When it comes to running nutrition, I’m slow to try anything new. If it works, it works… and I typically stick to what works.
But there’s a lot going on in the endurance nutrition world. New and old companies are re-inventing (and redefining) what that nutrition looks like.
So when I was sent samples of Muir Energy, a new company with a unique approach, I thought it was worth a shot.
How do they compare to the leaders in the space like GU Energy, CLIF, and (my go-to) Huma? Let’s find out.
Ed Note: While the gels were supplied for free to review, the opinions below are completely those of Rock Creek Runner. Muir Energy had no influence over this post and did not pay for its publication.
The Muir Energy Philosophy
Energy gel companies spend years formulating ingredients to find what they believe to be the ideal endurance product. The result — for most companies — is a long list of ingredients you’d never find on their own.
Ian McNally, the founder of Muir Energy, wanted something different. As he puts it, “something that tasted really good and was made with real organic ingredients – derived from nature, not in a lab.”
The result really is something unique.
Each gel contains only 4-6 ingredients (about 1/4th of a product like GU), and each of those ingredients will be familiar — fruits, salt, black molasses, nut butter, or cacao, for example. Plus they’re all 100% organic, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
Using just a handful of natural plant-based ingredients to create an effective energy gel?
Sounds right up my ally. But the real question is, how does it stack up, and how will it impact my training and racing?
Let’s find out.
I’ll get to taste in a minute, but let’s start with my initial thoughts after opening the box.
When it comes to size, my first thought was big. They’re taller than most gel packets, which seemed like it would be a problem. Compared side-by-side to others, however, they’re a lot thinner. Muir has opted for a tall skinny package over a short, compact package.
Which is better? It would depend on your setup, but after stuffing several in the pocket of a handheld, the smaller gels fit a little better.
(I feel like this section is primed for a ‘package’ joke, but I’ll resist the urge.)
The packaging itself is pretty standard, with a wide-mouth rip-top. I did notice it’s the only gel I had that’s sealed at the bottom, limiting it’s ability to expand. Maybe that would help with the height.
The one flaw I experienced was that the packaging is stiffer when compared to other brands, making it difficult to roll the bottom up to clear out the gel inside. One of my biggest pet-peeves is when residual gel squirts into your pocket, so it’s important for me to completely clear a packet before stuffing it away.
Muir Energy is an expensive gel. There’s just no way to put it any other way. At $2.50 per gel, they fall in line with premium brands or lines like HUMA and GU Roctane, a full dollar more than your standard gels.
Personally, I’m okay with that. They’re aiming for a premium product and charging premium prices. But it could get rather expensive if you’re fueling a 100-miler and throwing back a few dozen in a single race.
It’s not until you tear into a Muir Energy gel that you really see the difference.
The first thing you immediately notice is that the consistency is unlike any gel I’ve tasted. It’s thick — more like a paste than a traditional gel. You can see what I mean in the image above.
If fact, they even package most flavors as both a gel and a spread, so you could smear it on a piece of toast or mix it into a bowl of oatmeal before your run.
I’m not going to lie, this caught me off guard at first. It wasn’t the gel consistency I learned to stomach while training for my first marathon many years ago, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But the more I tried the different varieties, the more I grew to love that texture. It actually feels like you’re eating real food rather than a lab creation.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that I would not recommend eating one without water. They’re so thick that they require water to wash it down, or you’ll be tonguing your teeth until the next aid station.
Slow Burning vs. Fast Burning
Another unique aspect of Muir Energy is the two types of gels the offer:
Slow burning and fast burning.
What they’ve done is create a set of gels with quick burning ingredients, and another set with ingredients that take longer to metabolize and produce more sustained energy. Comparing the nutrition facts between the two, the big differences I see are that slow burning gels contain:
- More protein, and
- More calories from fat.
In my opinion it’s pretty brilliant, and actually doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Runners need gels for a variety of activities, and having the choice between the two could come in handy.
But does it work?
All signs point to yes.
For the past several weeks I’ve tested Muir Energy gels on a variety of runs, including early sunrise runs where I only had a gel before hitting the trail, long runs where I fueled with multiple gels, and evening runs when I need a quick snack.
For best results, I’ve landed on spreading the slow burning on a piece of toast about an hour before a long run, and relying on fast burning gels mid-run to give me the mid-run boost I’m looking for.
But I’m just one guy with unscientific opinions. So let’s look at the numbers.
Energy Gel Comparison Chart
To help make comparisons as easy as possible, I’ve put together what I’m calling, “The Great Rock Creek Runner Energy Gel Comparison Chart.” I pulled the top brands from the recent RCR Pack poll and added them to the chart below.
Due to variety between flavors, some of these numbers are not exact. For each brand I looked at several different flavors and pulled the most common number, or an average if they varied greatly between flavors. If a certain metric (calories, for example) is really important to you, always check the specific flavor before purchasing.
I selected the metrics that I believe to be the most useful, but note that caffeine is missing. For many brands, certain flavors are caffeinated while others aren’t, so it seemed more relevant to leave it off completely.
Links to REI and Amazon are affiliate links, so any purchase helps support RCR at no charge to you. Thank you.
How They Taste
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for… how do they taste?
I saved this for last because while it feels important at first, taste is much less important than effectiveness. I can force down just about anything if it helps me perform better. Plus, this is completely subjective. To know for sure, you’ll have to try them yourself.
But my opinion?
They taste great.
They’re fruity, or nutty, or chocolaty. They go down easy and feel almost like a treat.
(Yesterday, while photographing for this post, I found myself cleaning the Muir Energy off the plate with my finger. Something I most certainly didn’t do for the other gels…).
As long as I have something to wash it down, I could eat these all day.
Why I’ll Continue Using Muir Energy Gels
I pay a lot of attention to what I put in my body while not running, but tend to ignore those standards when it comes to mid-run nutrition. Now I don’t have to.
Muir Energy uses real, simple ingredients, and still packs the energy punch I look for in endurance nutrition. I will definitely continue to incorporate these gels into my fueling strategy — mixing them in with the other gels I’ve come to rely on, real foods, and liquids, and I believe they’ll sit well in my stomach for hours on the trail.
If you’re looking for a more natural energy gel, Muir Energy is definitely worth a taste.