Unfortunately, finding an energy product that aligns with your performance needs and individual taste buds can be a challenge. Luckily, we've tried them all so you won't be in danger of losing control of your bike after a disgusting mouthful of gel.
Here are our picks for the best-tasting energy bars, gels, and drinks on the market in 2016.
Skratch Labs Hydration Mix$19.50 1 of 11
If overly sugary sports drinks aren't your thing, this hydration mix from Skratch Labs might suit your fancy. Made with natural ingredients, the taste is light and pleasant and doesn't require the addition of water. One 750ml water bottle contains about 80 calories and 20 grams of carbs, which is substantially less than many of its competitors. This helps to ease digestion, but will also require you to eat your carbs on the bike instead of drinking them.
Favorite flavor: Pineapple during the warmer months, and the cinnamon with apple (drink warm!) in the winter.
Honey Stinger Waffles$22.24 (Box) 2 of 11
The trend toward eating "real" instead of processed food on the bike has its merits. However, eating a homemade energy bar or half a sandwich involves a lot of chewing and swallowing, which can be difficult while you're pushing the pedals during a hard effort. The Honey Stinger Waffles tend to fall somewhere in the middle. It's dense, easy to chew and incredibly tasty. And, at just 160 calories while packing a mere 21 grams of carbs, it contains two-thirds the calories of a Clif Bar. As an added bonus for weight weenies, two waffles weigh just 68 grams in a jersey pocket, compared to the 75 grams of a single Clif Bar. And because they're so thin, you can easily pack multiple waffles in a single jersey pocket.
Favorite flavor: The original Honey Waffle. Gluten-free waffles are also an option.
GU Brew$20.00 (Canister) 3 of 11
GU's new hydration brew is similar to that of Skratch Labs formula in that it's relatively low in calories (70) and carbs (18g). However, unlike Skratch Labs' hydration mix, GU made the sweetness more pronounced in certain flavors, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. During exercise, the brew is so easy to guzzle that I found it encourages hydration, which is perfect for those dog days of summer. The watermelon flavor was a personal favorite, which tasted less like a Jolly Rancher and more like real watermelon put in a blender.
Favorite flavor: Watermelon, of course.
GU Energy Gels$34.80 (24 count) 4 of 11
During a race, real food isn't an option most of the time. When the effort level is high and you need to take in calories quickly, gels are typically the way to go because they're quick and easy to digest. While some energy gels can taste downright awful and are difficult to swallow, GU gels come in a small package and have flavors that aren't so off-putting. They're also the easiest to swallow, and cyclists can consume them quickly and easily when on the move. And with a litany of flavors to choose from, narrowing down your favorites may be more difficult than you expect. Per package, GU gels contain 100 calories and 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Favorite flavor: Salted caramel
NUUN Energy$7.00 5 of 11
For something easy on the stomach without much sugar, NUUN tablets are a good alternative. At only 10 calories and one gram of sugar, this electrolyte drink contains sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium to help replace minerals lost during exercise without adding anything unnecessary. Because of its lack of sugar and calories, these tablets are an excellent option during light training days (or commuting) when sugary drinks loaded with extra calories aren't necessary. NUUN Energy is also easy to digest, and the tablet container makes transporting multiple servings in a jersey pocket a non-factor.
Favorite flavor: Wild Berry
Skratch Lab Fruit Drops$24.50 (Box) 6 of 11
With a bit more punch than most gels, energy chews are a good way to go when solid foods aren't an option. Like Skratch Labs hydration mix, these gels are easy to digest, not overly sugary,and made with as stripped-down an ingredient list as you're going to find (cane sugar, tapioca syrup, pectin, electrolytes and whole fruit flavoring). Each pouch contains 160 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates (2 servings).
Favorite flavor: Raspberry
Untapped Maple$36.95 (20 packs) 7 of 11
There aren't many all-natural energy gels on the market, and this one will require a love of maple syrup. Made by Vermont's Slopeside Syrup company (and inspired by retired pro cyclist, Ted King), this unprocessed syrup is rich in magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc, and contains none of the synthetic sugars common in most energy gels. It's surprisingly tasty too, and the consistency makes it much easier to consume when compared to the thick pastes of other gels. Each packet contains 100 calories and 26 grams of carbs.
Favorite flavor: Sorry, only one option here.
Justin's Almond Butter$13.50 (10 pack) 8 of 11
For those long days when you'll need a mid-ride treat, Justin's almond butter packets are great for spreading on an energy bar or eating by themselves. While it does have more calories (190) and fat (16 grams) than other options, the ingredients are all natural and easy to digest. And if you're thinking Jiffy, you'll be in for a surprise—it's like comparing a Hershey's chocolate bar to Godiva.
Favorite flavor: Vanilla almond
Infinit Mud Energy Drink$34.99 9 of 11
If you're like me, eating breakfast before an early-morning ride is always going to be a challenge. Infinit's Mud energy drink combines protein, flax, and three carbohydrates to create the ultimate breakfast in a bottle—nutritionally equivalent to a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. And if dairy isn't your thing, it tastes even better when mixed with almond milk.
Favorite flavor: Double mocha
Mule Energy Bar$40 (Box) 10 of 11
Despite consisting mostly of rice syrup and rolled oats, the mule bar is bursting with flavor. By far one of the best tasting energy bars on the market, the all natural and organic ingredients pack a big punch at 38 grams of carbs and four grams of protein. Keep in mind, however, that some flavors are higher in calories and fat than others, and may not be ideal depending on the duration of your ride. On average, you can expect around 200 calories per bar.
Favorite flavor: Summer pudding (raspberries, cranberries, and blackcurrants)