Taste is complex. The brain perceives flavor as a hodgepodge of sensory information drawn from the gustatory receptor cells in the tongue’s taste buds, but also from smells, visuals, textures and temperatures — even memory. Our individual genetic makeup has its say in the matter, too. The point is: taste is personal, it’s opinionated, and one man’s delicious is almost certainly another man’s disgusting. In the world of energy foods, the most interesting flavors come outside of bar form — from gels, to waffles to squeezable pizza.

Energy Gels: An Energy Shot Made of Calorie Goo.


GU Cola Me Happy: GU’s harnessed the flavor of the world’s best-selling beverage and injected it into a squeezable package. Cola Me Happy is the result of a new flavor contest; it beat out Piña GU-Lada and Basil Lemonade to take home the grand prize and find its way to shelves. It’s an immediate callback to its source material, but your brain and tongue might experience a certain amount of dissonance linking the flavor to a new, more viscous texture.

Energy Chews: Energy-Packed, Cube-Shaped Gummy Bears.


Honey Stinger Cherry Cola: Yes, more cola; this time, cherry. It immediately stirs up memories of burger joints and teenage hangouts (when beer was still just too bitter). It’s also packed with energy thanks to a healthy dose of white tea caffeine, so you can look back on long summer nights from times past while cranking out a half marathon.

Waffles: A Dutch Treat Turned to Fuel.


Untapped Coffee Waffle: Coffee’s bitter flavors tend to blend nicely with sweet things. Ice cream and chocolate were obvious collaborations; the stroopwafel, less so. With the Coffee Waffle, Untapped pairs real roasted beans with organic Vermont maple syrup for a blend that’s truly a sum of its parts. It’s neither your morning cup nor your favorite pancake topper; it’s both.

Food Pouches: Simple Ingredients, Squeezable Packaging.


Clif Pizza Margherita: Pizza in a pouch? Yep. Made with organic ingredients that are found on the real thing, including tomato puree, olive oil and basil, squeezable pizza proves that energy foods don’t all have to carry sweet and citrus notes. Clif’s experimental flavors are often surprisingly good, but the pouch may put the loyalty of pizza lovers to the test.

Nut Butter: Sweet and Salty Superfood Paste.


PROBAR Koka Moka Almond Butter: Coffee (and its close friend, chocolate) found its way into another unexpected substance: almond butter. It’s nutty, bitter, sweet and packed with both protein and an additional shot of caffeine. The ground beans add a grit that does change the texture of the almond butter, but it’s certainly an improvement over the tacky substance that the roof of your mouth knows all too well.

Protein Cookie: Like a Bar, but Better.


Munk Pack Oatmeal Raisin Spice: One could argue that all of Munk Pack’s protein cookies are interesting, but the oatmeal raisin spice flavor is definitely more so than others. It has a somewhat cakey texture, but the taste itself isn’t too far from the morsels grandma might pull from the oven.

Gum: Bubblicious with a Kick.


Run Gum: Run Gum is a new category in and of itself. Each of its three flavors are easily recognizable from gum guys like Wrigley’s, but the ingredients added to turn it into endurance fuel bring the chewy tablets (no, it doesn’t come in stick form) into a new realm of taste. Each pack comes with two pieces containing 50mg of caffeine each, which together amount to a cup of coffee’s worth.

Maple Syrup: Pure, Tree-Sourced Fuel.


Untapped Pure Vermont Maple Syrup: Technically maple syrup isn’t a flavor — it’s its own substance. But maple is mimicked and added to everything from barbecue sauce to cream cheese. Turns out the real stuff is packed with amino acids, antioxidants and important elements like zinc and potassium, which makes it ideal for ingesting during activity. Drinking it straight may put off some; others will celebrate the easy-intake packaging and the social acceptability of chugging the amber gold that it heralds.

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