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Race Fueling

Taste Test: Stroopwafels

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No matter how many dtfferent brands or varieties you try, you eventually reach a point where you can stand the thought of another bar or gel. When that happens, you begin to look for alternatives that will keep you going. For many years, the Dutch have turned to the stroopwafel, meaning syrup waffle, as a source of fuel.

The history of the stroopwafel goes back to the late 18th century when a baker in the Netherlands wanted to make the most of his leftovers. A traditional stroopwafel begins as a crispy waffle sliced into thin layers. Two layers are then sandwiched together between a sweetener such as honey or syrup.

Throughout the Netherlands and other parts of Europe, the stroopwafel was used by athletes, particularly cyclists, for as a snack during mid-ride coffee stops.
In the U.S., the stroopwafel has become more of “performance waffle” for athletes. While different in its purpose, thankfully they still resemble a baked good more than a sports nutrition product. Stroopwafels are good before a workout, during a workout and when you want a little pick me up that doesn’t have an overabundance of buttery calories.

Not as heavy as a bar or as sweet as a gel, they offer a nice alternative method of staying fueled. You feel like you are indulging with something from the bakery, but you are actually getting usable calories your body can turn to fuel. And unlike most other products, they are meant to be enjoyed for their flavor and savored, not just devoured to avoid a bonk. It is not a coincidence that their round shape is slightly larger than a coffee cup as they are best enjoyed warmed by the steam from your mug.

Across all brands, the basic nutritional values are very similar. The sugar content ranges from 8g to 11g, carbs are 18g to 21g and the calories range from 130 to 150 per waffle. However, each brand does stand out with their variety of flavors, added benefits like caffeine or all organic ingredients.

Here are four brands to try.

Honey Stinger $22/box of 16

One of the first brands to bring the waffle to the U.S., Honey Stinger also has the most flavors to choose from with 10. All flavors are organic, they also offer Gluten Free organic varieties, and even an organic kids version. Most flavors revolve around honey, chocolate or caramel, but strawberry and lemon break the mold.

Honey Stinger goes a little light in the flavoring, but the organic ingredients make what is there very nice. The kids version was a big hit among our three and four year old testers. Their Strawberry was voted the best non-traditional flavor.

The Favorite: Cinnamon

GU Energy $24/box of 16

GU Energy not only mixes up their flavors, they also mix the qualities of each by adding different performance oriented ingredients. All flavors have added amino acids, some have caffeine and some have twice as much sodium as any other brand. GU offers four flavors, Salty’s Caramel, Caramel Coffee, Salted Chocolate and Mixed Berries.

As one tester pointed out, with the addition of performance oriented ingredients the trade-off is that they have a more artificial flavor than the other brands. As expected, the Caramel Coffee paired well with a mug of joe and made for a good mid day pick me up.

The Favorite: Salty’s Caramel

Rip van Wafels $25/ box of 16

RVW has four flavors- with Honey and Oat, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and what they call Traditional (think honey and vanilla) covering the standard flavors. The addition of Coconut is a nice change up and will likely be more welcome in warmer weather. All flavors use non GMO ingredients and no artificial flavors.

These were the chewiest waffles on test, especially after being warmed up over a coffee mug. The Dark Chocolate Sea Salt was deemed the best chocolate flavored of any brand, with the right amount of salt to bring out a strong chocolate taste. The Coconut was also a hit, though it may be best suited for warmer days.

The Favorite: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt

Untapped Maple $36/box of 16

Started by former pro cyclist Ted King, Untapped uses organic ingredients to produce it’s only flavor- maple. Far from being just a sweetener, pure maple syrup has some very good nutritional qualities including a low Glycemic Index, high vitamin content (especially B5 and B6) and a high level of antioxidants.

With only one flavor, it’s a good thing that it is well executed. Not overly sweet, the hint of distinctive maple flavor comes at the end. Texturally, these are the most crumbly of the bunch, so expect a few more bits in the bottom of the wrapper.

The Favorite: Maple, obviously