User Review: Clif Shot (2011 Formula)
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
Price Paid: Samples provided by Clif for testing and review
The full lineup of Clif Shot energy gels.
I tested the new (2011) formula of Clif Bar's Clif Shot energy gels while hiking, snow-biking, and road biking in a variety of conditions. These convenient little foil packets taste relatively good overall (though some flavors are better than others), and provide a noticeable boost in energy, though they do little to relieve hunger.
Clif Shots aren't meal substitutes and won't make you feel full, but will give you the energy you need to get where you're going.
- "leash" prevents litter
- hard to extract all the gel
- some flavors taste weird
Clif Shot gels are best for any endurance activity (hiking, biking, running) longer than one hour that requires more energy than a pre-activity meal provides.
These gels shine most on endurance activities longer than two hours though. During such activities, solid food isn't practical (BLT during a trail run, anyone?), and Clif Shots are light, digestible, convenient sources of quick energy.
These gels also are useful for emergencies when you need some extra energy to get where you're going or for pre-dawn starts when you don't have the time or appetite for a full meal.
FLAVOR CAFFEINE FAT CALORIES SUGAR SODIUM POTASSIUM TASTE
Chocolate Cherry 100 mg 1.5g 110 12g 60mg 85mg 7
Notes: Great cocoa-cherry flavor. Thick, satisfying, and rich.
Chocolate 0mg 1.5g 110 12g 60mg 80mg 8
Notes: Good, solid, cocoa flavor. Thick, satisfying texture.
Citrus 25mg 0g 100 12g 90mg 55mg 3
Notes: Odd, metallic zing.
Double Espresso 100mg 0g 100 12g 60mg 55mg 10+
Notes: Rich, smoky coffee!
Mocha 50mg 0g 100 12g 60mg 85mg 9
Razz 0mg 0g 100 12g 90mg 55mg 5
Notes: Bright, slightly chemical flavor. Not bad, just odd.
Strawberry 25mg 0g 100 12g 90mg 55mg 2
Notes: Overly sweet, chemical cough syrup flavor.
Vanilla 0mg 0g 100 12g 90mg 50mg 7
Notes: Mellow vanilla, reminiscent of cake batter.
Litter Leash pre-use.
Clif Shot energy gels are 1.2-ounce foil and plastic packets, featuring a "Litter Leash," which prevents the little foil tab at the top from becoming litter after being torn off the top. This system works and the loop also enables the packet to be anchored onto a variety of sternum straps, key-leashes, etc. prior to use.
Litter Leash after use.
Squeezing the packet delivers the gel smoothly, though perhaps a bit slowly. Unfortunately, a noticeable amount of gel remains in the packet. Despite squeezing, rolling, and kneading the packet, it's hard to get that last teaspoon of gel out. This may because the gel is viscous and sticky, but I suspect the "Y" shaped bottom retains the gel. I resorted to pouring hot coffee in the mocha, and swishing it around. I can highly recommend the flavor of the result, but this process isn't practical for endurance sports.
To test their freeze resistance, I placed one gel in the external pocket of my shell during a long, cold ride. The gel was exposed to temperatures between 6 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately six hours. Despite being exposed to temperatures far below freezing, the gels did not freeze.
Energy versus Filling
I first tested the vanilla energy gel as a meal replacement.
First thing in the morning, I got up and drove to a small mountain nearby. With an empty stomach (except for a cup of coffee) I ate the vanilla energy gel, washed it down with water (as suggested by Clif on the packaging), and waited a few minutes before I started my hike. The vanilla Shot tasted pleasant, like canned cake frosting.
The taste didn't linger, and I found the energy to hike a brisk pace for about two miles, despite having eaten nothing for approximately 12 hours. Ordinarily, I would have been cranky and had a headache, but the 100 calories were sufficient to keep me moving. After about two miles, the grumbling in my stomach became too much and I ate a granola bar.
Conclusion, Clif Shots are energy, not food, and don't have enough bulk to make you feel full.
Me enjoying a Clif Shot.
I retested the Shots on a 30-mile bike ride, adding a caffeinated gel mid-ride.
This time I had my usual breakfast (oatmeal with flax, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, and a cup of coffee), waited an hour, then pre-dosed with the chocolate gel 15 minutes before the ride. I got going a little slower than usual, and after five miles I was slightly hungrier than usual!
A little more than an hour into the ride, I was more than ready for another gel. This time, I had the mocha with 50 mg of caffeine. It was completely delicious, with a mouth-filling texture, and gave me a jab of energy within 10 minutes. I was ravenously hungry, but had enough energy to stand up on my pedals. The caffeine had upped the ante.
These gels show their true colors only if you have sufficient food. So, I tested Clif Shot gels in combination with solid food.
On a recent February bike ride, I had the opportunity to ride 30 miles of packed snow on a rail trail in eastern Maine. The terrain was easy, but the snow provided a lot of resistance. Temperatures varied between 6 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with a cold headwind.
I consumed approximate 2,000 calories of pretzels, granola bars, and mixed nuts during the ride, after a full breakfast. I consumed food at a steady pace during the approximately six hours it took me to ride.
With five miles to go, the sun setting and the temperature plunging, I found myself sad and weak, with tingling extremities. I was not hungry — just hypoglycemic and perhaps a little hypothermic.
The Razz Clif gel (no caffeine) had a noticeable effect within 10 minutes. My toes stopped tingling, and I had the energy to stand up on my pedals and pick up the pace. I got to the car with daylight to spare.
Clif Shot gels contain a small amount of sodium and potassium (approximately 50 to 90 milligrams, depending on the flavor), plus electrolytes that are important to maintaining muscle function and preventing cramping. For comparison, a banana has more than 400 milligrams of potassium.
I noticed the gels provided some relief of my usual calf cramps on rides more than 30 miles (about two hours, for me).
The last gel in a Clif Shot.
Some of these gels contain caffeine. The highest level is 100 milligrams, about the same as an 8-ounce serving of ordinary coffee. The caffeine certainly provided an extra boost for me, but would probably be much stronger, or even unpleasant, to someone who doesn't have a high tolerance for caffeine.
One advantage of this additive is the dual purpose: breakfast and coffee in one! I grabbed the double espresso Clif Shot before a pre-dawn ride. This was too early for me to stomach solid food, and the added caffeine let me skip my morning double espresso.
Note: People sensitive to caffeine should avoid these, and all should be cautious mixing them with coffee or tea, which could result in an overdose.
I found the Clif Shot energy gels to be a useful addition to endurance actives, and a handy backup energy source for day hikes. These gels aren't a meal substitute; they are a convenient source of easily digestible energy in a small package. I will now carry a gel with me on day hikes, as part of my 10 Essentials, and will add a gel to my emergency bike kit too.
I plan to use the caffeinated gels on long (two hours or more) rides and hikes, and am eager to see if the performance benefit is as obvious in warm weather as it is in cold weather.
I tested these energy gels in a variety of conditions:
- During a 5-mile hike on a small mountain at approximately 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- During a 35-mile mountain bike ride on a snowy trail, at temperatures between 6 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- During a 30-mile road bike ride on level pavement at temperatures of approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- During a 20-mile road bike ride on hilly roads at temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- During a brisk spinning class in a warm room.