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Fuel Up With Our Pick of the Best 2019 Gels, Bars, and Drinks for Runners

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We downed more than four dozen new gels, bars and drinks to find our favorite 15 based on taste, texture and function. The one thing we learned: There is no end to sports foods’ inventiveness. Get ready for an elevated culinary experience in tiny packaging.


Gu Energy Labs Hoppy Trails Energy Gel

The newest flavor of this classic gel is almost as good as a celebratory beer at the finish line, as it mixes bold hops with mild citrus for a somehow bitter and sweet combo. The naturally flavored, caffeine-free gel features the thick texture Gu fans have come to love, and each packet has 100 calories and 23 grams of carbs plus electrolytes. $26 for box of 24,

Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel Mango

Striking the balance between sweet and tart, the new mango flavor of this gel won us over with its fruit-forward taste, easy-to-swallow viscosity and clean finish. Some of us even noted hints of saltiness, but appreciated that the gel wasn’t overpowering. Each packet of clear gel contains 80 calories, 20 grams of carbs and key electrolytes.

Science in Sport GO Isotonic Energy Gel Tutti Frutti

While the larger volume of this gel might be intimidating (2 fluid oz. compared to GU’s 1.1 oz.), this gel doesn’t need to be taken with water (goodbye stomach sloshing!). Thanks to an isotonic formula, the gel can empty from the stomach quickly for fast energy. Each gel has 87 calories and 22 grams of carbs (but almost zero electrolytes—get those from other sources). We enjoyed the thinner texture, tart and fruity candy-like flavor and clean aftertaste. $11 for six,


Gatorade Endurance Thirst Quencher Powder Watermelon

We unanimously enjoyed the newest Gatorade Endurance flavor—a rare occurrence in Fuel Up Awards testing! The naturally flavored and colored drink features a light fruit taste with a hint of saltiness and zero aftertaste. The maltodextrin carbohydrate source causes it to dissolve a little slowly (shaker bottles help), and each serving has 90 calories, 22 grams of carbs and a hefty dose of electrolytes, ideal for longer workouts. $29 for 38-serving canister,

Nuun Sport Lemon Lime

Fans of Nuun will enjoy the latest iteration of the brand’s hydration drink—Nuun 3.0, if you will—which has not only an updated name and packaging, but also a revamped and cleaner ingredient list, much less aftertaste, a non-GMO certification and less dissolve time. The classic lemon-lime flavor was a hit—it has a very drinkable (read: not too strong) citrus flavor. Each serving contains 15 calories (it’s sweetened with stevia), 2 grams of carbs and a complete electrolyte profile, so use this product for hydration, not fuel. $6.99 for 10- tablet tube,

Amazing Grass Green Superfood Hydrate Strawberry Lemonade

We enjoyed the lemonade flavor and somewhat carbonated mouth feel—after waiting 8 minutes for the tablets to dissolve. Each serving of the drink contains the equivalent of one full serving of greens and veggies, thanks to a long list of greens such as wheat grass, alfalfa, spinach and kale. (You’ll know it’s all in there from the green layer floating on top.) Like the Nuun tablets, this product can give you electrolytes and antioxidants, but with only 10 calories
and 3 grams of carbs, it won’t fuel you through longer workouts. It’s sweetened with stevia and sorbitol.

BodyArmor Lyte SuperDrink Coconut

This coconut water–based sports drink earned our praise—especially from the coconut lovers among us—for its tropical yet citrusy taste. We also appreciated the convenience of a prebottled beverage. This drink is better for fueling less intense workouts—it has 20 calories (sweetened with stevia) and 10 grams of carbs per serving, and the electrolyte content skews in favor of potassium, which has been shown to help fight cramps. It also provides a significant dose of B, A, C and E vitamins.


Larabar Organic with Superfoods Blueberry Lavender Hemp

Known for its simple fruit and nut ingredient lists, Larabar’s new flavor is no different, as it contains just six ingredients including hemp seeds, dates, blueberries and lavender oil. We enjoyed both the unique flavor and moist texture from the dates, but also how substantial the bar was—like eating real, whole food. With 180 calories, 26 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber per bar, it makes for a perfect pre-run fill-up or clean afternoon snack.

Honey Stinger Organic Cracker n’ Nut Butter Cashew Butter Milk Chocolate

Since these organic bars were released last year, they’ve become a favorite snack bar around the Women’s Running offices—with layers of cashew butter, honey, sea salt–covered crackers and a coating of milk chocolate, they’re pretty hard to resist as a filling post-run snack or sweet treat. The crackers can be crumbly, so they’re not ideal mid-run, but each bar does supply 220 calories, 25 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein plus some electrolytes. $2.20,

KIND Nut Butter Filled Honey Almond Butter

Almond butter and oats top the ingredient list on this whole-grain bar, topped off with a drizzle of chocolate and sprinkle of chopped almonds for added crunch. We enjoyed the chewy, cookie-like texture—calling it reminiscent of a Girl Scout Cookie—and appreciated its gluten-free ingredient list. Thanks to its smaller size, this bar works well for a pre-run, mid-run or post-run treat—it will fuel you with 170 calories, 20 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein. $3.99 for four-bar box,

Picky Bar Cookie Doughpness

While Picky Bars have been around for years as the gluten-free brainchild of pro runners Lauren Fleshman and Stephanie Bruce and pro triathlete Jesse Thomas, they’ve just been reformulated in all nine flavors. Tapioca syrup replaced the agave as a sweetener in the bars, and overall sugar content was lowered. We enjoyed the chewy, date-based texture. Cookie Doughpness and Chai and Catch Me won out in the taste test, and this bar makes a perfect pre- or mid-run snack, as it’s easy to chew and has 180 calories, 24 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein to fuel your workouts. $2.75,


Amazing Grass Amazing Protein Glow Chocolate Rose
Made with protein from peas and brown rice and a blend of kale and wheat grass, this new protein powder impressed us. We enjoyed the chocolate and rose flavor combo (it’s made with organic cocoa and organic rose petal). Sweetened with both stevia and monkfruit, those of us sensitive to those ingredients noticed an aftertaste, but most of us enjoyed it, especially when mixed with almond milk. In addition to 15 grams of protein and 90 calories per serving, the drink contains vitamins B and C, iron and biotin, known for nourishing skin and hair. Make sure you’re also replenishing your glycogen stores after workouts as this only has 2 grams of carbs per serving. $33 for 15-serving canister,

Core Power Coffee High Protein Milk Shake

You’ll refuel from workouts while getting a little energy boost thanks to 85 milligrams of caffeine in this coffee-flavored premade drink. It has 26 grams of whey and casein proteins, and we found it similar to a bottled Starbucks Frappuccino—the primary ingredients are simply milk, cane sugar and coffee extract, with small amounts of honey, monkfruit, stevia and added vitamins. Even though it’s a dairy-based beverage, it is lactose-free, and it has a solid mix of carbs (21 grams) and protein, plus electrolytes, to serve as a standalone recovery drink. $2.99 per 11.5-ounce bottle,

Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Recovery Protein Vanilla

This new protein drink provides 27 grams of whey protein, 8.5 grams of branched-chain amino acids and 25 milligrams of Colorado-grown cannabidiol (CBD) per serving. The CBD is supposed to help fight inflammation, though we didn’t feel any differently post-run after downing a serving of this versus the other recovery drinks we tried. We enjoyed the vanilla powder mixed with almond milk (the powder is made with organic vanilla bean powder), and the lack of aftertaste. Sweetened with sugar and stevia, this product has a relatively clean ingredient list, though the powder took a while (and a lot of shaking) to dissolve. $40 for 10-serving bag,

Vega Sport Recovery Apple Berry

Best mixed with cold water, this certified vegan apple and berry–flavored drink is designed to replenish glycogen stores after workouts with 16 grams of carbohydrates (it has just 4 grams of protein, so it’s not as ideal for repairing muscles after workouts). It also contains B vitamins for energy, glucosamine to aid joints and turmeric extract to lower inflammation. We enjoyed the juice-like taste and texture and thought it was refreshing post-run. $40 for 20-serving canister,