(UPDATED EDIT : GU has revamped their formula and their products are NOW VEGAN! This is awesome and I’m glad they made the change. I believe the Roctane drink powder they create is still not vegan, but everything else is, so we can stop avoiding them on this basis. I have been given a package of new products to try and will be reviewing them on the blog soon. Respect to GU for changing their formula.)
(Edit : It was brought to my attention that Gu uses animal-derived amino acids and is actually not vegan. BAH! This little reveal has created quite a stir and discussion on Facebook. If you feel inclined, I would email GU and request they switch to non-animal ingredients for their gel. Until they change…cease buying and using GU)
I don’t know if I’m writing this post because I want to offer my observations on easy long run fueling or just because I really wanted to use that post title. Either way…
One of the most important aspects of my ultra training has been trying to figure out the easiest and most sufficient fueling for my longer runs (especially in this heat) and race preparations. With this in mind I’ve been trying out all the various energy gels available, hoping to find a solid fit for the type of running I’ve been doing and the following are my observations on the four following goos, all of which I’ve tested extensively.
First, let me clarify this. Regarding the nutritional content of these….there is really very minimal differences overall. I can’t imagine any of them being detrimental to a run in anyway, but there are some small things that separate one from the other, which I’ll touch on later. Mores so, I want to address some logistical differences between each brand, maybe giving you something to consider in your choice one way or another. So let’s look at the contender’s shall we?
First off is the often relied upon Hammer Gel in it’s clever hammer head die-cut logo packaging, boasting natural ingredients and offering the smallest sugar content (3g) of all the gels.
Next up is Clif Shot with its eco-conscious “litter leash” packaging, natural and organic ingredients with comparable nutritional content as the rest.
Sporting nothing clever in its packaging, the big name Power Bar steps in with a little power pack of hyped and trademarked ingredient names and scientifically dialed nutritional content.
Finally, the conveniently tiny package with the name that inspired this post, Gu steps up with it’s own sugary, energy packed concoction.
Like I said, I think the logistics of the gels are more important to me than the nutritional content (with one exception) as they are mostly comparable in that category anyways, so first I want to touch on the effectiveness of the packaging.
Hammer Gel – The die-cut hammer on top is a cute little attention grabber….but it’s also unnecessary plastic that has a very difficult time fitting into either the tiny pocket in my running shorts or the zip pocket on my water bottle. Of all the packages, this is the most cumbersome and I loath trying to fit more than one on my person, lest I pin them to the inside of my shorts. Hammer Gel fails in this category severely.
Clif Shot – That “litter leash” doo dad I mentioned earlier is brilliant. Not only is the packaging designed with a tiny slit for easy tearing, it’s also connected in one piece, that if you are gentle with, you can keep intact, therefore making it incredibly easy to roll up and stow for later disposal. There is nothing more annoying than either dropping the torn off top only to stop and pick up like the good trail steward you are or trying to hold onto the tiny thing while you stuff both it and the rest of the packaging away for later. On the downside, the packaging is a touch too wide for my tastes, and as I’ve discovered the hard way, when I try to squeeze out the last bits with my mouth I inevitably end up CUTTING the corners of my mouth. I actually emailed Clif about this and they suggested I try using their Clif Bloks instead. NOT helpful, but thanks. The litter leash really is great, but the size and viciousness of the rest of the packaging is a bit of a turn off.
PowerBar Energy – Although the same size as a Clif Shot package, which is to say just a TOUCH too big, the actual material feels thinner and seems a little less abrasive to my mouth when I try to get those precious morsels of liquid sugar from its insides. I don’t recall any abrasions from the PowerBar brand. On the other hand, the opening tab has no slit and is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get off sometimes. If you don’t get in deep with your teeth on the first tear, something happens to the packaging that makes it harder to get open then a bag of vaccummed packed potato chips. They REALLY need to work on that. I’ve actually resorted to cutting a small slit into the packaging myself in order to get it to function right.
Gu – The downside to the Gu package is it’s tiny little opening tab that separates from the rest of the package and must be held onto tightly before it flitters away down the trail. The upside and it’s strongest point is its size. This is perfect and I wish every gel would find a way to condense their sizes to Gu proportions as I can easily fit 3 of these suckers into my little shorts pocket and plenty in other pockets I may have on me at the time. Gu takes the slimy, sugary cake in this category.
When you’ve been running for 15, 20, 25 miles, sometimes the last thing you want is more sugary mess hanging around your taste buds. Taking this stuff in is delicious initially, but soon you just want the energy and not the sweet taste…and the consistency becomes very important in this matter.
Hammer Gel – Nothing stands out with Hammer Gel in this category and seems to hit a relative middle ground among the other options. It’s not watery by any means, but it’s also not like doing shots of molasses either. It’s simply sufficient.
Clif Shot – I really don’t mind the consistency of Clif Shots even if they are on the thicker side of the spectrum as I’ve found a tiny swig of water liquifies it quickly and gets it down your throat in a hurry. I have noticed that if you don’t get it down quick enough, you’ll have a film of sugary mess on the roof of your mouth that you may have to scrape off and down with another swig of water…or you could just keep it up there and save it for a little more energy later on.
PowerBar Energy – And here we have our winner. These gels are so liquidy that you could accidently pour it down your chin if you weren’t being careful taking it in. You can feel how thin and watery it is in the package alone, and as expected it goes in and down as quick as you can run. Nothing beats PowerBar Energy in this category.
Gu – There is a reason they call it Gu…it’s gooey. I started out on Gu’s as energy gels and so didn’t know any better, but after trying all the others this stuff has the thickness of state fair taffy. Even a swig of water takes some time to dilute it to a swallowable substance. This has become my least favorite gel to take in as a significant portion gets left on the roof of my mouth and the back of my throat. They need to reconfigure this pronto.
I first considered doing an espresso flavored goo taste rundown (maybe another post), but this is probably more relevant to you….
Hammer Gel – Meh. Hammer Gel continues to be the lackluster gel in this rundown and the flavor is no different. It’s nothing terrible, but nothing great either. The flavors aren’t overwhelmingly awesome and just don’t leave me with much to talk about. Sorry.
Clif Shot – I have yet to come across a Clif Shot flavor I don’t like. They are a touch on the too sweet side due to their brown rice syrup base (some of them anyways – this one is cane juice), but I can tolerate them all. I have yet to find a more authentic espresso flavor than their offering.
PowerBar Energy – Again, taking the lead in this category is PowerBar. There is a considerable sweetness to their flavors, but I think that is to overpower the heightened Sodium content, and the consistency brings the flavor down quick so you aren’t overwhelmed by the sweetness. It hits you hard and fast and then is gone. These are just fantastic.
Gu – I’ve got nothing bad to say about Gu flavors. They are realistic and not too fake tasting, sufficiently sweet and not too bland. I just wish they didn’t stick around for so long.
How different can a goo be really? They are quick bursts of sugary energy in a small package. No matter how far or fast you are running, they are essentially going to do the same things. You can’t creative massive gap between products this small…but somehow one of these did, which I’ll explain below.
Hammer Gel – Maybe it’s marketing, but I’m surprised Hammer Gel is most often used as the aid station gel at most races. It ranks lowest among these for calorie content (90 calories), lowest in sodium (35mg) and lowest in carbs (22g). The only benefit it has is having the lowest sugar content (3g), but considering the nature and context of its usage, I don’t necessarily think that is a good thing either. I doubt it would be bonk inducing, but it doesn’t stand out either.
Clif Shot – Offering the standard 100 calories and 24 g carbs, Clif Shots only stand out in potassium levels, which I don’t think matter all that much for endurance training/racing…in the moment anyways. Clif Shot is simply sufficient and on par with the rest of the energy gel field.
PowerBar Energy – I guess all their nutritional science has given them the edge as they came through with another superior product in this category. Offering 110 calories in calories, they lead the pack on this one. The also own in carbs topping out at 27 g. The selling point for me though, and why I ultimately switched to PowerBar Energy gels over all the rest is the Sodium content, coming in at a whopping 200 mg where everyone else peaks at twice as less, Clif Shot coming the closest at 90 mg. If you’ve been running in this heat wave, you know how important it is keeping your sodium levels stable through all this excessive sweating. This is, among other fueling, the best bonk prevention you are going to get and sold me on PowerBar Energy for good.
Gu – Again, remaining entirely sufficient for fueling needs, but offering nothing standout, Gu comes in at 100 calories, 50mg sodium and 25g carbs.
If I could create a voltron of Goos, it would look like this. It would be the size of of a Gu package, it would have the “litter leash” of a Clif Shot, it would the flavor of a PowerBar Energy (unless it was espresso, then we would revert back to Clif Shots), it would have the consistency of a PowerBar Energy as well as the nutritional content of a PowerBar Energy. And we would rule the universe with sugary goodness.
So, although PowerBar Energy scores the most points and is now the energy gel I seek out far and wide, all the other gels have their own special characteristics I envy too…well…except for Hammer Gel. What good is that stuff really, unless maybe you need to pound down a dangerous twig protruding from the trail…then you could use that clevery cut hammer packaging for something of use.
So there you have it…the Great Goo Review. But don’t take my word for it, talk to someone who gets paid to promote the stuff.