The products provide rapid energy to our muscles and give us an energy boost to push even further. They aren’t necessary during shorter durations of exercise, but are ideal for anything more than 45-60+ minutes, and could mean the difference between bonking and exercise success.
The increasing popularity of half marathons, cycling and an aging athlete base has ushered in a major nutrition supplement business. In addition to popular brands such as GU and Clif Bar, there are a handful of other reliable companies that have become popular. We’ll take a quick look at different brands, their flavors, and what athletes can expect.
A prominent brand that you likely see in national retailers, local running stores and on the sponsor list of events is the Berkeley, Calif.-based GU company – it has a wide selection of effective products.
There are 11 different flavors of regular GU gel: Chocolate Outrage, Peanut Butter, Lemon Sublime, Tri-Berry, Jet Blackberry, Mandarin Orange, Mint Chocolate, Strawberry Banana, Espresso Love, Just Plain, and Vanilla Bean.
GU has expanded beyond traditional gels, creating a line of “Roctane” gels for especially strenuous – or longer duration – workouts and races. The Roctane line has a slightly altered formula to give athletes additional nutritional needs to help prolong working sessions. There are currently six flavors: Vanilla Orange, Blueberry Pomegranate, Pineapple, Cherry Lime, Chocolate Raspberry, and Island Nectars.
The traditional GU flavors are effective, but I’ve found Roctane gels to be ideal for 10+ mile runs. All GU gels are thick – and will probably be the thickest gel you consume, so be sure to drink some water when consuming them.
Clif Bar is the other big company you’ve probably seen or at least heard of. The company’s energy bars can usually be found in your local grocery store. Now based in Emeryville, Calif., Clif prides itself on being a green company and creating effective and tasty products for everyone from regular customers to avid athletes.
Clif Bar currently offers these flavors of its Clif Shot Gel: Chocolate, Citrus, Mocha, Razz, Strawberry, and Vanilla.
An added bonus: The ‘litter leash’ helps you consume needed calories while keeping the wrapper in one single piece.
Proudly endorsed by the now disgraced Lance Armstrong, Honey Stinger is a Colorado-based company extremely popular among cyclists and mountain bike riders.
Honey Stinger keeps it simple with a small handful of flavors: Honey, Vanilla, Strawberry, Banana, Chocolate, Ginsting, Gold, Fruit Smoothie, and Acai Pomegranate. The Honey Stinger line is my favorite types of gel to eat, though they tend to be extremely sweet. The consistency is thicker than Clif but still not as thick as GU gels.
Hammer Nutrition has a decent variety of different flavors, including: Apple Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Espresso, Montana Huckleberry, Orange, Raspberry, Tropical, and Vanilla.
The consistency is rather runny, but I can actually eat the gels without needing water to drink immediately after. I like Hammer gels, but it can be harder to find locally and you may need to place orders online – through the company’s website, or through an online retailer.
Hammer also has a large product catalog and truly has everything for athletes and our nutritional needs. If you purchase directly from Hammer, frequent customers and a customer referral system help offer added incentive to make purchases.
The company I remember growing up with, PowerBar, has been in the fitness game for a long time. Moving beyond the old school, rather disgusting energy bars, and the company mixed energy gels into its product offering.
PowerBar has an often overlooked selection of energy gels: Raspberry Cream, Green Apple, Chocolate, Double Latte, Pomegranate Blueberry Acai, Kona Punch, Berry Blast, Orange Dream, Tangerine, Vanilla, and Strawberry Banana.
I like the consistency of the PowerBar gels and the unique flavors are a great change of pace from other similar products available.
PacificHealth Labs creates a wide variety of products, including the Accel Gel that is unique with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Accel Gel is available in the following flavorrs: Vanilla, Strawberry Kiwi, Raspberry Cream, Key Lime, Chocolate, and Citrus Orange.
I like other PacificHealth products, but have never been a huge fan of the Accel Gel, or most of the flavors available. The gel is the right consistency and easy to consume while running or riding a bike, and is readily available in most sports stores.
Vitalyte is a lesser known company in sports nutrition, offering a solid product lineup with a unique twist. Before I dive right in, here are the Vitalyte Chia Surge gels: Raspberry Chia and Orange Pinapple Chia.
The Vitalyte Chia Surge gels are unique – and I haven’t tried anything similar to either flavor. Both have whole chia seeds mixed into the gel, and you’re either going to love it or hate it. The flavor of the Raspberry flavor isn’t overpowering and should be easy to consume, but the chia seeds definitely add something new.
Carb Boom includes the following flavors: Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, Vanilla Orange, Grape Pomegranate, Apple Cinnamon, and Banana Peach.
Carb Boom is popular among athletes seeking an energy gel that packs necessary caloric needs, and it is a runny gel. You should be able to easily eat a Carb Boom gel without drinking something, even though it’s still advisable to gulp down some water.
Once you know which flavors you enjoy, you should be able to purchase the gel products through an online retailer for a discounted price.
Overall, the Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie is my favorite flavor gel I have tried, though there are lots of different flavor and consistencies athletes can test.
You’re going to need to experiment to find what you think tastes best and your stomach can keep down while exercising. Don’t experiment on race day, and try to eat the same gel and supplements used during training.