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November 14, 2010

CLIF SHOT Energy Gel Review and Giveaway

The back story for this review takes place in April, during the product tasting session my friends and I had with Chris Randall, Brand Manager of CLIF SHOT products. He’s the one who gave us samples of upcoming products, and discussed plans that were in the works for new releases later in the year. That conversation included the following exchange:

Chris: We’re also reformulating our SHOT energy gel.

Me: Oh, good, because … um, nevermind.

Chris: No, it’s OK – go ahead and say it.

Me: That stuff was terrible.

Chris: Yeah … you’re not the only one who thinks that.

Needless to say, CLIF had dug itself a bit of a hole in having its gel product embraced by endurance athletes, but Chris welcomed the challenge. I was reminded of this when I visited the new headquarters last month, and received a handful of the new gels in my goody bag. I also happened to see Chris again there, and he was excited for me to test them out. He impressed me quite a bit with his response to one final caveat I offered:

Me: I should tell you that I’m a huge GU fan.

Him: That’s actually good to hear – we want feedback from loyal GU users. That’s what we’re aiming for.

Reformulated CLIF SHOT gel flavors and packages

And that’s how I ended up with a whole bag of the new CLIF SHOT gel flavors, which I’ve been using for the past few weeks now. I brought the bag to Utah with me this month, and unbeknownst to me, Stacy from Wilderness Running Company had also bought two boxes for us to use – so between our two stashes, CLIF SHOT ended up being the official on-course support for our epic Zion National Park run. The feedback was generally pretty positive – but first, it’s worth mentioning what’s so different about these new gels.

The main ingredient of the new formula is organic maltodextrin, which replaces the brown rice syrup that gave previous CLIF SHOTs a fairly harsh aftertaste. The resulting gel has a mildly sweet taste and a thinner consistency than the previous version, and it's also noticeably thinner and sweeter than GU. All of the new flavors contain at least 85% organic ingredients, and are packed with 50% more electrolytes than the previous formulation.

You’ll need to pay attention to the ingredient list, however, because the amounts of sodium, potassium, and caffeine vary with each of the eight flavors. For example, two flavors - chocolate cherry and double espresso - have 100mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of two shots of coffee, while the vanilla and fruit flavors have less caffeine, but 50% more sodium than the chocolate or mocha flavors. To be fair, GU has variability in its electrolyte and caffeine amounts as well, and in some cases, the potassium levels of CLIF SHOT are even higher than GU’s high-endurance Roctane flavors.

CLIF even thought to improve the packaging of their new gels. The innovative litter-leash opening that was introduced with the first version is maintained, and seemed to us to be slightly shorter and thicker to improve its attachment to the main package (the old ones used to tear off the package quite easily). It has a narrower opening for cleaner consumption, and rounded corners for more comfortable transport in a thin pocket.

All of those things are secondary to the primary question, however: how do they taste? During our lab testing at Zion, our group of ultrarunners was pleasantly surprised. The vanilla and fruit flavors scored very high with a taste that was sweet but not too strong or tart, and we all thought the new citrus flavor was amazing.

From the testing I’ve done so far, I’d say that CLIF has made a remarkable improvement with its SHOT gel, and while they’re not quite the equivalent of GU, they’ve narrowed the gap considerably. I’d still prefer GU during an ultra, because I like the fact that they have ginger to calm my stomach (sure, it might be a placebo effect, but don’t tell me that - it’s working well for me), which CLIF lacks. And even with the electrolyte boost, they don’t have a similar offering to the amino acid blend of GU’s Roctane, which is supposed to help slow the rate of muscle damage during activity (same placebo disclaimer here).

What I’ve settled on for now is to stick with GU as my first choice for runs of 50K or more, mainly because they’ve worked great for me and there really isn’t any reason for me to change. However, during long training days I’ll definitely combine my favorite SHOT flavors (vanilla and citrus) with my favorite GU flavors (vanilla, jet blackberry, and vanilla orange Roctane) for a wider variety of options to keep me fueled with steady energy throughout the workout.

If you’re one of the winners of the giveaway, you can figure out your own balance between the two. Leave a comment below this post by 5PM PST on Wednesday, November 17, and I’ll pick three winners to receive a sampler pack of the new CLIF SHOT gels. Good luck to everyone, and big thanks to CLIF for sponsoring this contest.

*Product provided by CLIF Bar and Company
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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Nathan Seibt 11/14/10, 8:50 PM  

I always liked that Clif SHOTs were mostly organic, but I just couldn't stomach 'em... hopefully these new ones will work better.

and.e.aitch 11/14/10, 9:01 PM  

I don't mind Clif gels as they are, maybe a bit thinck. I bet I won't mind the new ones either. I dig the Clif company, it's the only "energy" company I buy from.

Sean 11/14/10, 9:59 PM  

I've only tried the vanilla. I'd love to try the others.

krystyna47 11/14/10, 10:34 PM  

Oddly enough, I've tried all of the Clif products except for the gels. Count me in, here's hoping I win! :)

Josh 11/14/10, 11:21 PM  

Have you tried the GU Chomps (the gummy-like things)? If so, how do you think they compare to the gels?

Matt dubs,  11/14/10, 11:24 PM  

Wouldn't mind giving the new flavors a try, I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled when they hit the stores.

Yakov 11/14/10, 11:55 PM  

I've only ever tried GU, but these sound like a nice alternative.

Boris Terzic 11/15/10, 2:55 AM  

I've been hoping that they'd change their formula a bit. Hopefully I can try them out soon. Hint-hint. ;)

Chris 11/15/10, 5:23 AM  

I'm a big GU gel fan as well, but would love to try these out. Thanks for the chance!

adam 11/15/10, 5:46 AM  

Haven't had the Clif shots since last year's Chicago marathon, and I would love to try out the new mix

canyouimagine 11/15/10, 6:14 AM  

Very interested in the new Shots formulation. GU has been a staple for me for some time but its always great to be able to mix it up. Thanks

Mikey 11/15/10, 6:21 AM  

I really was such a big fan of the 'no mess' band on the gel package that I suffered through some of the flavors just so I wouldn't have to deal with the tiny cap when I was really tired. I'm really excited that they have revamped their style. Are these currently available?

TK 11/15/10, 6:33 AM  

Great news for Clif! Those old gels were impossible to eat. Bleck! I'd love to try the new flavors.

mo 11/15/10, 6:46 AM  

I'm a big fan of the shot blocks but also tend to use GU if I feel like a gel, not sure why as I do actually prefer the thinner consistency that the clif gels have. I'm not a big flavor person with the gels and stick to plain or vanilla so this would be a great chance to try some flavors.

jen 11/15/10, 6:54 AM  

I am a Gu girl myself, but would like to try the new Clif shots. Thanks!

characterzero 11/15/10, 6:58 AM  

Anything's better than Hammer Gel Vanilla! :)

I love the Clif company for their organic choices in their ingredients. I hope these new shots do well!! I actually don't mind the old flavors but if they improved it that's great.
Shot blocks are so good!

Alex 11/15/10, 7:04 AM  

hope they taste good, would love to try them

Trailrat 11/15/10, 7:20 AM  

Throw my name in the hat!

ratherbeswimming 11/15/10, 7:22 AM  

Clif Shot Blocks are a favorite of mine... maybe their new Shots will convert me, too. Though, I must say, Gu's Espresso Love will be hard to beat!

Jason 11/15/10, 7:36 AM  

Sounds good, would love to try them.

51feetunder 11/15/10, 7:43 AM  

I've always been able to stomach stomach the CLIF gels, whereas the GU sent me running to the washroom. Love Clif's stuff (especially the mocha)

Woodrow 11/15/10, 8:23 AM  

GU and Honeystinger are the only gels I've ever tried. I will have to on the lookout for the revamped Clif shots.

Phillip Hamilton,  11/15/10, 8:42 AM  

As always, Donald, please sign me up. I've only tried the new raspberry flavor, but actually liked it quite a bit.

Jason D. 11/15/10, 8:46 AM  

I think I'm one of the few weirdos out there who actually preferred the Clif Shots to Gu. But I'm always up to try something new. Fingers crossed they hit the spot!

My Life and Running 11/15/10, 8:53 AM  

Wonder if I'd convert from PowerGels...? Would love to give them a try!

JimDog 11/15/10, 8:57 AM  

Just used my last GU packet this Sunday; was about to buy more, but maybe I'll win some Clif Shots!!! :-)

Andy 11/15/10, 9:08 AM  

I'm in! Organic maltodextrin sounds tasty.

aroadtonowhere 11/15/10, 9:12 AM  

I actually like Clif Shots, but they could deal with being tastier.

Anonymous,  11/15/10, 9:31 AM  

I just tried the new Clif gels this past week end (Chocolate and Vanilla) and the taste was very good.( Less sweet than GU in my opinion).

Who? Me? 11/15/10, 9:43 AM  

In the past I've loved the Gu best but I'd definitely like to try the new Clif gels!

becky 11/15/10, 9:53 AM  

I am a fan of the "old" Shots, but would love to try the new ones!

L 11/15/10, 9:57 AM  

as a vegan, I was always bummed at how gross the old formula was, since CLIF products (unlike GU) are vegan. your review gives me hope!

Mann!e 11/15/10, 10:24 AM  

If I could just find them I would try the new formula shots. The stores in my area are still stocked full of the old variety.

Paul 11/15/10, 11:12 AM  

The old Clif Shots were just awful. I'd love to try a reformulated version.

dug deep,  11/15/10, 12:20 PM  

It almost doesn't matter what's inside...i'm sold on the litter leash

robb 11/15/10, 12:58 PM  

I didn't mind the old Clif Shots... I actually preferred them over Gu. That said, I want to try the new ones. So pick me! :-)

Brent 11/15/10, 7:13 PM  

I've loved (and consumed LOTS of) pretty much every product the CLIF has ever made, with the one major exception being their gels. With any luck they've hit the sweet spot with these!

Sarah 11/15/10, 8:48 PM  

I never had a problem with the old Clif Shots...I guess I'm an equal opportunity gel user (with Hammer gel lowest on my list). Interested in trying the new formulation.

vcsnover 11/16/10, 3:15 AM  

I am a huge fan of the Clif philosophy and products.. although one issue is the thickness of the gel and the pointy ends on the bottom of the pkg poke through my mesh pocket on my nathan vest and can be annoying. Funny how you notice small things like that and how it affects your choices. Looking forward to trying the new ones, whether I win or not. Thanks.

shel 11/16/10, 5:56 AM  

this is funny, because i actually liked the old clif shot product! to each his won. you know what i don't like - those accel gels - YUCK! boo! avoid those at all costs, runny and so sweet it makes you want to hurl. of course, my favorite stuff is raspberry hammer gels... doesn't get any better than that as far as i'm concerned!

Joel 11/16/10, 7:30 AM  

Color me interested! More variety in gels is always appreciated due to burnout.

Chris 11/16/10, 9:08 AM  

I really like Clif products and their company philosophy. Keep up the good work!

Jeremy 11/16/10, 10:24 AM  

I need more of that tasty goo! I'm in!

High Maintenance (HM) Runner 11/16/10, 1:38 PM  

I have tried GU and Hammer Gel shots. I have yet to try Clif Gel Shots so I am excited to see how they compare. Pick Me, Pick ME!!

Marc 11/16/10, 1:59 PM  

As soley a GU consumer, would love to try some CLIF SHOT gels.

Jeff_C,  11/16/10, 6:57 PM  

Glad to hear they have improved the taste. Thanks again for the contest...

Anonymous,  11/16/10, 7:28 PM  

Count me in! I like that the new gels are thinner. The longer the run the harder it is for me to stomach the thick stuff. Thanks for continuing to share your loot!

Emily D

Sean 11/16/10, 10:44 PM  

Hello this is my first time commenting but im a big fan of your blog. Figured I might leave a comment and try to get some Clif Shots. Love those Clif Shots. Thanks for the giveaway.

Jonathan,  11/16/10, 11:40 PM  

Not the biggest gel fan, but would love to try this one. Thanks.

samur 11/17/10, 1:58 AM  

I've never tried any energy gel, so I would love to try :) I will carry it to some long run and see how it goes :D

Pinkcorker (Renee) 11/17/10, 4:39 AM  

I haven't tried this gel in years, so I would like to see how they have improved! :)

ThumbRunner 11/17/10, 5:00 AM  

I picked up a couple at an REI store, but I'd be happy to have more to try!

Caleb 11/17/10, 5:34 AM  

I'd love to try the clif products! Thanks for blogging!

Chad 11/17/10, 7:12 AM  

I am curious on how they taste. I have mostly used GU in the past.

Angie Bee 11/17/10, 9:01 AM  

I used to really like GU but then I figured out that it gave me problems if I used it for long runs. I like to take one after my long run though.
I used Clif during my first barefoot marathon and it was fantastic!!

Clif gels and Shot bloks are the best in my book!
I have tried the Chocolate Cherry and really like the flavor!

Lasiv 11/17/10, 9:35 AM  

I really like GUs, except chocolate. Never tried the Shots. Would love to.

Jason 11/17/10, 10:23 AM  

Never tried the Cliff Shots. Count me in.

jamesbg,  11/17/10, 10:50 AM  

the only clif products I don't use are the gels. the old versions I've tried are too much--too thick, too big, too filling. I hope the revised formula is better. Let's try!

Joe Maller 11/17/10, 11:59 AM  

I'm a GU fan, but open to new stuff. Especially free stuff.

Joey Cohen 11/17/10, 12:39 PM  

The new Clif Shots are great! Count me in.

Dave 11/17/10, 12:44 PM  

I've always liked the Clif Shots... hopefully still will.. :)

Rob 11/17/10, 1:31 PM  

Hope 10th time is the charm! Would like to try those Clif Shots!

petey*crowder 11/17/10, 2:56 PM  

I've loved the vanilla GUs for a few years and, since I like Clif products, tried the vanilla Clif shot (old formula) recently. I don't think I've ever tried a gel that I liked less. I almost hurled, unfortunately. I did try to chocolate-cherry new formula (who can't resist "new") and thought it was a much better flavor & consistency...

TheIronYou 8/25/11, 12:21 PM  

I'm still not 100% sure about the Clif Shot Energy GEl. I used them in several different races and had always different outcomes: one time I couldn't digest them, another time I felt a sudden big rush of energy, another time nothing happened.
Don't know whether it's me or them...might need to do a little bit more research on that!
Anyway great blog: loving it!
Mike @TheIronYou

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