When someone asked, “Do you want an energy waffle?” What would be the first thing that came to mind?
A crispy, fluffy ego doused with questionably healthy toppings that trigger sugar coma?
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For those who are not familiar with the energy waffle, you should not be surprised. The phenomenon actually started centuries ago in the Netherlands when bakers in the Dutch city of Gouda started what they called Stroopwafels – literally translated “syrup waffle” – a hand-squeezed treat made from sweet beet syrup and thin, crispy waffles.
But the small but filling (and interestingly satisfying) enjoyment has only really increased in the US markets in recent years, especially among active outdoor viewers. Companies like Honey Stinger, GU Energy Labs and Rip Van Wafels have released the snack for the masses on the go. You can even find them in the energy bar section of REI and other stores that are suitable for outdoor and active lifestyles.
The history of the Stroopwafel, which is used to generate energy, goes back to its introduction by the Belgian bicycle community. Cyclists turned to the Stroopwafel and were looking for an easy-to-grab, high-energy option that could be stowed in a jersey.
Although this may seem arbitrary, this tradition is widely recognized in the region.
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“The Dutch are enthusiastic cyclists, so it makes sense that they made the high carbohydrate-sugar ratio of the Stroopwafel the perfect tanker before or during the trip,” says the Dutchman and co-founder of Rip Van Wafels, Rip Pruisken. “It can get pretty cold in the Netherlands, too. The traditional way of eating the waffle – heating it up over coffee or tea – is also the perfect pre-ride ritual before you go.”
Nowadays, companies that compete in space have exchanged syrups for slightly different, health-conscious ingredients such as honey and tapioca syrup to support long-term energy release.
What would these companies say to people who think the Stroopwafel is just a glorified cookie?
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“We have a crazy loyal following of active outdoor athletes who eat our waffles with coffee or tea in the morning, during breaks while cycling or on a hike to maintain energy levels,” said Len Zanni, co-owner of Honey Stinger. “Many customers report that they use it as fuel for marathons and ultra-running events or long-distance cycling tours.”
The Stroopwafel is still a novelty for many, and we were curious to test the different variations.
Rip Van Wafels, which was launched in 2010 as part of a Kickstarter campaign at Brown University, is based in San Francisco. Her mantra is to create convenient food options that are healthier.
In addition to rips, we test waffles from Honey Stinger from Colorado and Berkeley, California, GU Energy Labs.
Honey Stinger has been around for decades, but since 2010 energy wafers have been brought to the market with the help and inspiration of partner and well-known cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Everything Honey Stinger does is (you guessed it) honey. Your waffles have a thicker profile than Rip Van Wafels and appear to contain more filling when you bite into them.
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Honey Stinger has also introduced a gluten-free option for people with certain food restrictions. We had the opportunity to try them, and the subtle difference in taste is almost imperceptible.
For this comparison, however, we tried the organic honey waffle from Honey Stinger. Honey Stinger’s outer waffle tasted less sugary than that of Rip Van Wafels, while the inner filling had a subtle sweetness to make up for it.
Rip Van Wafels’ filling was thinner than Honey Stinger’s, but had a tougher and stickier consistency.
The GU Stroopwafel had the least tough consistency of all fillings, and the outer wafer also seemed to handle a little more oil. Although this may only indicate the two flavors we tried – salty caramel and salted chocolate – GU’s wafers tasted a bit higher in sodium than others.
From a pure taste point of view, Honey Stinger and GU tasted more like something we would get on the way, while Rip Van Wafels were just as tasty, but really tasted more like a treat that we wouldn’t give ourselves too badly.
Our favorite taste of Rip was a connection between the chocolate brownie and the Dutch caramel and vanilla. We weren’t a big fan of the roasted coconut.
When discussing energy, it’s normal to look at some of the basic sources like carbohydrates, sugar, and protein.
Honey Stinger’s wafers contain about 11 grams of sugar and 21 grams of carbohydrates in one serving, which is a 1-ounce waffle. You get 150 calories in one serving, which could make a quick run or a longer hike or bike ride possible.
GU contains 140 calories and also contains 10 grams of sugar and 21 grams of carbohydrates.
Rip Van Wafels float between 8 and 9 grams of sugar depending on taste and contain 18 to 20 grams of carbohydrates and 130 calories.
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Rip Van Wafels contains about 8 to 9 grams of “added sugar” in addition to the sugar listed above.
Another thing we noticed about Rip Van Wafels is that one of our favorite flavors, the Chocolate Brownie, contained 155 mg of sodium.
Curious to see if this was the norm, we looked at the others and found that other Rip Van Wafels flavors and Honey Stingers’ organic honey waffle only contained about 55-60 mg of sodium. However, GU’s two flavors also contained 150 mg of sodium.
The fat content did not fluctuate too much between the different waffles – Honey Stinger with 7 grams, GU with 6 grams and Rip Van Wafels with 6 grams.
While all waffles for this test contain wheat, eggs and milk, variations in the ingredients had to be noted. The ingredients of Rip Van Wafels are not genetically verified and contain chickpea flour and organic tapioca syrup.
Honey Stinger and GU both use organic wheat flour as the main ingredients. Honey Stinger also contains organic rice syrup.
Honey Stinger and GU contain soy flour, something for allergy sufferers.
All three waffle companies use palm oil and cane sugar.
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Each contains approximately 1 gram of protein per serving, and while GU and Honey Stinger are not significant sources of calcium, Rip Van Wafels contains approximately 2 percent of the daily value in one serving.
GU’s flavors contain an amino acid mixture of L-leucine, L-valine and L-isoleucine that distinguishes them from the others. According to further research, this combination could help prevent muscle breakdown during active activities.
We found that each of these waffles satiated hunger and energy for a moderate level of activity throughout the day, especially when eaten with a cup of coffee for breakfast.
After a few hours, the energy level drops and you need to replenish yourself, especially if you participate in high-intensity activities.
The simple packaging really allows for a quick snack almost anywhere and at any time, which has made us a fan of the energy waffle. Not to mention that they are really indescribably delicious.
Taking into account taste and nutrition, we recommend the following:
Best overall taste: Honey stinger
Best viscous, sticky consistency: Rip Van Wafel
Best for sustainable energy: GU or Honey Stinger
Best lenient treatment: Rip Van Wafels chocolate brownie
Gluten-free option: Honey stinger
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