Review: Best Tasting Energy Gels, GU Vanilla Bean and Hammer Peanut Butter

Maybe I oversold it with the title and graphic. If you’ve read previous reviews, you should know that I don’t believe there are delicious energy gels, only palatable ones that do the job.

Vanilla Bean and Peanut Butter energy gels by GU Energy Labs and Hammer Nutrition are a step above being just “palatable.” I still wouldn’t want to eat them every day, but for races a few times a year? They ain’t bad.

 

 

The two OGs are major players in sports nutrition for a reason. Their energy gels simply work and are affordable compared with some newcomers.

For this review, I will focus less on performance and more on their flavors and ingredients.

(I mean, what is there really to say about performance? Tens of thousands of endurance athletes, including top professionals, are using their products. That’s proof enough.)

 

 

GU Vanilla Bean Energy Gels

I first tried Vanilla Bean at the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km in 2017 (great race, highly recommend). The event had it at an aid station around 80km. Free gels? Hells yeah! I grabbed a couple for the final stretch and was pleasantly surprised by the decent taste. This energy gel has been part of my fueling strategy ever since.

 

 

Ingredients and nutritional facts

GU Vanilla Bean provides 100 calories and 22g of carbohydrates per packet, just what the body needs. The energy gel also includes extra goodies such as 450 mg of branded chain amino acids (BCAA) , 60 mg of sodium, 20 mg of caffeine, and electrolytes potassium and calcium. It’s a well-balanced option.

The majority of the carbohydrates come from maltodextrin and fructose.

Compared with other sugars, maltodextrin requires less water to digest, and it’s a good way to get quick calories without becoming dehydrated. We also explain why fructose is used in energy gels here.

(from company website)

 

Taste and consistency

The consistency of Vanilla Bean is the standard GU affair, leaning to the thicker side of the spectrum. The ingredient list just states “natural flavor,” so I’m not sure where the vanilla flavor is extracted from. If you’re a fan of vanilla ice-cream or vanilla milkshake, it’s a syrupy version of that type of taste.

Obviously, I still wouldn’t want to eat Vanilla Bean daily, but the taste isn’t bad as race fuel.

 

Packaging

GU is one of the first to package energy gels in this type of broad at the bottom and narrow at the top design. It’s a format that endurance athletes are very used to by now. It’s easy to tear open with two hands or rip open with one hand and your teeth. Everything works properly.

 

Hammer Peanut Butter Energy Gel

The first energy gel I had ever purchased was from Hammer. The brand offers a wide array of flavors, not quite as many as GU, but with 12 different options, there are plenty to choose from. The company has one of the most diverse product portfolios, ranging from drink mixes, bars, and daily supplements to clothing, books, and even CBD balms.

 

(from company website)

 

Ingredients and nutritional facts

Hammer Peanut Butter provides 100 calories and 20g of carbohydrates per sachet. The gel is also maltodextrin-based. It contains rice dextrin and dextrose, but the two ingredients are used for flavoring and preservatives, respectively, contributing minimally to the overall carbohydrate content.

Hammer plays up its BCAA ingredients, which help with preventing muscle tissue breakdown and fatigue during exercise.

  • Maltodextrin
  • Water
  • Tapioca syrup
  • Energy Smart (grape juice, rice dextrin)
  • Natural peanut butter (dry roasted peanuts)
  • Cultured dextrose
  • Salt
  • Ascorbic acid
  • L-Leucine
  • L-Alanine
  • L-Valine
  • Potassium carbonate
  • L-Isoleucine

 

Taste and consistency

I’m a big peanut butter guy. One of those maniacs that eat peanut butter straight out of the jar with a spoon, so this flavor is right in my wheelhouse.

The energy gel has natural dry roasted peanut butter, which contributes to the pleasant flavor. I sometimes spread the gel over toast for a carbohydrate-dense pre-workout meal. Regarding the texture, it’s a thick syrup, the same as other Hammer energy gels. No surprises.

 

Packaging

Hammer and GU implement similar packaging designs, so I don’t have much to add here. However, Hammer provides energy gels in a jug as well. If you’re more environmentally conscious, you can pour energy gels into your flasks and bottles straight from the jug and make energy drinks instead.

This works well for workouts and longer races where you would bring your own water. It also permits more precise personalization as you can determine if you need a more or less concentrated fuel.

However, packets are still the better option for non-elite marathoners and half-marathoners who won’t have the luxury of their own water bottles placed throughout the course.

 

Conclusion

  • If you are a fan of vanilla milkshakes and peanut butter, I think you will find these two energy gels very acceptable.
  • Hammer and GU have been in the energy fuel business for decades, so their products, in terms of effectiveness and packaging, simply work.
  • While they use artificial ingredients and preservatives, I don’t eat energy gels daily or for their health benefits. For racing purposes, I won’t fret over it.
  • If your stomach agrees more with natural ingredients, here are our picks for the best all-natural energy gels.