Jenna Lyons is part of the 2017/18 RErun Ambassador team. She recently completed Flagstaff Sky Run, which is the US Sky Running Championship race. This capped off a season of Sky Running for Jenna with finishes at the Kendall Mountain Run and the Rut Mountain Runs. You can follow all her adventures at @littleyoness. We asked Jenna to try out a variety of gel flavors and give us here take.

I was asked to review some gels for flavor and effectiveness this month.  Many athletes use gels for a boost of quick, easily digestible energy while they are cranking out miles during training or a race. Gels can be a good option to conveniently store nutrition in your pocket or pack while you are training. In the words of Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away…” Gels are a good way to keep the energy going and keep you from fading. Or dying.

As always, make sure you try these all out before you decide to use them in a race. Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs and flavor/texture preferences. I usually eat natural foods (dried fruit, cookie, etc.) or Clif blocks when I am running. And, as always, make sure you are also hydrating when you are using these. Most people find that they need to wash these gels down with a hearty swish of water anyway.

I also learned from reading troll comments on Amazon that a lot of people eat these gels in their normal lives like they are candy. This is really weird and probably not a good idea. You could just buy some candy?

I’d like to also insert a little note about maltodextrin.  Whilethe FDA considers maltodextrinto be a safe additive to most processed foods, and most people can consume it in moderate amounts, it has a high glycemic index, and can cause spikes in your blood sugar (which I guess is what a lot of athletes are seeking when they eat gels anyway…).  It can be made from any starch, i.e. potato, corn, wheat, etc., and people can break out in a rash from ingesting maltodextrin if they are allergic to these things. I’m not a doctor, but what I gathered from most things I’ve read about maltodextrin is that it’s really not great to just sit around and it. And it’s the first ingredient in all these gels except for the Huma gels.

In general, all the gels are hard for me to open when my hands are cold. So I generally err on the side of biting them to open. What would be really cool is if the companies would make a little screw-on lid so you don’t have to eat the whole thing in one go (GU makes a refillable flask so you can buy gels in bulk and refill the thing). I find that the gels are a little much for me to have in one bite, and so I usually end up folding the top over and putting it back in my hand bottle for later. And I usually get gel all over my hands.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hammer Raspberry

The Hammer raspberry tastes exactly like how you’d imagine raspberry gel would taste. Added bonus: Hammer products are Kosher and Vegan! (except the Nocciola flavor).

  • Hammer Chocolate

The Hammer chocolate tastes kind of like a mix between Jell-O chocolate pudding and Hershey’s syrup if you mixed them together. It was a little rich for me.

  • Hammer Espresso

Added caffeine! WOOHOO! While this doesn’t really taste like an espresso coffee drink at all, it does taste more like a VERY rich mocha. There’s more chocolate flavor than coffee. It’s intense. I’ve eaten these in the past when it was extremely hot outside, and it’s a little much. I would probably save this flavor for when it is cold outside, as it is rich and extremely filling.

  • GU Chocolate Outrage!

This tastes like a mixture between Jell-O chocolate pudding and Betty Crocker chocolate frosting. Which means it tastes delicious. It reminds me of Willie Wonka’s chocolate river.

  • Clif Mocha

Like the Hammer espresso flavor, this gel has more chocolate flavor than coffee flavor. Also very rich. I used to eat these when I fought fire on a Hotshot crew, and they are extremely effective at providing quick energy to get you through.

  • GU Tri-Berry

This gel tastes like some kind of berry crisp pie thing. It’s refreshing and sweet tasting. If you like sweetness, then this gel would be great for you. It’s more refreshing than the coffee/chocolate flavors, which I appreciate when it is hot out.

  • Huma Raspberry

This was BY FAR the best tasting gel I tried out of all gels I tasted. I used this gel on a 16 mile run, and ate half of it the first hour and the second half in the second hour. There is enough volume in the package to split it up like this depending on how many calories you are accustomed to eating while you are running. This gel has the best texture, and tastes just like raspberries… I was most impressed with the ingredients:

Ingredients:Raspberry Puree,Evaporated Cane Juice, Brown Rice Syrup, Filtered Water, ground chia seeds, sea salt, citric acid, natural caffeine. 

  • Clif Razz

This gel is delicious and sweet, and refreshing. It reminds me of raspberry gelato. But more gooey obviously.

In case you have ten minutes of free time, check out this crazy video of me tasting chocolate and coffee gels on a Friday night: