A Foodie’s Energy Gel Tasting Notes

Last Updated: Thursday, 25 July 2019

25 July 2019 Additions:

24 July 2019 Additions:

22 July 2019 Additions:

19 July 2019 Additions:

17 July 2019 Additions:

16 July 2019 Additions:

15 July 2019 Additions:

14 July 2019 Additions:

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 Clif Shot gel packet, Chocolate flavor 9/10 Chocolate but pretty sweet; not quite frosting-like, but sweeter than, say, chocolate chips.

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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 Mocha Clif Shot gel packet, Mocha flavor 10/10 Much like the Double Espresso, delightfully coffee-y and chocolatey in all the right places.

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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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Clif Shot Strawberry Clif Shot gel packet, Strawberry flavor 10/10 Pleasantly subtle and strawberry-like.

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Clif Shot Vanilla Clif Shot gel packet, Vanilla flavor 7/10 Vanilla butterscotch type candy; slightly too sweet for my tastes.

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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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Glukos Fruit Punch Glukos fuel packet, Fruit Punch flavor 9/10 Worth noting, so you don’t make the same mistake I did: this is not a gel, rather a liquid. Putting that aside, it’s pretty good: pleasantly fruity and not cloyingly sweet.

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Glukos Lemon Glukos fuel packet, Lemon flavor 7/10 Not bad; somewhat sweet lemon taste and nicely inoffensive. Don’t forget: it’s a liquid, not a gel.
Glukos Orange e-Gel gel packet, Juicy Watermelon flavor 6/10 Vaguely orange-like; weird lingering finish but not hugely offensive and fades quickly with a chaser. Don’t forget: it’s a liquid, not a gel.

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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 Birthday Cake Gu gel packet, Birthday Cake flavor 7/10 Fondant. Not the consistency, just the flavor. If you like it on your cake, chances are you’ll like the gel.

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Gu Campfire S’mores Gu gel packet, Campfire S'mores flavor 8/10 Slight smoke to a strong chocolate taste, with a bit of brightness that could be attributable to marshmallow – so, sure, I can see s’mores.

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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 Espresso Love Gu gel packet, Espresso Love flavor 8/10 Decent approximation of an espresso shot, gel-style.

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Gu French Toast Gu gel packet, French Toast flavor 10/10 Color me impressed: it lives up to the name, complete with maple syrup, toasted brioche, and – amazingly – a powdered sugar finish.

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Gu Gingerade Gu gel packet, Gingerade flavor 8/10 While I’m not too sure about lemons, if you like ginger you’ll likely approve of this one.

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Gu Hoppy Trails Gu gel packet, Hoppy Trails flavor 10/10 I have to admit grinning ear to ear at this one; while sure to disappoint if you’re expecting an IPA bite, this gel has a wonderful floral bouquet that rushes in on first taste.

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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 Mint Chocolate Gu gel packet, Mint Chocolate flavor 5/10 Much like a York Peppermint Patty …which I don’t like. I suppose it’s not bad if you do.

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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 Tri-Berry Gu gel packet, Tri-Berry flavor 7/10 More raspberry than anything else – maybe some blueberry? I have no idea what the third berry flavor is supposed to be. Honestly their synthetic-tasting base (found in pretty much all their flavors) is the most prominent. Fortunately the finish is quick. If you can get over that, this is a pretty inoffensive pick.

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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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Gu Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate Gu Roctane gel packet, Blueberry Pomegranate flavor 5/10 Starts with a synthetic Blueberry that quickly evolves into a more natural taste, but then slides into Gu’s usual indescribable syntheticness. Couldn’t put my finger on the pomegranate though.

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Gu Roctane Cherry Lime Gu Roctane gel packet, Cherry Lime flavor 2/10 I love cherries. Am a fan of lime too. And so I had high hopes for this gel. Started out pretty similar to cherries with a spritz of lime but quickly degraded. I’m not sure if it’s fair to say it was more akin to rotten cherries, but it definitely was not even remotely pleasant.

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Gu Roctane Chocolate Coconut Gu Roctane gel packet, Chocolate Coconut flavor 10/10 Oh man, it’s flavors like this one that drives me bonkers about Gu – in both good & ways. The good: it’s off-the-charts great; chocolate is spot-on and one could argue that it’s toasted coconut. The bad: Having a gel like this lulls you into thinking that Gu’s efforts are consistently great …then you have a Peanut Butter or Cucumber Mint packet, which quickly corrects you of that silly notion.

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Gu Roctane Lemonade Gu Roctane gel packet, Lemonade flavor 2/10 Initial floral citrus, but quickly goes awry. Some sweetness struggles to get out, but is overwhelmed by a wall of blandness. Some bitterness trails in the wake, as if they included the pith from the rind.

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Gu Roctane Pineapple Gu Roctane gel packet, Pineapple flavor 8/10 Solid approximation of pineapple-flavored candy. Not bad by Gu’s standards.

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Gu Roctane Strawberry Kiwi Gu Roctane gel packet, Lemonade flavor 6/10 Very barely vaguely strawberry with no sign of kiwi anywhere. But inoffensive.

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Gu Roctane Tutti Frutti Gu Roctane gel packet, Tutti Frutti flavor 5/10 Given the only identifiable hint was raisin, a common thread among original tutti frutti recipes, perhaps an apt name. I didn’t feel strongly one way or another about it; not awful.

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Gu Roctane Vanilla Orange Gu Roctane gel packet, Vanilla Orange flavor 1/10 Worst creamsicle I’ve ever had. Bitter faux orange flavor, as if they sourced the orange flavor only from the peel. Hangs on for a while even after a chaser.

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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.
Hammer Chocolate Hammer gel packet, Chocolate flavor 8/10 Think Hershey's Syrup; dissipates quickly.

Hammer Espresso Hammer gel packet, Espresso flavor 10/10 Dark roast.

Hammer Montana Huckleberry Hammer gel packet, Montana Huckleberry flavor 9/10 While I haven’t eaten many huckleberries but I’m not entirely sure I would ascribe this particular berry to this gel. In Hammer’s defense, I don’t know what I’d call it. The profile I got was an extremely mellow raspberry backed by some blueberry. There wasn’t any tartness to it, which is a typical huckleberry characteristic. Very subtle, nuanced flavor and quite pleasant.
Hammer Nocciola Hammer gel packet, Nocciola flavor 7/10 Hammer’s hazelnut-chocolate flavor. A good cocoa taste with a nice minor blend of hazelnut, but it oddly finishes off with a strong note of artificial peanut butter. Do not get yourself excited with thoughts of Nutella. Not terrible, but a bit of a clunker given Hammer's otherwise great portfolio.

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!”.
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.
Hammer Tropical Hammer gel packet, Tropical flavor 9/10 Very nice – mostly guava & passionfruit, with a slight hint of pineapple.
Hammer Vanilla Hammer gel packet, Vanilla flavor 9/10 Think vanilla pastry filling.
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 Gold Honey Stinger gel packet, Gold flavor 10/10 Straight-up honey flavor.

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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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Honey Stinger Vanilla Honey Stinger gel packet, Vanilla flavor 8/10 Prominent Vanilla with a strong honey backing. Not surprising, but perhaps best keep in mind a "vanilla honey" description.

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Hüma Apples & Cinnamon Huma gel packet, Apples & Cinnamon flavor 9/10 Straight out of an apple pie, without the apple chunks.

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Hüma Blueberries Huma gel packet, Blueberries flavor 9/10 Potently, but naturally, tasting as the label states.

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Hüma Café Mocha Huma gel packet, Cafe Mocha flavor 9/10 Accurate, but this was the first Hüma flavor that I found the chia seeds apparent.

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Hüma Chocolate Huma gel packet, Chocolate flavor 9/10 Not quite frosting; maybe ganache-like.

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Hüma Lemonade Huma gel packet, Lemonade flavor 9/10 Intense, but not super-overbearing lemon; along the lines of a lemon meringue pie.

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Hüma Mangoes Huma gel packet, Mangoes flavor 8/10 Sufficiently mango-y, although possibly a little too sweet for my taste.

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Hüma Raspberries Huma gel packet, Raspberries flavor 7/10 (Overly)ripe raspberry taste – I wonder if it’s the chia? Better than the strawberry flavor though.

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Hüma Strawberries Huma gel packet, Strawberries flavor 6/10 Definitely legit strawberries here, but they taste if they were past their prime. Had a packet pre-run so it was easy to take in, but I’m not sure how well I’d do if eating it on a run.

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Hüma Plus Chocolate Raspberry Huma Plus gel packet, Chocolate Raspberry flavor 9/10 Like a gel take on a decadent German chocolate torte. Chocolate-forward with hints of raspberries.

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Manuka Sport Honey Cherry Manuka Sport gel packet, Honey Cherry flavor 6/10 I don’t want to say “cough syrup flavor”, but it isn’t very cherry-like and not particularly pleasant to my taste. Fortunately, it passes quickly instead of hanging on the tongue.

I bought a box each of Manuka Sport’s two flavors at a race expo a while back; online searches imply that their U.S. launch hasn’t exactly gone to plan – so I’m not entirely sure where you could buy them, if interested.
Manuka Sport Honey Citrus Manuka Sport gel packet, Honey Citrus flavor 10/10 Very honey with a pleasant floral/fruit hint. Don’t know if “citrus” is the right descriptor as it’s not a pedestrian orange, lemon, or lime. Tastes more of an exotic tropical fruit, but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe passion fruit?

As noted above, I’m not aware of any U.S. e-tailer that carries this, if interested.
PowerBar PowerGel Berry Blast PowerBar PowerGel gel packet, Berry Blast flavor 1/10 I don’t think there was anything vaguely of berries – just awfulness.

Thankfully, this appears to have been discontinued.
PowerBar PowerGel Strawberry Banana PowerBar PowerGel gel packet, Strawberry Banana flavor 1/10 Kinda strawberryesque to start but quickly followed by awfulness.

Thankfully, this appears to have been discontinued.
PowerBar PowerGel Tangerine PowerBar PowerGel gel packet, Tangerine flavor 0/10 Slight citrus twang followed by bitter awfulness.

Thankfully, this appears to have been discontinued.
PowerBar PowerGel Vanilla PowerBar PowerGel gel packet, Vanilla flavor 1/10 Vaguely vanilla-y awfulness.

Thankfully, this appears to have been discontinued.
Slopeside Syrup Untapped Slopeside Syrup syrup packet 8/10 Easy-peasy to describe & imagine this one as there’s one ingredient here: maple syrup. I suppose there’s something to be said for it as an energy source, but consider the implications of drinking maple syrup from a plastic packet on your run/ride: Do you have the stomach for it? Are you OK with having sticky fingers/hands after downing it? I didn’t have issue with it stomach-wise, but too much of a mess for me.

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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.