A Foodie’s Energy Gel Tasting Notes

Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2017

23 March 2017 Additions:

15 March 2017 Additions:

If you’re like me1, you do some sort of distance exercise that requires refueling along the way and are likely perplexed at the wide array in selection of energy gels. Without nothing but a flavor name to go on, you’re taking a pretty big risk that you’re buying something that you might have to choke down (or worse, will choke back up)2. For instance, Gu’s Maple Bacon sounds like a total no-brainer because: bacon. But as I’m sure you’ve already discovered if you’ve tried an energy gel before, the naming decisions for the flavors can be extraordinarily … creative.

While taste is highly subjective, personally I’ve found that tasting notes commonly found on wine at decent purveyors to be hugely helpful. To that end, I offer my tasting notes from all the gels I’ve been experimenting with in the hopes it might help you make a slightly-informed decision on your next shopping excursion.

Disclaimer: These are just my subjective notes on taste; consistency in my experience is essentially the same between brands, so not worth reporting on. Since no two runs are ever the same and I don’t have access to some super-fancy lab, I can’t offer any sort of insight in performance comparisons; nothing about this should be misconstrued as scientific. Lastly, Amazon & Crank Sports Affiliate links are included for your convenience and to help with the care and feeding of this server (thanks in advance if you use them!).

Rating Comments
Clif Shot Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot gel packet, Chocolate Cherry flavor 8/10 Think cherry liquor chocolates; very chocolate-y that lingers on in the aftertaste.

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Clif Shot Citrus Clif Shot gel packet, Citrus flavor 9/10 The original Gatorade flavor concentrated into gel form.

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Clif Shot Double Espresso Clif Shot gel packet, Double Espresso flavor 9/10 Delightfully coffee-y. Enough said.

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Clif Shot Razz Clif Shot gel packet, Razz flavor 8/10 I’ve never been much of a raspberry flavor fan, but this is a pretty good choice. Decent raspberry-like flavor. What lingers before a water chaser is not unpleasant.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Cherry Bomb e-Gel gel packet, Cherry Bomb flavor 9/10 References to The Runaways aside, this a pretty solid flavor. You still get hints of Mountain Rush, but unlike with the other flavors where it’s an odd bedfellow, combined with the predominant cherry it approximates a sour cherry feel.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Mountain Rush e-Gel gel packet, Mountain Rush flavor 10/10 Look, I’m unabashedly a huge fan of lemon-lime when it comes to gels and hydration; growing up on traditional Gatorade clearly has made an impression. And this particular variety might just be my favorite. It has a noticeable tarty twang, with almost a Key Lime taste.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Radical Raspberry e-Gel gel packet, Radical Raspberry flavor 7/10 Very tart, somewhat raspberry-like taste.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Vanilla Strawberry Slam e-Gel gel packet, Vanilla Strawberry Slam flavor 7/10 It’s certainly strawberry-ish with a hint of something, but I’m having a hard time saying it’s vanilla.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Tropical Blast e-Gel gel packet, Tropical Blast flavor 7/10 Kind of guava-esque, but backed by a very strong hint of their lemon-lime (Mountain Rush) flavor.

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Crank Sports e-Gel Juicy Watermelon e-Gel gel packet, Juicy Watermelon flavor 7/10 Not watermelon; I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a very strong hint of their lemon-lime (Mountain Rush) flavor (again).

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Gu Big Apple Gu gel packet, Big Apple flavor 5/10 Pleasantly apple to start, which quickly degrades. Fortunately the taste quickly disappears with no lingering aftertaste.

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Gu Caramel Macchiato Gu gel packet, Caramel Macchiato flavor 8/10 Slightly too caramel-y, but accurate followed by a light coffee aftertaste.

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Gu Chocolate Outrage Gu gel packet, Chocolate Outrage flavor 9/10 Honestly, the only thing that’s an outrage about this flavor is that they chose “outrage” to describe it’s amazing level of chocolateness. If you love chocolate, this is your go-to.

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Gu Cucumber Mint Gu gel packet, Cucumber Mint flavor 0/10 If there’s a flavor in Gu’s lineup that is more deserving of being labeled with “outrage”, it’s this one. It’s so awful, after I forced it down I took a picture of it right then and there in the event I forgot to take it at home and having to pick up another packet. So far, it’s come closest to making me vomit.

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Gu Maple Bacon Gu gel packet, Maple Bacon flavor 2/10 Taste is analogous to the maple syrup you find at a hole-in-the-wall diner with slight hint of smoke on the finish. Unfortunately, the maple syrup taste lingers a while.

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Gu Peanut Butter Gu gel packet, Peanut Butter flavor 0/10 Think of the most awful synthetic attempt at replicating peanut butter. This tastes worse. Regrettably, I tried this on the same run as trying the Gu Cucumber Mint (the same picture caveat applies). While the run went well, clearly Fate was not entirely smiling on me that day.

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Gu Salted Caramel Gu gel packet, Salted Caramel flavor 4/10 Kinda like having a teaspoon of salt as a chaser to eating a Werthers.

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Gu Salted Watermelon Gu gel packet, Salted Watermelon flavor 6/10 Mild watermelon gum flavor with a creeping, yet vague saltiness. Unfortunately, the salt stays as an aftertaste for a while.

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Gu Strawberry Banana Gu gel packet, Strawberry Banana flavor 8/10 Pleasantly, but vaguely banana is what comes through most. Quickly dissipates, so fear no aftertaste.

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Gu Tastefully Nude Gu gel packet, Tastefully Nude flavor 5/10 You know that weird artificial taste that lurks in the background of Gu gels? Yeah, that’s all you get. Love the wordplay though.

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Gu Vanilla Bean Gu gel packet, Vanilla Bean flavor 5/10 Like a cheap tube of vanilla creme you pulled off a convenience store shelf. Not awful, but not worth getting again unless in a pinch.

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Hammer Apple Cinnamon Hammer gel packet, Apple Cinnamon flavor 9/10 Tastes like you successfully circumnavigated all the crust when digging into your beloved grandmother’s apple pie. If anything, it’s weird that there aren’t any chunks of apple in it. The only actual complaint I have is it’s a little on the sweet side for my taste.

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Hammer Orange Hammer gel packet, Orange flavor 4/10 What a disappointment from an otherwise decent tasting collection from Hammer. It’s a very artificial and only slightly orange-y flavor; really odd given the packet boasts of “Real Fruit!”.

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Hammer Raspberry Hammer gel packet, Raspberry flavor 9/10 Starts with a weird “gritty” taste to start, but finishes with a fairly honest raspberry representation.

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Hammer Tropical Hammer gel packet, Tropical flavor 9/10 Very nice – mostly guava & passionfruit, with a slight hint of pineapple.

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Hammer Vanilla Hammer gel packet, Vanilla flavor 9/10 Think vanilla pastry filling.

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Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate Honey Stinger gel packet, Acai Pomegranate flavor 8/10 Very (natural) blueberry taste attributable to the Acai, backed by … something. It’s not pomegranate, as there’s none of the telltale tartness; my money is on the honey. There’s a lightly weird aftertaste – didn't really taste like anything, maybe more mouthfeel. Hung on for a while even after water chasers.

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Honey Stinger Chocolate Honey Stinger gel packet, Chocolate flavor 7/10 It’s serviceable, but I couldn’t really say much more either way.

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Honey Stinger Ginsting Honey Stinger gel packet, Ginsting flavor 8/10 Very strong honey-herbal start (which isn’t terribly surprising given the ginseng), subsiding to hints of tea. Lingers very faintly, but not unpleasant.

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Honey Stinger Mango Orange Honey Stinger gel packet, Mango Orange flavor 8/10 A solid choice as the mango makes a strong entrance complete with a nice creaminess. The orange is the weak actor as it comes with a fakeness in the finish. Fortunately it dissipates quickly.

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Honey Stinger Strawberry Kiwi Honey Stinger gel packet, Strawberry Kiwi flavor 0/10 I don’t think I can convey the level of disappointment I have for this gel. My first Honey Stinger was the pretty positive experience with the Acai Pomegranate, so I had high hopes (this being my second); the last thing I expected was to be presented with an immediate punch of bitterness with an ever-so-slight hint of strawberry-vagueness. Fortunately, this flavor didn’t retain the Acai Pomegranate’s penchant for hanging on.

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  1. A foodie that delights in eating to the point that running is necessary to keep their doctor from yelling at them. 

  2. Some people don’t like gels or rather use those “slightly more solid alternative to a gel” cube/jelly-type things. Others might gag choking down any gel. I personally can consume gels during my long runs, but find the semi-solid gel siblings to be problematic.