Tim Mosbacher is a staple in the Missoula running community. He is currently trying to run a marathon in every state and has experience with a variety of running products. As a RErun Ambassador we asked him to compare a variety of gel flavors and share his expert opinions. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.
Writing a review on gels is difficult. What makes a good gel? The answer is specific to each individual and presumably depends on what type of run you are eating the gel on. Personally, there are some flavors that I prefer on leisure runs and others for races. My standby flavors for races are Vanilla Bean and Mandarin Orange by GU. Gels are a convenient way to get energy although it seems they are quite expensive for the amount of “food” you are getting. The packaging, I assume, adds to the cost and this packaging is what makes the gel convenient in size. Some manufactures do sell larger “bulk” containers but then you need a flask or something larger to distribute the gel material. I have not had much luck with these large quantity containers in the past. By the way, Runners Edge allows you to buy cases of gels for a reduced price, and you are able to mix the case with different flavors.
I decided to test a variety of flavors and brands during a recent marathon. Having been injured much of the year, I was not expecting a fast time and was going to use the marathon as a long training run, but fast enough to still at least get a Boston Qualifier to satisfy another state in my 50 States Boston Qualifier goal.
Since I was going to be “out there” a while longer than normal, I carried six different flavored gels in the Nathan Hipster Waist Belt (which I love, by the way). I consumed the first gel a little over 5 miles in. It was the GU Chocolate Coconut gel. It’s not a flavor I would normally race with, and I will not in the future. The flavor was good and it went down well, but it was a little thick tasting. It would be a good trail run gel.
Before mile 9 I sucked down the Hammer Gel Montana Huckleberry. This gel could become my new favorite for racing. The taste was a little powerful, but the gel was runnier than what I normally eat, and it went down easily. This gel would be a great gel near the end of a race, where it is sometimes difficult to get a gel down.
Around mile 14 I started to take my third gel, Cliff Shot’s Citrus. I like their packaging where it can attach to a belt, but the flavor was incredibly powerful. It was not a super big deal, but I took my time eating it because it was so potent. I grabbed two glasses of water, instead of the normal one, to wash it down.
Just after mile 18 I ate my second Hammer Gel. This one was Apple Cinnamon and, as it was fruity, I was curious to see if would go down as easily as the Huckleberry flavor. The consistency was not as runny, so it was a little more difficult, but I could see myself using this gel in future races.
I ate the last gel (I ended up not using all six) around mile 22. It was the GU Strawberry Kiwi Roctane. I did not receive any supernatural boost from the gel, and its taste was a little too powerful for this stage of the race. I ate it slowly and it went down well, but it was just a little too intense.
Overall, it was good to try out a few gels. I can definitely see myself using the Hammer Huckleberry at my next marathon in a few weeks due to its consistency. I have since also tried the Honey Stingers. It is much like squeezing down liquid honey: a little powerful, but it flows well out of the package. I will take one of these on my next marathon and see how it is during a race. Ask me about it the next time you see me.
On a side note, how should one dispose of the sticky gel wrappers? When in a race, a runner should hang on to the wrapper and dispose of it with the cup at the aid station. The best way is to consume your gel as follows: once you see an aid station, suck down the gel, grab your water and throw the cup and wrapper together into the garbage. Aid stations usually have garbage cans about 100 feet past the station and that should be your farthest limit of disposal. Race officials should not have to cover the entire course looking for gel wrappers or cups.