Chicago Marathon prep: energy gel taste test

Hey, marathoners. We tried GU, Power Gel and other weird-tasting energy gels so you don't have to.

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Running a marathon can be a fortifying experience—mentally and emotionally, at least. For the body, it's pretty depleting. Once it has used up all the carbs in your system, your bod starts breaking down fat—an inadequate source of fuel for 26.2-mile feats of craziness endurance. To replace depleted carbohydrate stores, especially late in the race, some runners rely on energy gels—those sickeningly sweet little packets of glucose, fructose, suctrose, a complex carb (often maltodextrin) and sometimes caffeine—that come in dubious flavors such as Chocolate Outrage and Montana Huckleberry. There are a lot of varieties to choose from, if you must choose, so we plopped our sedentary selves down on the office couch and sampled a bunch for you. Conclusion: This stuff isn't easy to eat. (GU or do not GU; there is no try.)


RECOMMENDED: Complete coverage of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Photos, the route, costumes, shoes and more.


  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Clif Shot: Mocha

    Brent DiCrescenzo (BD): "It looks like an oil spill."

    Laura Pearson (LP): "Ah! Too bitter. I'm definitely tasting some oil notes."

    Amy Cavanaugh (AC): "It tastes like molasses."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Clif Shot: Chocolate

    Martha Williams (MW): "This one tastes like chocolate frosting."

    LP "I prefer it to the mocha flavor. It's sweeter but not in a terrible way."

    MW: "I like the mocha one better."

    BD: "The consistency makes it seem like some kind of space pudding."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Clif Shot: Citrus

    AC: "This is like Lemonheads candy in liquid form".

    BD: "It's like lemonade from concentrate. Or Gatorade syrup."

    LP: "Ew."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    GU: Roctane Pineapple (tied for our second favorite)

    LP: "Not bad, actually�if you like pi�a coladas or getting caught in the rain."

    Jake Malooley (JM): "It tastes like a melted pineapple popsicle."

    BD: "This would be perfect if you were doing a marathon in Hawaii."

    LP: "Taste the islands!"

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    GU: Roctane Blueberry-Pomegranate (tied for our second favorite)

    MW: "It looks and tastes like honey."

    BD: "Definitely honey-like. It seems to have real ingredients and tastes less like science."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    GU: Peanut Butter (our favorite)

    JM: "Pretty good. I'd eat this one at the movies." (Proceeds to mix bite of peanut butter GU with the pineapple flavor.)

    MW: "Not that bad."

    BD: "Tastes just like a Bit-O-Honey."

    AC: "I think it tastes dusty and old."

    JM: "They made it taste grainy-like real peanut butter."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    GU: Mandarin Orange

    BD: "Yuck. This is like children's Tylenol."

    JM: "Orange Tic Tacs."

    BD: "Medicinal."

    LP: "But the GU gels have a good consistency. The other ones are way too runny, which ironically, isn't what you want during a race."

    MW: "Yeah, it has a thicker texture, which I prefer over liquidy."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hammer Gel: Vanilla

    AC: "This has no vanilla flavor."

    JM: "It looks and tastes like sonogram gel."

    BD: "Hammer Gel sounds like an anal lube. It looks like one, too."

    LP: "Noooooo."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hammer Gel: Apple-Cinnamon

    BD: "This tastes like it was made from real apples."

    AC: "It has a really thin consistency. Like pie filling without the fruit."

    JM: "This reminds me of that instant oatmeal from the '80s where you mixed in the fruit gel."

    AC: "Oatmeal Swirlers!"

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hammer Gel: Montana Huckleberry

    LP: "It reminds me of this blueberry LipSmackers flavor I wore in high school."

    MW: "This is way too runny."

    AC: "It's also like pie filling, but for a really cheap pie."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    PowerBar Gel: Double Latte

    BD: "This tastes like coffee ice cream."

    AC: "Like really BAD coffee ice cream."

    BD: "It has the uncanny valley effect: It's not liquid enough to seem like coffee and not solid enough to come off as coffee-flavored food."

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Power Gel: Strawberry Banana

    AC: "I hate it."

    BD: "This tastes like a scientist's approximation of strawberry flavor. Too cloying."

    MW: "This is so liquidy, I'd be afraid it would explode in my face while I was running."

    LP: "Yeah, some already dripped on my shoe."

Photograph: Martha Williams

Clif Shot: Mocha

Brent DiCrescenzo (BD): "It looks like an oil spill."

Laura Pearson (LP): "Ah! Too bitter. I'm definitely tasting some oil notes."

Amy Cavanaugh (AC): "It tastes like molasses."

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