 flasks of Liquid Shot (1200 cal's) and one pack of bloks, nothing else, just plain water and felt great all day.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Steve, I've yet to try liquid shot even though I'm a long time First Endurance user… and have a flask sitting right next to me. Is the consistency like the new Powerbar Gels? Liquid shot is closer to 1.25 ounces per 100 cals, which is one of the least energy dense gels on the market.

  19. Steve P

    Bryon, I have not tried the new Powergel yet…Liquid Shot is the most watery solution I have ever used, you really can't even put it in a "gel" category. It is more like mixing a thicker, syrupy concoction of your favorite energy drink.

    For me it really packs a punch, I don't even use electrolyte caps anymore because of the amount of electrolytes in the shot. I like to take a small sip every 10-15 minutes, rather than a huge gulp every 30-40 minutes and that keeps my tummy happy and legs moving. Sometimes I'll take a sip and add more water to the flask and then drink more. I use Clif Bloks the same way, eat one every 5 minutes or so while hiking up a hill.

    Some people I have turned onto the EFS LS think it's too sweet, but it really isn't, it's different. I am one who absolutely cannot drink anything sweet, I'd be barfing in no time, but this stuff just works for me. Deb hated it at first, but now has started using it and also went through 3 flasks during Bel Monte.

    You'll just have to go out on a long run and try it for yourself!

  20. Kim

    GU Just Plain or Vanilla and First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot Vanilla. I find the fruit flavors sickeningly sweet. I rotate gels with solid food such as chips, sliced turkey/ham or cold cooked bacon, donuts gems, peanut M&Ms and gummy bears (this is stuff I only eat during long runs; yes void of nutrition but for some reason has always worked well).

    1. Bryon Powell

      While I'm not much of a "real foods during ultras" person, many folks enjoy having real stuff along the way.

      As for non-nutritious food during races, I certainly know some nutrionistas who break down and eat sugary, heavily processed fuel on race day. There's no shame in doing what it takes to make the run more enjoyable.

  21. Jeremy Hinshaw

    after suffering from "gel belly" one to many times, i rarely hit the gel very often but take kindly to substances such as Clif Shot Blocks. when a shorter or very long distance though warrants the ease of gel use i go for simple:

    Clif Shot Double Espresso

    Clif Shot Vanilla

    Gu Plain

    and free Honey packets taken from random restaurants/coffee shops

  22. Holly M

    I just had the chance to try the Gu Vanilla Gingerbread about 3 weeks ago. One word – Amazing! Definitely my new favorite.

  23. JD Eddins

    Personally I love the Tri-Berry Gu the best. Chocolate comes in a close second sense it basically taste just like frosting and then the Strawberry/Banana (it's a hard combo to beat!)

  24. Anonymous

    My faves are Honey Stinger Banana first, and Stinger Strawberry next. If I have a clean flask, the two get mixed. Now that they have the energy chews, it's double bonus when I just don't want another gel. Chomp down on the gummy bear type chews.

  25. Ebbinghaus

    I like "Plain Energy" Powerbar Gels. All else make me barf. Why is it that these Plain Energy ones are impossible to find on the web?

  26. Ebbinghaus

    I like the Plain Energy Powerbar Gels. All other flavors make me barf. Why are these Plain Energy ones so hard to find on the web?

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