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Clif Shot $1, seven flavors
In a review where no product was considered tasty by all, it is impressive to note that Clif Shot received the highest overall marks for flavor. It also garnered unanimous praise for its Litter Leash, which connects the tear-off tab to the package’s main body after the shot has been opened. Finding somewhere for this little piece of Mylar to go is an annoyance with all other gels.
Clif Shot prides itself on using brown rice syrup as its energy source. This all-natural carb goes down easily and digests quickly for fast energy. Clif Shot also includes sodium (in the form of sea salt), potassium, and magnesium to replace what is lost through sweat. You’ll find 40mg of caffeine in the Sonic Strawberry and Mocha Mocha flavors, while the remaining five flavors are stimulant free.
Best tasting, Litter Leash, inexpensive
(800) 254-3227, www.clifbar.com
GU $1.25, six flavors
GU was the very first energy gel to hit the U.S. and its instant success sent other manufacturers scrambling to come out with gels of their own. GU is still widely popular thanks to a wide range of flavors, a palate-friendly texture, and a convenient package that can be emptied into the mouth in one gulp. GU is mainly composed of easily absorbed maltodextrin, a manufactured glucose polymer, and the more slowly processed fructose. Combining these two carbs in an 80/20 ratio lengthens GU’s burn time and helps prevent a dip in blood sugar after ingestion. Many testers were surprised at how long GU fueled them.
There’s just a touch of caffeine (20mg) in every flavor except Banana. Amino acids and 100 percent of the RDA of Vitamin C and E round out this well-thought-out gel. The only knock was taste-related: A few testers found some of the flavors “chemical-like.”
Great energy boost, nice consistency
Some flavors unnatural tasting
(510) 527.4664, www.gusports.com
Hammer Gel $1, eight flavors
Well known among the endurance-athlete crowd, Hammer Gel is slowly gaining momentum in the climbing arena. Hammer Gel gets its kick exclusively from long chain maltodextrin, enabling it to quickly be transported into the bloodstream. One tester was impressed with its “immediate energy boost.” Hammer Gel also contains three amino acids to help reduce muscle cannibalization.
Of the eight flavors, only Espresso contains caffeine (50mg per serving). Hammer Gel goes down easily and dissolves completely when put into a water bottle, great for covering up iodine-tablet taste. On the flip side, a number of testers found the flavors very “test-tube like.” One universal complaint was that the packaging’s large, awkward size required systematic squeezing into the mouth in order for all the contents to be consumed.
Quick energy hit, mixes well with water, inexpensive.
(800) 336-1977, www.hammergel.com
Honey Stinger $1.39, eight flavors
Everybody knows that bees make honey, but not everyone realizes that when used as the sole source of calories in a gel, honey is an excellent and easy-to-digest fuel. Most of our testers found Honey Stinger to be just as effective in terms of the energy punch it delivered as manufactured glucose polymers. The highly fluid consistency of Honey Stinger also makes it easy to swallow, even without water, and the user-friendly packaging allows its entire contents to be emptied into the mouth in one squeeze.
All of Honey Stinger’s seven flavors contain Vitamin B, sodium, and potassium. Mocha, a hit with coffee addicts, is loaded with a blinding 75mg per serving, while Ginsting gets a more conservative 32mg per serving, along with a hearty dose of Siberian ginseng for improved mental clarity and increased energy. Unfortunately, the only criticism, consistently noted by almost all testers, was Honey Stinger’s “overly sweet nature.” One tester even found it too sweet to eat. Only the Mocha flavor escaped this criticism across the board.
Easy to swallow and digest, doesn’t require much water to process
(970) 871-9108, www.honeystinger.com
PowerGel $1.29, eight flavors
Using a 20/80 combination of the simple sugar fructose and the more complex maltodextrin, respectively, means that PowerGel packs a quick hit and has the staying power to deliver lasting energy. And for those looking a small dose of jitter juice, Green Apple, Strawberry Banana, and Chocolate all contain 25mg of caffeine, as well as ginseng. For those who need a bigger dose, Tangerine offers a peppy 50mg of caffeine.
Amino acids, minerals, and a little Vitamin C and E get packed into PowerGel as well. Overall, testers were pleased with PowerGel’s flavor and ease of absorption. A few folks found the packaging a slight nuisance as its narrow opening and wide body meant the contents must be squeezed into the mouth a little at a time.
Good mix of simple and more complex carbs
Slow access packaging
(510) 843-1330, www.powerbar.com
The Test Results:GelsBars