There are a plethora of energy gels on the market, and more players are entering the sports fuel scene every year with new technologies and gimmicks. I’ve personally tasted a good portion of the established brands. For someone like me, who doesn’t have an overly sensitive stomach, most options from reputable manufacturers do the job just fine.
I rarely noticed anything out of the ordinary regarding energy boost until I tried Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels at a 28km trail race.
First, let’s get all the disclaimers out of the way. Every athlete is different, and every run and ride varies. There are many variables, so what happened in this race may just be a one-time thing. I get it.
However, the surge I felt after eating a Honey Stinger energy gel happened much faster and more noticeably than anything I had previously tried.
Honey is a well-established energy gel substitute, and Honey Stinger is a pioneer in using this honey bee-made fuel in sports nutrition. Let’s dig deeper and see if what I experienced made scientific sense or was it all in my head.
Marketing claim – organic and all-natural
After browsing the Honey Stinger website, my three takeaways are 1. honey, 2. organic, and 3. natural.
As the brand name suggests, honey is the primary source of carbohydrates, and the company claims all ingredients used are natural and organic.
“Instant” and “burst of energy” are words and phrases used on the website.
Ingredients – 95% honey
Although Honey Stinger offers several flavors, including caffeinated and fruity options, I chose the original Honey Stinger Gold, which is 95% honey, because I prefer less flavoring. The complete ingredient run down:
- Potassium citrate
- Niacinamide (Vit B3)
- Calcium Pantothenate (Vit B5)
- Pyridoxin Hydrochloride (Vit B6)
- Riboflavin (Vit B2)
- Thiamine Mononitrate (Vit B1)
- Cyanocobalamin (Vit B12)
Honey is 80% sugars (mainly glucose and fructose), 18% water, 2% vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a small amount of protein. It’s a rich source of a Vitamin B Complex, which is responsible for wide-ranging bodily functions. One of the most directly related functions for endurance athletes is converting food into energy and metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Honey Stinger Gold specifically underscored its Vitamin B Complex content in the ingredient list.
- Cell health
- Growth of red blood cells
- Energy levels
- Brain function
- Nerve function
- Hormones and cholesterol production
- Cardiovascular health
- Muscle tone
Nutritional facts – loaded with micro-nutrients
One pack of Honey Stinger Gold is 31g and offers the following:
- 90 calories
- Fat 0g
- Sodium 45mg
- Carbohydrate 24g
- Protein 0g
Some macro-nutrients include:
- Calcium 2mg
- Potassium 58mg
- Thiamin 0.3mg
- Riboflavin 0.6mg
- Vitamin B6 0.4mg
- Vitamin B12 2mg
- Pantothenic Acid 2mg
Taste and consistency – duh…very honey-like
The taste and consistency of Honey Stinger are naturally…honey-like. If you are a regular energy gel eater and enjoy the taste of honey, then Honey Stinger is probably a good energy gel for you.
I prefer the taste of honey over that of syrupy gels, so it’s a nice change of pace for my taste buds. But the texture is thicker than the standard energy gel, which some athletes might find less palatable.
Packaging – very compact
Honey Stinger’s packaging is compact and fits in most belts, vests, and packs. It’s easy to tear open and won’t make a mess. Everything makes sense. Simple as that.
Performance – 30km trail race with 845m elevation
I brought four Honey Stinger Gold energy gels for the race, which took just over three hours.
I had oatmeal and banana an hour and a half before the start and ate an energy gel every 30-40 minutes. The temperature was a hot 30-34 degrees, so I ran a controlled race, never overextending myself.
- Every time I ingested a Honey Stinger, I felt a burst of energy. There are always many variables – how fueled up I was at the start, exertion intensity, weather, and hydration – but the surge was too noticeable to ignore.
- I suspect that the high content of Vitamin B Complex played a role, at least when it comes to my individual body.
- Though the flavor of honey is more palatable for me compared with the standard gel, the thicker texture required more water to wash down.
- Honey Stinger is a well-balanced energy gel that provides micro-nutrients and electrolytes. I squeezed two packs into a 500ml flask for a training run to create a sports drink. It wasn’t bad at all.
- 90 calories per sachet are on the low side, but not so low that it’s a big concern. For longer events where I’d like to minimize weight, I would much prefer if each gel I bring can provide 100 calories or more.
While I prefer less flavoring for my energy gels, I have to point out the rave reviews from my running buddies regarding other Honey Stinger flavors. Strawberry Kiwi Caffeinated scored high in terms of taste.
I’ve used pure honey as race fuel in the past. It was easy on the stomach, but I found it slow-reacting compared with energy gels. So the Vitamin B Complex reasoning for the quick energy surges doesn’t entirely hold up.
I don’t have the scientific background to fully explain why Honey Stinger was so effective for me. Even on a previous two-hour training run, when I only ate one pack halfway, it was evident that the gel suited me.
As with most things about running, it’s probably a combination of physical and psychological reasons. Unless I’m testing a particular race fuel, I typically bring a mix of brands to avoid flavor and sweetness fatigue. While more investigation and testing are needed, I’m certain Honey Stinger will forever be part of my race fuel strategy.
Here are some recent energy gel reviews. Have a read.