During runs, many of us take energy gels or bananas because they are convenient sources of carbohydrates which help fuel our each step. But energy gels can get pretty pricey, and I know people with vehement dislikes for bananas. So here are 6 alternatives, I personally haven’t tried the last one but it sounds legit!
- Dried fruits
Since dried fruits have had their water removed, they have higher concentrated calorie content. This means they become sort of a natural powerhouse! The fruits also become lighter, so you can easily pack some in a little ziploc bag to munch on your longer distance runs.
However, take note that with drying, most vitamins would have been lost so you still need your fresh fruits! Also, some manufacturers would add extra sugar either to enhance taste or to prolong the dried fruits’ shelf life, so be sure to get those that do not have added sugar so that you don’t get more sugar than you really need. My personal favourites are raisins, apricots and dates!
2. Jelly beans
There are some jelly beans specially formulated for athletic performance, but if you’re just looking for a quick source of energy then regular jelly beans would do the trick as well! Their “shells” mean they can hold up quite well in warm conditions, so feel free to stash some in your pockets! Just beware to avoid those packs with odd flavours, you won’t want to pick a white one thinking it’s coconut when it’s actually spoiled milk!
3. Gummy sweets
Like jelly beans, some manufacturers have also created energy gummy bears. But most of us probably don’t need the pro kind of stuff, so your usual inexpensive gummy sweets would do! Many brands already have gummies in small packages for you to bring on your runs, how convenient! However, please note that not all brands available in Singapore are Halal-certified, so please check the packaging before sharing some gummy-love with our Muslim friends!
4. Honey sticks
Honey is a good natural alternative for refined sugar, and honey sticks come in convenient straws for you to sip like energy gels. Plus they have all sorts of flavours, making them a natural and relatively inexpensive alternative to energy gels!
5. Fruit puree
Baby food, essentially. I’ve got a friend who recently became a mom, and she discovered that those jars of fruit puree meant as baby food can actually be good for her too! Pick a flavour you like, pack a tablespoon or two in little ziploc bag, and voila you’ve made your own energy gel!
6. Ketchup packets
A friend and avid racer suggested we bring ketchup packets as quick energy sources during one of our previous races. I haven’t heard that before so I was caught by surprise, but then I thought, why not? Ketchup’s first ingredient is usually sugar anyway, and they already come in little bags that are (often) easy to tear open. Another friend in the same group didn’t quite like ketchup, so she prepared chili sauce packets instead. Only advisable if you know you can take the spice while running!
We’ve seen 6 alternative energy sources for running, so you cannot say you have nothing for your energy boost, just try one and just run lah!
What are some of your alternatives to energy gel and bananas? Leave a comment and share with us!
- 12 Tasty Alternatives to Energy Gels
- Sport Beans
- Honey Stinger Organic Waffles
- Justin’s Nut Butter
- Probar Bolt
- GoGo Squeez
- Nuun All Day
- UR Driven
- Clif Shot Bloks
- Snap Infusion Supercandy
- Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
- 4 New Natural Energy Gel Alternatives
- Best for GI Issues: Spring Energy
- Most Unique Flavors: Muir Energy
- Most Customizable: 33Shake
- Simplest Ingredient List: Untapped Maple
- Hammer Gel
- Clif Shot Energy Gel
- Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels
- Hüma Chia Energy Gel
- What are energy gels?
- What are the benefits of running gels?
- Are all sports gels the same?
- When is the best time to use energy gels?
- How many running gels will you need for a race?
- Types of sugar used in running gels
- What are the possible downsides of running gels and how can you avoid them?
- Practical tips for using running gels
- 10 best running nutrition products
- GU Roctane Energy Gel: £64.80 for 24 32g sachets (£2.70 per gel), Wiggle
- Science in Sport GO Isotonic Energy Gel: £27.50 for 30 (91p per gel), Chain Reaction Cycles
- Clif Bar Shot Bloks: £34.49 for 18 (£1.91 per block), Chain Reaction Cycles
- GU Energy Chews: £52.20 for 18 (£2.90 per pack), Wiggle
- Prime Beef Bar: £25 for 12 (£2.08 per bar), Prime
- Tribe Infinity choc salt caramel: £28 for 18 (£1.55 per bar), Tribe
- Buy Whole Foods Online Medjool Dates: £12.39 per kg, Buy Wholefoods Online
- Pip & Nut coconut almond butter squeeze pack: £3.50 for 4 (87p per sachet), Boots
- The Verdict
- The Best Running Gels Of 2019 And How To Use Them In Your Training
- The Best Running Gels
- Your top running gel questions, answered
- Q: Who should use running gels?
- Q: Are running gels essential?
- Q: What are running gels?
- Q: When will you need running gels?
- Q: Can you substitute sports gels for a chocolate bar?
- Q: Are there different types of running gel?
- Q: Can running gels cause an iffy stomach?
- Q: Are some running gels better than others?
- Q: Are there natural alternatives to gels available?
- Q: When do you need a running gel?
- Q: How many running gels do you need?
- Q: Why should you use running gels?
- Q: Do you need to use running gels?
- Q: What can you use instead of running gels?
12 Tasty Alternatives to Energy Gels
Hitting the wall is as fun as it sounds, but some people find the typical mid-exercise refueling options to be messy, tasteless, or just plain gross. You don’t need to choke down sugary goo to avoid bonking, though. There are plenty of other options-from real food to products designed for athletes-to give you the quick-digesting carbs you need. “The carbohydrates help replace your muscles’ depleted glycogen stores, allowing you to go longer, harder, faster,” says Corrine Dobbas, R.D.
Take one of these to-go pick-me-ups on your next long workout or race, and you’ll power through those final miles you normally dread.
Jelly beans don’t seem like rocket fuel, but Sport Beans pack a nutritional punch. In addition to sugar (of course) for energy, the candies contain some electrolytes to help you replace what you’ve lost sweating, and three “extreme” flavors have caffeine if you need an extra kick. The tiny bags tuck neatly into a pocket or sports bra.
Nutrition score per serving: 100 calories, 25g carbs, 80mg sodium, 40mg potassium
Honey Stinger Organic Waffles
Waffles may not seem very convenient to carry on a long run, but forget the sticky syrup: Honey Stinger waffles are optimized for athletic performance with honey for energy and additional carbs for endurance, all in one cute palm-sized treat. Plus the quick-dissolving formula makes them easy to chew and swallow, even when your mouth is dry.
Nutrition score per serving (Honey Waffle): 160 calories, 7g fat (3g saturated), 21g carbs, 1g fiber, 55mg sodium
University of California, Davis researchers had men run for 80 minutes and then complete a 5K time trial while fueling with water, water and carb-based chews, or water and raisins. The fruit performed just as well as the commercial product to give runners the pep they needed to keep on keepin’ on, and without any digestive issues. A single-serving box is easy to take with you and lets you munch a few at a time.
Nutrition score per serving (1-ounce box): 90 calories, 22g carbs, 5mg sodium, 220mg potassium
Justin’s Nut Butter
Justin’s Nut Butter not only provides all the health benefits of nuts, the all-natural butters also come in eight delish flavors from chocolate hazelnut to maple almond to honey peanut. The fiber helps satiate you while the protein staves off muscle soreness and any added sugars provide an energy surge. Just be mindful of how your stomach reacts, Dobbas says, because the fat could cause troubles for some people.
Nutrition score per serving (Classic Almond Butter): 200 calories, 18g fat (2g saturated), 6g carbs, 7g protein
There are plenty of chews to choose from, but most of them only add flavoring to create that citrus or berry taste. Not Probar Bolt Organic Energy Chews, which contain a real fruit blend of apple, acai, blueberry, and pomegranate powders, plus B vitamins and yerba mate for 20 milligrams caffeine per serving.
Nutrition score per serving (5 chews): 90 calories, 24g carbs, 60mg sodium, 45mg potassium
Nature’s candy is perfect to quickly refill your energy tank, says Anthony Stewart, executive chef for the Pritikin Longevity Center. “With fruit, you not only get convenience, you get loads of nutrition and naturally occurring sugar, and you don’t go overboard on calories.” Unfortunately a big juicy apple is a little inconvenient to chew mid-race. Enter GoGo Squeez portable 100-percent fruit, in more than a dozen fruity flavors. The little packs have a squirt top perfect for using on the fly, and they fit nicely in a pocket or pack. Plus, with nothing but fruit in them, you don’t have to worry about additives upsetting your stomach.
Nutrition score per serving (Applesauce): 60 calories, 15g carbs, 1g fiber
Nuun All Day
Let the sauna fanatics bask in “sweating out” toxins- perspiring means you’re losing not only water but also essential electrolytes, and both are necessary to regulate hydration. “Dehydration can cause decreased muscle strength and aerobic and anaerobic ability, and often leads to poor performance, headaches, and feeling sluggish,” Dobbas says. Many products provide some sodium, but Nuun All Day tablets-they dissolve in your water and make it fizzy-go a step further and also contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, and a list of vitamins.
Nutrition score per serving: >8 calories, 360mg sodium, 100mg potassium
A favorite among triathletes, one packet of UR Driven powder mixed with water gives you the carbohydrates you need to keep running but also includes some protein to help stimulate muscle synthesis, plus branched-chain amino acids to add in muscle recovery so you can go hard without worrying (as much) about paying for it the next day. Mix it into your water bottle before you head for the starting line and take sips throughout the race to stay on an even keel.
Nutrition score per serving: 110 calories, <1g fat (<1g saturated), 22g carbs, 5g protein
Clif Shot Bloks
When you just need a little something to perk you up but don’t want to worry about an opened gel gooping up your pocket, try Clif Shot Bloks. The chewable cubes are packaged in a stack so you can pop out one or two or however many you need at a time. Each has quick-digesting carbs and electrolytes, and some flavors add green tea extract for 25 or 50 milligrams caffeine per serving.
Nutrition score per serving (3 pieces): 100 calories, 24g carbs, 70mg sodium, 20mg potassium
“Nature’s perfect food” not only is a high-quality sugar to give you gusto, honey also reportedly boosts immunity and fights seasonal allergies (if you buy the local stuff). If you’re going on a shorter run, the tiny packets you get in restaurants will slip easily into your pocket; for longer runs, put a little squeeze bear in your hydration belt for an occasional shot.
Nutrition score per serving (1 packet): 43 calories, 11.5g carbs, 1mg sodium, 7mg potassium
Snap Infusion Supercandy
Competitive athlete Eric Stoll wanted a refueling option that had great nutritional content but “didn’t taste like foot,” so he created Snap Infusion Supercandy. The five varieties offer different flavors and textures (everything from fruit chews to chocolates) so you can find what you like best to get that quick hit of sugar plus antioxidants.
Nutrition score per serving (Gummy): 90 calories, 21g carbs, 25mg sodium, 65mg potassium
Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
Digestive woes during races are so common that they even have their own (deceptively benign) name: “runner’s stomach.” Most experts say this happens because during hard races and on long runs your body focuses on getting your muscles the blood they need and consequently sends less blood to your GI system. If your stomach sometimes revolts, try easy-to-digest Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, which contains a special mix of complex carbs, protein, and fat instead of straight sugar so your body doesn’t tap into the protein in your muscles for energy.
Nutrition score per serving: 270 calories, 2.5g fat (0.5g saturated), 54g carbs, 7g protein, 220mg sodium, 120 mg potassium
- By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
4 New Natural Energy Gel Alternatives
Energy gels revolutionized quick consumption and digestion in sports nutrition—but their highly-processed ingredients raise some pertinent questions. Are energy gels the best substitute for food found in nature? Do they actually do what they claim to do? And will they digest well without bloating, cramping or discomfort? In many cases, especially for athletes troubled with gastrointestinal issues when racing, simpler, less-processed nutrition can be a game-changer.
In my quest to find the latest quick fuel that could satisfy these concerns, I tried four newer “natural” gels. Here’s what I learned:
Best for GI Issues: Spring Energy
Spring Energy is a product born of ultra trail runners, who demand consistent energy and put their bodies through extreme exertion and pounding over a very long period of time. The labels include recognizable foods like basmati rice, organic banana, strawberry, and maple syrup— ingredients which the company says are “acidity and osmotically” tuned to be easy on the stomachs of athletes with GI issues.
I tried Spring gels in marathon, Ironman and ultra training, and they seemed to be a great alternative for traditional gels. I experienced no energy spikes, energy drops, or gut issues of any kind. The taste is good and the science is convincing. Of the bunch, spring gels were the closest natural option to traditional gels, just without the processed ingredients.
Most Unique Flavors: Muir Energy
Muir Energy markets “clean, pure, nutritionally dense, portable food with
4-6 clean ingredients, and no junk.” Products are made in SanDiego and are all-vegan, organic, gluten free, paleo and non-GMO, which should appeal to those with allergies or other dietary restrictions. The company is also environmentally-conscious: you can buy gels in the standard single-serving pouches, or an 8 oz jar to avoid wasting packaging.
Muir divides their products into “slow burning” and “fast burning,” with the slower containing some fat from nuts. They offer some standard flavors like pineapple and raspberry, as well as some that are more unusual, like sweet potato and oregano, or blueberry and bergamot. I tried the savory blackberry thyme flavor and found it so odd that I couldn’t go on. However, I gave it to a friend who dislikes the sweetness of a lot of gels, and she loved it.
With ingredients like molasses, various nut butters and dehydrated fruits and vegetables to create their products, ultimately I had to give them kudos for their creative ingredient list! This could be a good product for athletes tired of standard gel and bar flavors.
Most Customizable: 33Shake
33Shake is founded on the idea that “the foundation of performance nutrition is a powerful, whole food diet that minimizes processed ingredients, additives, sweeteners and sugar.” The company makes some intriguing plant-based protein powders and energy drinks, but for the purposes of this gel test we tried the chia energy gel, which is simply chia seeds, coconut palm sugar, organic vanilla and Himalyan pink salt—with a twist: it comes dry.
The gel mix comes in a small plastic pouches with a removable cap. Directions suggest you add water, coconut water, juice or even coffee then shake, wait 10 minutes or more, and consume. Our testers admittedly had a little trouble getting the fluid into the small opening, but the idea is a cool one. The ability to customize your gel with your liquid of choice could appeal to athletes who like to tweak their carbohydrate levels for different events.
Simplest Ingredient List: Untapped Maple
Maple syrup is 100% nature’s energy, and Untapped Maple brilliantly packaged pure organic maple syrup into small gel packets to provide athletes with 100 calories and 26g of sugary carbohydrates on the go. They also also sell it in larger bottles for use with your own reusable containers.
I tried a shot of maple syrup during my last gravel grinder; I simply added it directly to a water bottle and it made a super energy drink for the rest of my ride. These products are no nonsense, but should be distinguished from slower-burning, more complex carbohydrates. Untapped is for athletes looking for a quick energy boost—there is even a coffee-infused version for those of us who like a little caffeine!
In summary, there are a lot of real food gel options proliferating out there, so do some experimentation, remember that you can use different fuel for varying efforts and disciplines, and don’t be afraid to get creative and even try making your own!
During a long trail run or intense ride, replenishing energy stores is key. But to do so during your effort requires products that can be opened, eaten, and processed swiftly and simply. That means traditional bars or fruit are off the table. Enter the sports gel, packets of quick-digesting sugars to provide a burst of energy as you fatigue during longer efforts. These aren’t just everyday snacks: Gels are specifically designed to be consumed 15 minutes prior to starting your race or every 30 to 45 minutes throughout. (And always wash them down with water.)
Because we’re constantly putting ourselves through hours-long runs, rides, hikes, and more, we know a good or bad gel when we taste one. Our staffers surveyed upwards of 15 flavors from four different brands, and, frankly, we can’t recommend many of them. We’ve sacrificed our taste buds, subjected ourselves to severe cases of dry mouth, and endured bizarrely textured mouthfuls of syrupy stuff all in the name of creating a foolproof roster of gels that are actually good. Don’t stray from this list and you’ll be rewarded with midrace fuel that tastes good and gets the job done. (Spoiler: If you see peanut butter or chocolate on the shelf, grab it.)
(Photo: Courtesy Hammer Nutrition)
If you’re a peanut butter lover, try Hammer’s gluten-free peanut butter energy gel. Its taste and texture resemble a spoonful of the real thing straight from the jar.
“It was like eating a big glob of Skippy, which is fine by me. This, with some water after, is definitely my fave.” —Jenny Earnest, assistant social media editor
“Physically, I felt much more alert and energetic.” —Mitch Breton, video curator
(Photo: Courtesy Hammer Nutrition)
Peanut Butter Chocolate
Add a little chocolate to the mix, and even our most gel-averse testers go for it.
“I am usually not a gel person, but this got me through a trail run without a sugar crash.” —Erin Berger, associate editor
“This is everything I want at mile 20.” —Carly Graf, assistant editor
(Photo: Courtesy Hammer Nutrition)
The rich chocolate-hazelnut flavor tastes more like frosting than any sort of workout fuel, making for a welcome treat when you’re pushing hard.
“Before my workout, my legs were groaning for a tempo day, but I had this 15 minutes before starting, and not long thereafter I was ready to put some metal in my pedal. I definitely credit Hammer’s gel for the boost.” —Aleta Burchyski, copy editor
“It’s super thick, which is definitely great in some ways, but just be sure to have a full supply of water at the ready.” —C.G.
Clif Shot Energy Gel
(Photo: Courtesy CLIF)
The thin consistency makes it easy to get down quickly between strides and prevents the dry-mouth syndrome that can follow thicker gels.
“Equally fruity and delicious. I took it right before a three-mile hike. I usually feel lethargic and slow for the first mile or so; this time, I was immediately off at a good pace.” —M.B.
“I’m typically sort of turned off by fruity flavors, but this one tasted like raspberry candy.” —E.B.
Gooey with a distinct, not-too-sweet chocolate flavor, this gel made fans out of our testers.
“It’s super thick, which I like, almost like eating a spoonful of Nutella.” —Ben Fox, assistant editor
“After this experiment, I’ve come to realize that there is a difference between thick, icing-like sport goos, which are delicious in chocolatey flavors, and translucent gels.” —E.B.
(Photo: Courtesy CLIF)
Chocolate and coffee pair perfectly for taste and performance.
“Knocked three seconds off my typical stationary-bike mile pace, despite too little sleep and too much red wine the night before. The bonus 50 milligrams of caffeine was everything.” —A.B.
“Maybe it was just placebo, but I felt like I got a decent hit of energy from this one.” —C.G.
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels
(Photo: Courtesy Honey Stinger)
The darkest chocolate of the bunch and naturally caffeinated with green tea extract for an even greater energy boost.
“The chocolate doesn’t overpower the flavor of the honey, so it’s more like the classic Honey Stinger with a hint of chocolate.” —B.F.
“I live for chocolate, and this one was the richest of the bunch.” —C.G.
(Photo: Courtesy Honey Stinger)
Grab this packet if you want a gel that doesn’t flirt with classic dessert flavors as much as the chocolate and peanut butter varieties. Plus, this one has added electrolytes to prevent cramping and a blend of natural fruit flavors.
“I had it before a workout and assumed I was in for a regular Thursday lunch workout—until I looked at my stats and saw that I’d set a PR.” —A.B.
“If you’re really into sour-sweet candy as fuel, this one’s for you.”—E.B.
Hüma Chia Energy Gel
(Photo: Courtesy Huma Gel)
Huma Plus: Berries and Pomegranate
Only go for this one if you’re in the mood for über-sweet.
“I have a very high tolerance for the sweet stuff, so this didn’t overwhelm me, and it provided nice contrast to my typical icing-like flavors.” —C.G.
“I realized when heading to the gym at lunch that I forgot to eat breakfast, so I greatly appreciated this gel’s generous serving size.” —A.B.
A gluten-free, vegan option that tastes just like fruit puree.
“Just like salted strawberry puree, right down to the texture, which is much easier to get behind than the usual gluey gel consistency.” —A.B.
“I preferred this thicker texture to all the others I tried, and it tasted decently of raspberries, though a little sweet.” —E.B.
Filed To: NutritionDietFood and Drink Lead Illustration: Outside
When you’re taking on a half, full marathon or other running endurance challenge it’s important to fuel yourself properly. Getting your pre-race breakfast planned to a tee and knowing exactly how to refuel after training sessions are part of the sports nutrition puzzle but it’s the bit in between – the mid-run fuelling – that can be the most critical.
That’s where energy gels come in. Gels are often singled out as the most convenient way to take on energy on the move. However, with a vast range of products, claiming all kinds of benefits amid a sea of marketing buzzwords, it can be hard to work out what you actually need.
But help is at hand. If you’re new to running gels, or you still find race-day fuelling a bit baffling, here’s everything you need to know about the fuel source runners have come to rely on.
What are energy gels?
After running for around 90 minutes your body’s available glycogen stores will be depleted and if you don’t keep your carb levels topped up, you’re booking yourself a First Class seat on the Struggle Bus. Hitting the dreaded wall, bonking, blowing up – whatever you call it – failing to refuel will have negative effects on your performance.
The problem: it’s tricky to eat while you run at faster paces or higher intensities, so gels provide an easy, portable source of carbs – think of them as a concentrated sports drink – that provides energy on the move without having to down lots of fluid or chew your way through solid food.
Where gels differ from a banana, dried fruit and other foods you might also see on a marathon aid station table, is that the carbs in gels are designed to be absorbed more easily and more quickly by your body to give you an instant bump in energy and keep you running strong. Ideally without putting too much strain on your stomach. More on that later.
Some gel varieties also include caffeine to give you a mental boost and electrolytes to aid your hydration, and these can be handy for longer events and hot days. Other gels might also contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that aim to help reduce muscle damage and increase resistance to fatigue.
What are the benefits of running gels?
Energy gels aren’t the only way to fuel. You can drink carb drinks, chew on energy blocks or bars, eat bananas or real food, for example. But gels have some practical and physiological benefits over those types of running nutrition.
- No chewing required: Top of the list is that they provide a substantial energy hit without chewing (as you would with energy bars or fruit) or the need to down lots of fluid (as you would with sports drinks).
- Easy to digest: In theory, the consistency of gels also makes them easier on the stomach than solid foods, and faster to absorb, particularly while the body is already diverting blood that would be used for digestion elsewhere to cope with the exertion of running.
- Easy to carry: Then there’s portability. They’re designed to be easy to use, made in small sachets that you can stash in a running belt with tear-off tabs at the top making them quick to open. Gels are also designed to have the optimum levels of carbs in each serving so you can manage your intake more effectively than you might grabbing a handful of raisins or jelly babies.
Are all sports gels the same?
No matter which gel you go for, it’ll offer a source of quickly digestible carbs but not all gels deliver that energy the same way. Some may be thicker or more watery than others, but this is mostly a matter of personal taste. There are three general categories:
- Energy gels: Your classic option. Some of these can be rather dense and you’ll often need to chase them with a swig of water. On the plus side, the more concentrated the gel the smaller its sachet, meaning you’ll have extra space in your race belt. However, unless you’re carrying water, you’ll have to time your gel intake with the race aid stations.
- Isotonic gels: These have a thinner texture thanks to added water and tend to come in bigger sachets, since the added liquid increases their volume. Some people feel comfortable having these without water, but others may like to drink alongside them too. Some isotonic gels also include key electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and magnesium to boost your hydration. Veloforte’s nectar range contain enough water to make them super easy to swallow but at 33g each, are still neat enough not to weigh you down.
- Caffeine gels: Some energy gels have added caffeine to pep you up, which can boost focus on short distance runs or save the day when you’re at the latter stages of a long event and you need to lift the fog of fatigue. Veloforte Doppio gel packs 75mg of natural caffeine (that’s the equivalent of a large espresso) along with 22g of carbs plus essential electrolytes.
When is the best time to use energy gels?
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to timing your gel intake, as everyone processes sugar at a different rate. As a rule of thumb though, try having your first gel at around 60 to 75 minutes into your run and wait at least 45 minutes between each one. You’ll feel them kick in three-to-15 minutes after eating, depending on how quickly your body absorbs the sugar into your bloodstream.
The key thing to remember here, is that if you feel like you’re already hitting the wall, you’ve left it too long to take a gel. Feelings of mild frustration and negativity can also be signs that you’re low on energy. When little things on course start to irritate you there’s a good chance it’s because you’re a mid-run version of hangry!
To avoid this altogether, some runners like to eat to a timetable. It can pay to make a fuelling plan and set an alert on your running watch. Or, if you’re doing a long race, you can use the water stations as your trigger to eat and you can easily grab water if you need it then too.
How many running gels will you need for a race?
The number of sports gels you need will depend on how long your race is. For a half marathon people tend to take two to three gels with them, or five to six gels for a full marathon. But it’s also smart to find your own levels in your training runs.
As a place to start, it’s recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that you take in roughly 0.7g of carbohydrate per 1kg of body weight per hour. If you weigh 70kg, therefore, you should aim to take in 49g carbohydrates per hour. Nb: Your body can absorb up to 90g of carbs per hour.
Types of sugar used in running gels
- Glucose syrup: You may have heard of this before as it’s a form of liquid sugar that’s also used in baking and confectionery.
- Fructose: This is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruit. It’s sweeter than standard sugar (AKA sucrose) by 170%, so it’s often not a big component of sports gels – it would be too sickly. Also, fructose takes much longer for your body to convert into fuel, meaning on its own it’s not a good option for running gels which are designed to give you a quick boost.
- Maltodextrin: One of the most common carbs in gels maltodextrin is less sweet than most sugars. It’s also cheap to produce from the starch of rice, potatoes or corn.
- Glucose: Fructose mix: Glucose and fructose are often blended in gels to give your body the maximum amount of carbs, giving you quick-release energy from glucose and slower release energy from fructose. This dual-fuel combination uses two different transit methods to allow your body to absorb both sugars simultaneously. Veloforte Nectars use glucose (from brown rice syrup) and fructose (from date syrup) for exactly this purpose, increasing the amount of glycogen in your muscles and liver, boosting your performance without risking an upset stomach.
What are the possible downsides of running gels and how can you avoid them?
While energy gels are a valuable addition to your race-day arsenal, there can be some potential downsides to using them.
Here’s the issue: If you don’t take on enough water with your gels, your body will struggle to absorb them effectively, leaving them to sit in your stomach and potentially feed its natural bacteria. This can lead to unpleasant GI drama like cramps, bloating and diarrhoea – exactly what you don’t need in the middle of a marathon.
How to solve this: You can avoid this by drinking water with your gels and opting for products which aren’t too high in sugar or synthetic ingredients. Veloforte’s range of energy nectars for running contains sugar from natural sources such as dates and rice, which are much easier on the stomach than other options.
Here’s the issue: Many people don’t enjoy sickly, synthetic tasting gels, meaning they put off taking them or even avoid them altogether, which can result in hitting the wall and losing out on a stronger performance.
How to solve this: Opt for gels made with natural ingredients and flavourings, such as the Veloforte range. As the only nutrition brand to have ever been given a Great Taste Award, our products are powerful and delicious in equal measure.
Here’s the issue: As we mentioned above, gels which solely use glucose are digested and absorbed very quickly by the body. This can lead to a powerful energy spike (good) followed by a crash (not good).
How to solve this: Since Veloforte gels blend glucose and fructose, they provide a more steady energy release to keep you powered up for longer.
Practical tips for using running gels
- Train with your running gels first: The whole adage ‘nothing new on race day’ rings particularly true for energy gels for running. As you run, your body diverts blood flow away from your digestive system and towards the muscles. This means that your stomach may not be well-equipped to process the gels you’ve given them, which can result in a gastrointestinal nightmare of sorts. By practising with gels on long runs in training, your body will adapt to digesting on the go and you’ll be less likely to suffer on race day.
- ALWAYS take your gels with water: Even if you don’t feel thirsty, have a few sips of water with your gels. This helps your body absorb them more quickly and stops you getting dehydrated. If you’re taking isotonic gels then you might be fine without extra water, but bear in mind that they don’t contain as many carbs as other gels.
- Alternate between caffeine and non-caffeine gels: You probably wouldn’t down a double espresso every half hour for hours on end, so don’t do it with gels. Double-check how much caffeine is in the gels you use, and switch between caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties to avoid going overboard.
- Don’t mix gels and carb drinks: Stick to water, as mixing carbs from too many products can be unpredictable when it comes to how you’ll digest them.
- Don’t wash gels down with sports drinks: Gels are basically concentrated sports drinks, so if you take both you risk bombarding your stomach with sugar. This can lead to nausea or GI distress, neither of which are components of a good race.
- Take smaller portions of energy gels if your stomach is upset: If you find downing whole gels hard to stomach, especially in the later stages of a race, try taking smaller amounts more regularly. If you’ve got a belt with space where you can store gels individually, that’s ideal – you can take a small amount every 15 minutes or so without risking the sachet’s contents exploding in your belt.
One last thing – just like your running shoes, the nutrition you take on board to fuel your running should be unique to you and the best way to get to fine-tune your fuelling strategy is trial and error.
Having said that, we’ve worked hard to create nectars that eliminate the biggest issues with traditional energy gels. And so starting with our range is a faster way to happy fuelling.
10 best running nutrition products
GU Roctane Energy Gel: £64.80 for 24 32g sachets (£2.70 per gel), Wiggle
These are the next evolution of energy gels. They include BCAAs, amino acids that help you preserve energy in your muscles. This makes them particularly good in long-distance events (they’re great in ultras for example), and will give you an energy boost. With 21g of carbohydrate, and extra electrolytes than a lot of other energy gels, they’re intended to reduce fatigue and keep you going for longer in endurance events. A short time after taking them, you are sure to notice a pick-up in energy. You will need a couple of mouthfuls of water to wash it down, but they taste pretty good. There are six flavour options. Our tip is to try the blueberry pomegranate – it’s not too sweet, but still has plenty of flavour.
Science in Sport GO Isotonic Energy Gel: £27.50 for 30 (91p per gel), Chain Reaction Cycles
With 22g carbohydrate, The SiS Go Isotonic Gels are designed to combine carbohydrate and water in a specific ratio (22g of carb in a 60ml gel). This means you won’t need to drink from your bottle to help swallow the gel – they’re designed to be swallowed down and that’s it – so you can focus on your running. Also, this mix of carb and fluid makes it more effective as a source of energy, and easier for the body to use. They are some of the best tasting gels out there and give a great pick-up. These are still very sweet but there nine flavours to try so there should be something you like – our favourite is the grapefruit.
Clif Bar Shot Bloks: £34.49 for 18 (£1.91 per block), Chain Reaction Cycles
If you find gels too sweet and sickly, blocks are a great alternative. With six pieces per pack, they’re also easy to ration and space out, enabling you to practice the “little and often” philosophy so you can top yourself up frequently. Doing something similar with a gel would likely mean gel squidging all over your pocket. You can suck each block for around two to three minutes, which is a nice distraction too. They give a good energy boost. Each pack has around 45g carbohydrate (equivalent of two average gels) and 190 calories. They have a great texture, not too sugary or claggy in mouth, and taste better than you would think. There are 11 flavours available in the States, not all of which we could find here, but there are still plenty to choose from.
GU Energy Chews: £52.20 for 18 (£2.90 per pack), Wiggle
Here’s another entry from GU. With eight chews in each packet, these are ideal if you like to sink your teeth into something (as an alternative to gels) quite frequently. They are packed with carbohydrate (40g) and where they really differ from other chews is that they include amino acids to help reduce muscle fatigue. They taste good, particularly the strawberry flavour, and there’s a kicker of caffeine too that will help in giving that extra boost.
Prime Beef Bar: £25 for 12 (£2.08 per bar), Prime
If you’re not a fan of regular energy bars – those which are sugary and sweet – look no further than Prime. Comprised of 76 per cent British beef and with 7g of carbohydrate, they’re not designed so much for the shorter runs (half-marathon or even marathon). Where they really come into their own are for more ultra or long-distance events – each 50g bar is packed with 170 calories, 12g of protein and 12g of fat, so these are a really tasty, balanced snack to keep you going. Another huge upside too is they won’t upset your tummy. Our favourite variety is the chilli and red pepper, with its subtle paprika hit. These are the ultimate savoury energy bar in our opinion.
Tribe Infinity choc salt caramel: £28 for 18 (£1.55 per bar), Tribe
Tribe turns out great all-natural energy nutrition, specifically designed for runners. At 206 calories and with 25g of carbohydrate all in a tiny package, these are intended to give you slow release energy – and they certainly do that. They’re made with the likes of brown rice syrup, sunflower seeds, cashews and cocoa butter, plus they’re low in sugar – half that of an apple. Once you’ve eaten them – and this chocolaty salted caramel does taste particularly good – you’ll be all set for another 30-40mins of running. You will need some water to aid digestion as they’re quite dense.
Buy Whole Foods Online Medjool Dates: £12.39 per kg, Buy Wholefoods Online
The go-to choice of many a top ultramarathon runner, two medjool dates have around 35g of carbohydrate in them – that’s not far off two energy gels. They’re super easy to eat, they don’t get squished or go over ripe (like bananas), and they’re very easy for your body to digest. Very cost effective too, these come very highly recommended to perhaps pair up with another energy source, such as a gel for when you need a more immediate and bigger boost. They are also kinder on your stomach than gels.
Pip & Nut coconut almond butter squeeze pack: £3.50 for 4 (87p per sachet), Boots
In a super convenient and compact 30g sachet, these aren’t actually super-high in carbohydrate (with just 4g). But what they lack in this department, they more than make up for with high protein, and also calories – 186. So they’re a great option if you’ve perhaps lined-up something longer in distance, and need to mix up the types of snack you’re using. Natural foods are a winner in this circumstance. Nuts are also packed with magnesium, Vitamin E, fibre and other essential nutrients, have no refined sugars, so they’re good all round. You will need a few gulps of water once you’re done to wash it down and aid digestion, but this will be very welcome amid other more sugary options.
If you’re taking part in a half marathon, there’s no doubt Maurten 320 Drink Mix is a fantastic option – it’s a great energy drink, and in one 500ml bottle. You should have enough energy to keep you topped up. However, for a marathon distance, unless you’re super quick, it’s likely you’ll be turning to gels or chews, as a number of these are easily stowable in your pocket or bumbag and are packed with energy. Clif Bloks and GU Roctane Energy Gel are the best in these departments. For ultramarathons and longer runs, we would turn to a mix of energy bars and then natural foods. This way hopefully you’ll avoid an upset tummy and be in good shape to the finish line.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
The Best Running Gels Of 2019 And How To Use Them In Your Training
Running becomes a very different proposition when you cross the 90-minute mark. Instead of stepping out the door with the bare essentials and the freedom to run wherever you like, you need to plan your nutrition and tailor your route to include stops for refuelling.
Planning your nutrition for before, during and after any long run is key to getting you through it in both the speediest and most enjoyable manner possible. That’s especially true for races, where you might well be shooting for a PB. It’s vital to plan your nutrition for any road race of half-marathon distance or more, and even for shorter trail races if they’re going to last longer than 90 minutes.
In the past people endured long events just by swigging water and eating a chocolate bar at the halfway mark. Nowadays even amateur runners can enjoy the benefits of professional-level products, with running gels the go-to option for many people keen on getting through long runs in the most efficient manner possible.
Why do people use running gels?
It hardly needs saying that running for a couple of hours or more requires a lot of energy, and the main source of muscle fuel over the course of a long event is carbohydrates, which your body stores as glycogen. Your body can store about 90 minutes’ worth of glycogen if you stock up via pre-race carb-loading, but after that you face the risk of running out so you need to take on some extra fuel during the race.
There are many ways to do this. Sports drinks, energy bars and dried fruit are all options, but many people find that the best method of refuelling is using energy gels. These generally contain 20-30mg of carbs, are easy to slip into a running belt and can be consumed quickly without breaking your stride.
What kinds of gel are there?
All energy gels have the same purpose, to help fuel your run, and while they come in different shapes and sizes, there are two main types: isotonic gels and energy gels.
Isotonic gels come pre-mixed with water, which means not only that they’re more fluid and easier to take on the go, but also that you don’t have to worry about carrying water or eating the gels near a water stop during a race. The downside of this is that they’re a little bulkier.
Energy gels, on the other hand, just pack in a load of carbs. This type might be stickier – some of them are tough to get down without water – but you can pack more into a small race belt and reduce the weight of what you have to carry. The trade-off is timing them around water stations in races, or having to carry water with you on long training runs.
Both of these kinds of gels also have options that contain caffeine too, for a little extra mental boost, which can be very welcome in the latter stages of a marathon.
How many will you need for a race?
The general advice is to take your first gel somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes into a race, and then take them every 45 minutes or so from then on. You don’t want to wait until you start feeling knackered before you take them – by then it’s too late.
Even if you’re able to fly through a half marathon in 90 minutes or less it’s worth considering taking a gel at the 45-minute mark, to help ensure you have the energy for the final few kilometres.
For marathons, most people will need to carry five or six gels with them. You can reduce the load by checking out which gels are available to pick up on the course of your race. For example, at London Marathon there are two Lucozade Sport stops where runners could grab their gels.
Many people like to take them with water – even the isotonic kind – so you can try to time them with a water stop during a race. However, don’t wash a gel down with a sports drink. You’re just asking for an unpleasant sugar overload that your stomach won’t welcome.
It’s also important to test your gels out before race day. Different people react differently to each product, so you need to make sure your stomach can handle the brand you opt for and how often you take them.
The Best Running Gels
KMC NRG Gel
One advantage hikers and mountaineers have always had over runners is that they got to chow down on delicious Kendal Mint Cakes during their activities. Sure, you could try scoffing the sugary treat during a run, but it really wasn’t ideal. Fortunately that delicious sweet mint flavour has now been released in gel form, with citrus mint, chocolate mint and mint flavours available – it’s all about mint. The 70g gel contains 27g of carbs and sweetens the deal with electrolytes to help keep you hydrated.
Taste test: The Kendal gels are pleasingly fluid and although it’s best to take them with a drink, they’re easy to swallow on the move even if you don’t have water to hand. Of the flavours chocolate mint is our favourite – the citrus mint was frankly a little much.
Our favourite flavour: Chocolate Mint
Buy on Amazon | £14.99 for pack of 12
The company behind the most delicious energy bars on the market also makes energy gels, which aren’t as satisfying as a chewy Clif bar – few things are – but are certainly easier to eat while on the move. There are five gels in the range, each of which contains 24g of carbohydrates plus sea salt for electrolytes. If you’re looking for a caffeine hit, three of the gels contain it – there’s 25mg in the citrus flavour, 50mg in the mocha and 100mg in the double espresso gel. An additional feature we like is the litter leash on the side of the gel, which attaches to the top section of the packet so it doesn’t fall to the floor when you rip it off.
Taste test: These tiny bundles of energy come from the Gu school of stickiness, in that they are basically impossible to get down without fluid on hand. All the five flavours are quite intense, especially the double espresso, so it’s certainly worth diluting them by drinking water at the same time.
Our favourite flavour: Razz
Buy on Amazon | £14.75 for pack of ten mixed flavours
One Pro Nutrition Energy Gel
One Pro has three energy gels in its range, all of which deliver 22g of carbs and come with the added bonus of 400mg of BCAAs (500mg in the blueberry gel), which are thrown in to help you keep firing on all cylinders for longer. The gels also contain sea salt to help replace the electrolytes lost in sweat, and the blueberry version also contains 50mg of caffeine.
Taste test: There are points for originality here – One Pro’s three flavours are all a departure from the norm. Blueberry is the flavour used in the caffeine gel, while the standard energy gels come in two varieties: raspberry and watermelon, and passion fruit and lime. The latter is a triumph of zingy deliciousness. The gels are fluid enough to swallow without a drink, but you’ll want to wash the stickiness out of your mouth so make sure you have water to hand when you take one.
Our favourite flavour: Passion fruit and lime
Buy from One Pro Nutrition | £9.50 for pack of five
MyProtein Energy Gel Elite
Along with 25g of carbs, these gels contain electrolytes like potassium and magnesium to replace those lost in sweat, as well as a variety of B vitamins, so you can top up your levels while on the run. The inclusion of vitamins B6 and B12 in particular is designed to help reduce fatigue, something every runner will appreciate. Along with this energy gel MyProtein has a recovery gel, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates for a quick and easy post-run hit.
Taste test: The Energy Gel Elite gels come in two flavours, tropical and orange, and the latter is our pick – it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ever glugged down Lucozade Sport’s orange drink. The gel isn’t so sticky that it coats the inside of your mouth in unpleasant fashion, but it’s still viscous enough to benefit from being washed down with water.
Our favourite flavour: Orange
Buy from MyProtein | £21.99 for pack of 20
Maurten Gel 100
The gel used by Eliud Kipchoge when he broke the world marathon record in Berlin is a little different to everything else on this list. Part of that is the strange consistency – it’s firm enough to bite off chunks, rather than sipping a syrup, but the key difference is that the hydrogel does not upset your stomach like a standard gel because it passes straight through and is absorbed in the small intestine instead. If you avoid using gels because of past gastrointestinal problems, Gel 100 is well worth trying, though it is more expensive than other options. Each 40g gel contains 25g of carbs and Maurten claims the ratio of glucose to fructose used in them means you can absorb up to 100g of carbs an hour.
Taste test: The texture will divide opinion, but we enjoyed biting off a bit of the gel and letting it dissolve a little in our mouth before swallowing. For one thing this removes the risk of getting sticky syrup on your hands during a run, which is infuriating. The gels only come in one variety and don’t really have much of a taste, just a vague sweetness, and they don’t need to be washed down with water to clear your mouth of any residue.
Buy from Sigma Sports | £32.40 for pack of 12
These isotonic gels contain 22g of carbs and are a great option if you don’t want to take your gels with water. They’re runny enough to consume easily during a run, even if their bulky size might mean opting for a bigger running belt to carry them.
Taste Test: SiS has a huge range of flavours, including loads of caffeinated options and some with added electrolytes. The texture is somehow both watery and lumpy, which sounds worse than it is, and they slip down the throat with minimal fuss. The flavours are less sharp than in the carb-only gels, so your teeth won’t start tingling from the sugar hit.
Our favourite flavour: Berry Caffeine Gel
Buy on Amazon | £11.99 for pack of 10 mixed flavours
The Leeds brand that helps fuel the Brownlee brothers has come up with a canny idea: two different tear points on the top of the packet. One creates a small hole you can sip the gel through, while the other makes a big hole for a quick gulp, so you can consume according to your preference at the time. The range of seven gels available contains two caffeinated options and each gel provides 20g of carbohydrates.
Taste test: Although there isn’t a huge range of flavours – five in total: apple and orange energy gels, pineapple caffeine gel, and lemon and lime and blackcurrant, which are both available in caffeinated and non-caffeinated forms – OTE has done well to create a mix that isn’t at all sickly and slips down easily.
Buy on Amazon | From £22.62 for pack of 20
These gels come with a straw, which you’ll either find a welcome innovation or a bit of a tone-deaf waste of resources now plastic straws are eco-enemy number one. Either way, NamedSport offers four different kinds of sport gel: energy, which is the no-frills gel; caffeine, self-explanatory; glucogenic with added glycine and L-alanine which apparently help you to absorb the glucose in the gel faster; and hydration with added electrolytes.
Taste test: The flavours are limited to one per type of gel but they are delightfully unusual – cola-lime, lemon ice tea, tropical and orange. OK, orange is pretty standard but this is definitely the first time we’ve tried an ice tea-flavoured gel.
Our favourite flavour: Lemon Ice Tea
Buy from NamedSport | £18.75 for pack of 15
A low price isn’t the only reason to consider these energy gels from Wiggle, as in our tests they were the easiest non-isotonic option to take on the move. They’re fluid enough to eat without water, though you should always have water with them if possible, and contain 22g of carbs.
Taste Test: There are lots of different flavours, including caffeinated options. The Wiggle gels are not too sticky, but you still need to take them slowly – a sip at a time, rather than in one quick gulp.
Our favourite flavour: Lemon And Lime. They taste like Calpol, delicious Calpol.
Buy from Wiggle | £13.99 for 20
These tiny shots of gel that contain 22g of carbs are the best pick for those keen on minimising the amount of weight they carry on the run.
Taste Test: Gu stands out for the originality in its range of flavours, which includes the likes of Salted Watermelon and Chocolate Outrage. There are also caffeine-rich options available. The Gu gels are, however, essentially impossible to get down without water owing to their stickiness, so make sure you time them right on race day.
Our favourite flavour: Espresso Love. Gu’s concentrated gels can be very sickly, and this coffee-flavoured option is the least so.
Buy on Amazon | £38.99 for 24 mixed flavours
High5’s gel range covers all the bases: isotonic gels, straight up energy gels and caffeinated gels, each containing 23g of carbs. The gels are even batch-tested to ensure you won’t accidentally fall foul of doping regulations, if that’s a concern for you.
Taste test: You have to hand it to High5 here – even its non-isotonic gels are pretty fluid and easy to consume, and none are so sugary as to make you wince. The isotonic gels, which High5 has recently renamed Energy Gel Aqua, are the tastiest: more like a drink than a gel, making them very easy to get down while running.
Our favourite flavour: Energy Gel Aqua Berry. A triumph – the best-tasting gel out there.
Buy energy gels from Amazon | £15 for 20 mixed flavours
Buy isotonic gels on Amazon | £14.98 for pack of 20
These gels have one distinct advantage for London Marathon runners, in that they will be available on the course at two separate stops (at miles 14 and 21.5), so you don’t have to carry so many. You need to take them with water, but they pack in a hefty 30g of carbs.
Taste test: Only two flavours are available – orange and citrus – but both are perfectly palatable. They’re stickier than Wiggle gels and it did take a while to get them down on a run, but they’re certainly easier to swallow than Gu.
Our favourite flavour: Orange
Buy from Lucozade | £26.99 for pack of 24
Nutrition X Energel+
As well as carbohydrates, it’s important to top up your electrolytes during long runs, because drinking water alone doesn’t replenish vital nutrients like sodium, potassium and magnesium that are lost in your sweat. Most gels just contain carbs, so you’d need to sort your electrolytes separately with a sports drink or a hydration tab, but Nutrition X’s Energel+ includes them to make hydration on the go easier.
Taste test: You’ve got a choice of two flavours: Orange and Lemon or Mixed Berries. Both are insanely sweet but impressively fluid – you can get them down easily without water, although you should drink water with them so your body can absorb the electrolytes faster.
Our favourite flavour: Mixed Berries
Buy from Nutrition X | £34.99 for pack of 24
Running gels—you’ve probably seen super serious runner types ripping them open with their teeth and guzzling them down as they blaze past in a blur of Lycra and sweat.
This, in turn, probably made you wonder whether you should be using them to fuel your 5k training, 10k training or half marathon training, too.
The gels are what long-distance runners use to fuel their miles and make it to the end of a race without losing speed. But what actually are running gels, which are best and what do they contain? And more importantly, should you be using them?
Keep scrolling to read answers from marathon and sports nutrition experts to 14 of the most asked running gel questions around.
Oh, and PSA: if you’re wondering what the difference is between running gels vs sports gel, they’re simply two names for the same thing. They’re also often called energy gels. Fun sports nutrition fact of the day for you.
Your top running gel questions, answered
Q: Who should use running gels?
A: Anyone and everyone training for a distance race, says personal trainer and marathon runner Steve Mellor.
Running gels aren’t just for athletes—far from it. Although elite runners, cyclists and triathletes do use them, Mellor believes that sports gels are great for anyone running for more than 90 minutes, where they’re working quite hard (i.e. not just a slow jog).
Go Isotonic Gel Orange 60ml SiS runnersneed.com £1.40
Q: Are running gels essential?
A: Not necessarily, says sports nutritionist Anita Bean (anitabean.co.uk).
She explains that running gels comprise mainly of sugars, such as sucrose, fructose and glucose and maltodextrin, which is a carbohydrate made from cornstarch.
Each gel provides between 20 and 30g of carbohydrate, and may also contain electrolytes and caffeine. However, in her expert opinion, they are not essential, but a convenient fuelling option during long workouts or races.
Q: What are running gels?
A: In short, carbohydrates—yes, really.
As Bean explains above, they’ll give you a dose of carbohydrates, which your body then quickly processes to give you the energy. This in turn can help your body to maintain blood sugar levels during high-intensity exercise that is longer than 60 minutes and requires rapid carbohydrate delivery.
GU Energy Gel – Salted Caramel GU runnersneed.com £1.90
Q: When will you need running gels?
A: If you’re running for less than 90 minutes or at a really low intensity, you probably won’t need them.
Mellor explains that this is because your body will predominantly be burning fat as fuel.
Q: Can you substitute sports gels for a chocolate bar?
A: There’s more to running gels than just sugar—so no, you probably won’t fare too well substituting for a Kit Kat.
Why? Well firstly, have you ever tried to run and chew? It can ruin your rhythm and mean your speed drops. And further, running gels have been specifically engineered for your body to be able to digest easily and quickly—unlike your favourite KitKat.
If you eat something more substantial, your body will need to send blood to your digestive system, when you want it pumping oxygen and energy to your muscles, so your running may suffer.
Powerbar Gel Fuel Strawberry Banana 24 x 41g hollandandbarrett.com £30.40
Q: Are there different types of running gel?
A: Perhaps surprisingly, yes, there’s more than one type of running gel.
Bean says that most varieties are hypertonic, meaning they are more concentrated than body fluids and so need to be taken with water, otherwise they may cause stomach discomfort or, worse, come back up again.
Isotonic gels, on the other hand, can be taken without water, which may be more convenient.
Q: Can running gels cause an iffy stomach?
A: Gels can cause an upset stomach in some people—you all remember Paula Radcliffe’s unfortunate 2004 Athens incident.
How to avoid getting caught short? Mellor advises looking at the amount of fructose and caffeine in the running gels you’re consuming. If they’re high, it’s more likely to cause gastric upset.
As a general rule for caffeine, aim for 25mg or less to start with. Try them out, and if they don’t cause you any problems, you can up the amount.
Q: Are some running gels better than others?
A: Different experts believe different things.
Mallor recommends looking for running gels that say ‘maltodextrin’ – a very palatable form of carbs which is absorbed quicker than glucose.
According to the runner, the other feature to look for is a small amount of fructose. This sweetness makes gels taste nice, but too much will be hard for your body to digest. Also make sure your gel contains a mix of glucose and fructose—one without the other is harder for your body to absorb.
Caffeine is another great ingredient to have in your running gels. It improves endurance, mental cognition (important for when you’re going a little crazy in the last third of a marathon), boosts your mood and aids with the quick absorption of the carbs in running gels.
High5 Energy Gel Summer Fruits 20 x 38g hollandandbarrett.com £3.49
Q: Are there natural alternatives to gels available?
A: Yes, there are plenty to choose from, says Bean. You might also see ‘natural’ running gels on sale. These are best to avoid, as they’ll probably have added extras, such as fibre and protein, which your body doesn’t need to be dealing with during a race.
Obviously, your body needs fibre and protein and you should be eating a balanced diet normally, but a race day isn’t a normal day so you don’t need them in your running gels.
Q: When do you need a running gel?
A: You don’t need running gels for 90 to 120 minutes.
If your body is fully stocked before your run your energy reserves should be able to fuel you for the first hour and a half or so. However, if you haven’t carb loaded, or rested the day before, the chances are you won’t have a full tank so could need to take on a gel before the 90minutes.
Bean recommends consuming one or two sachets per hour, and points out that it may be better for you to take it in divided doses – aka, half a gel every 20 minutes.
Etixx Triple Action Energy Gel Lime 12 x 40g hollandandbarrett.com £19.99
Q: How many running gels do you need?
A: This one totally depends on a number of factors, like size, fitness and speed, says Mallor.
Again, he says it’s a case of trial and error and testing out what works for you – and how much you can stomach. Have a plan for when you’re going to take them so you don’t have to be worrying about it on race day.
And remember – these running gels are a supplement that improve performance, not just to have as fuel with nothing else.
Q: Why should you use running gels?
A: In short, they’re very convenient.
Bean believes the main benefit of gels is their convenience; they come in wrapped portions that fit neatly into jersey pockets, are easy to carry and eat while exercising.
Plus, they deliver a known number of calories and carbohydrate.
Q: Do you need to use running gels?
A: As Bean explains: ‘There is no evidence that sports gels boost performance more than foods, such as bananas, dried fruit and fruit and nut bars.’
So she advises experimenting with different brands, flavours and foods to find which gels or foods your body can tolerate mid long-run.
OTE 50mg Caffeine Energy Gel,(Lemon and Lime) OTE amazon.co.uk £36.88
Q: What can you use instead of running gels?
A: Sweets and fruit could do the trick, too. Not sure whether sports gels are for you?
Bean advises trying jelly babies or jelly beans. Four jelly babies or 28g of jelly beans provide 25g of carbohydrate, roughly equivalent to one gel.
Or, if you’re refined sugar free, as above, bananas or dried fruit should do the trick.