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Energy gels tasted and rated

We snaffle a load of sticky goo in a quest to discover which gels will fuel your legs while keeping your tastebuds happy.

21 Sep 2016

We’ve come a long way since the first sports energy gels were used in the late 80s. Advances in the scientific understanding of nutrition means gels these days are designed to target your body’s needs more effectively than ever, making them a key part of on-the-bike nutrition for many cyclists. 

Gels have also come a long way in the taste department, with a hugely diverse range of flavours taking in everything from basic raspberry to some more intriguing offerings such as apple crumble. And it’s the flavour side of things we’ve focussed on here with our taste test. We stashed a load of gels into our office guinea pig’s jersey pockets, sent him out on his bike and told him to make sure he didn’t come back until he’d scoffed the lot. He may not score highly in the wine connoisseur department, but with his highly strung palate, our man knows his way around a foil-wrapped portion of ride fuel. Here’s his verdict…

Here are the seven best cycling energy gels.

Powerbar PowerGel Fruit

What they say: PowerGels Fruit are convenient during sport due to their compact pack size, tasty concentrated fruit juice, no need to chew and a scientifically developed combination of different carbohydrate sources.

What we say:  On taste test for PowerBar was their ‘Red Fruit Punch’ gel, and with a name like that, you already have certain expectations of what it should taste like before you even tear open the foil packet. We weren’t disappointed – as soon as it hit our tongues it lived up to the billing. A rich and fruity flavour certainly punched our palate, tasting almost like a tart compote filling, while the gel’s consistency felt natural on the tongue, not too sticky or thin. The rich flavour dies down after the initial burst to leave a pleasantly sweet aftertaste that lingers for a little while. PowerBar’s gel offering is certainly one for those buffs who like to taste their gel and not just gulp it down for the energy. 

Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel

What they say: Honey has been used for centuries as a source of pure energy and modern research is providing us with more information to show its benefits. With a blend of organic tapioca syrup, organic honey and electrolytes, Honey Stinger Organic Gels offer a different taste and texture from our original Classic gels, with the added bonus of new and unique flavour varieties.

What we say: An incredibly viscous brew, this vanilla number had sweet and rich flavours of honey and vanilla. The thicker nature can make it hard to swallow on the go, and it could be just too thick for some. However, by using organic products like tapioca syrup and honey, it avoids the manufactured taste that some others have. Plus, buying 24 for £27 equates to roughly £1.13 per gel making them the second cheapest on test, which is quite something when you consider that they’re made with organic ingredients which usually come at a more premium price. 

SIS GO Isotonic Gel

What they say: The SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel was the world’s first isotonic gel effectively delivering an easily digestible and quick supply of carbohydrate for energy during exercise. They are designed to be consumed without water, providing 22g of carbohydrate while minimising the risk of being bloated that can sometimes occur with over-drinking. 

What we say: On the continuum between a thick gel and pure water, SIS Go Isotonic gels sit bang in the middle. A decent attempt at getting the best of both worlds with a fast absorbing liquid but viscous enough so it doesn’t feel like you’re drinking pure sugar. Wolfing down the apple offering, the taste didn’t ring through as much as we’d wanted, leaving us with a feeling that the apple had got slightly lost among the science. Much like a weak fruit squash, it’s pleasant enough but misses that solid tasting flavour. On the plus side, its short but sweet aftertaste doesn’t linger too long and outstay its welcome. Being Isotonic, you don’t need to wash it down with lots of water either.

Stealth Energy Gel

What they say: Created to be the world’s most advanced isotonic energy gel, Stealth uses multiple energy substrates including sticky rice starch and fructose with natural flavours and for a great taste. Our gels provide a quicker supply of energy to the working muscles than a non isotonic gel and is designed to be consumed without water, easily digestible and light on the stomach 

What we say: The Forest Fruit flavoured gel has a mild taste and a somewhat neutral presence on the tongue with a smack of blueberries that dissolved fairly quickly. It was especially noticeable how the undertones of other forest fruits are lost in the sweetness from this 2016 recipe, too. As gels go, Stealth is more towards the liquid end of the scale and there’s quite a lot of it (60ml). However, with a subtle aftertaste, the gel’s residue doesn’t leave any sickly feeling which is great for those of us who may not get along with gels. Plus, with so much in one gel pack and at such a reasonable price, Stealth Gels are a good option for those liquid energy fans among us who love a bit of value.

High5 Orange Energy Gel

What they say: Smooth with a light consistency, not as thick or sweet as other gels on the market so it’s easy to get down and with natural fruit juice. It tastes great too. Easy to open and swallow, each sachet delivers 23g of carbohydrate energy. EnergyGel is award-winning and proven in many of the world’s toughest competitions.

What we say: Being the cheapest on offer, High5 gels obviously stand out for those of us who like to get more for our money. Much more fluid than most, High5 have a similar consistency to Stealth, almost more of a squash than a gel. Flavour-wise, the gel has a rich, sweet taste that isn’t overpowering – like a cool orange squash on a hot day, the gel spikes the tastebuds. For some it may seem too rich but adding it to water, you can make your own squash. With such a flavour, you do get a lingering aftertaste that sits in the mouth, and being the cheapest of the lot you can understand why that may be. However, the gels give a good account of themselves and there are definitely worse-tasting gels to be had at that price. 

Torq Gel

What they say: TORQ Gel is a naturally flavoured high-potency hypertonic energy gel, containing no artificial sweeteners or colours, with a silky smooth melt-in-the-mouth texture. It also goes without saying that our flavour profiles are innovative to say the least and our reputation precedes us in this respect.

What we say: One of the big pioneers of funky flavours, Torq offers everything from Raspberry Ripple to Apple Crumble. For this test, we choose the Strawberry Yoghurt, which is actually dairy free but still has a sweet and mild yoghurt taste. As it first hits the tongue, the gel is intensely sweet, with a strong, luxuriant strawberry flavour shining through. A little thicker in consistency than some others, Torq gels are the closest in definition to an actual  gel, which makes them tricky to quickly ingest on the fly, and you’ll need to wash them down with plenty of water. While that does, of course, mean that Torq’s gels will fill you up nice and quickly, as  these are the most expensive gels on test, they’ll also help empty your wallet at the same time. 

Mule Kicks Energy Gel

What they say: Designed, tested and made for immediate energy and fast recovery. Organic brown rice, agave syrup and Himalayan crystal salt provide electrolytes and a full spectrum of 80 trace minerals. To avoid sticky mouths and fingers, each Kicks energy gel is wrapped in our unique ‘fast tear’ packaging.

What we say: Rich and deep in flavour, the Salted Caramel number from British brand Mule is a prince among energy gels. Its full-bodied texture means this gel is thicker than most on test but sits well on the palate. With a re-sealable cap, these gels don’t have to be guzzled all at once and can be enjoyed periodically throughout a ride as they were intended. Using agave, brown rice syrup and cocoa, the flavours are really brought together in a consummate finish that lights up the taste buds. Using Fairtrade ingredients, compostable packaging and being made in the UK, Mule are not just great tasting but environmentally and socially nifty, too. 

Buy now from Xmiles for £18.50

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