Energy gels are praised by some athletes as much as they are hated by the rest. Like a lot of controversial fitness products, they certainly have pros and cons. But the truth is that energy gels help replenish your calories after sixty minutes of strenuous exercise and are a lot easier to consume while you’re on the move. Have you ever tried to eat something more substantial in the middle of a three-hour running workout? I didn’t think so!
The best energy gels for runners are great resources because they can easily be tucked away in a zippered pocket or stashed inside a jersey. They replace your body’s glycogen stores that are depleted during a long run or bike ride. These nutrition gels are mostly made of sugar, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. The best brands will have two types of carbohydrates in the mix: glucose and fructose. Gels also come in a variety of flavors from chocolate to sour watermelon to vanilla.
Some gels also contain caffeine, which can be useful when you’re in the later stages of your workout. You can also alternate non-caffeine gels with caffeine over an especially long period of exercise. These products work best if taken every 30 or 45 minutes per 60 minutes of exercise. Having your calorie count planned ahead of time will save you a lot of stress when you’re exhausted.
The next time you need a pick-me-up as you approach the end of your summer marathon training, reach for one of the best energy gels for runners below.
1. Best Energy Gels – Maurten Energy Gel 100
BEST NATURAL GEL
Probably the densest gel on the list, Maurten makes some serious carb crushers. The actual mix is a unique blend of fructose and glucose which builds you up to 100 grams of carbs per hour, hence the name. With 25 grams of carbohydrates in one serving with 6 natural ingredients and zero added colors or preservatives, this is the ultimate gel for those seeking only the basic nutrients. When you’re only halfway done with a three-hour bike ride or training on a hot summer day for your upcoming triathlon, Maurten will be there. The energy gel brand offers both caffeine and non-caffeine formulas; head to the Maurten website to see all of your options.
2. GU Energy Running Gels
GU Energy Gel is the gel most runners and cyclists think of when energy gels come to mind. They’re a popular option because of quality ingredients and wild flavors that are actually really tasty. In the hot summer months when all you want is a tall glass of lemonade, you can try the delicious salted watermelon flavor instead. Fruity and salty, what could be better? GU gels are made of simple and complex carbs and have 100 calories per serving, which is the optimal amount of calories you need to be putting back into your body during an endurance workout. You can purchase a variety pack of flavors or a box of one flavor.
3. CLIF Bar Shot Energy
CLIF Bar has advanced from energy chews into the running gels sphere. With eight great flavors, you can find your dose of calories, carbs and sugars to help you continue your workout. Saturated with electrolytes, sodium and potassium, CLIF Bar has made an outstanding gel. Each flavor has its own amount of caffeine or carbs so you can pick and choose your favorites or go caffeine free. A cool thing about CLIF Bar is their commitment to sustainability — they promise to make 80% of their ingredients organic and sustainably sourced by the end of 2020. These are great for endurance athletes or those looking for some extra carbs on a long hike or backpacking trip to save some room.
4. GU Roctane Energy Gels
Roctane is a little different from normal GU running gels. It’s targeted at super endurance athletes like the Ironman racers or people running a full marathon. Roctane packs twice the amount of electrolytes and contains the amino acid taurine, which helps with cardiac output during endurance races or workouts. However, it does have the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as a regular gel, but it’s not recommended for the average athlete or workout. If you’re going to consume a Roctane GU on race day, you’ll want to chase it with a lot of water.
5. Huma Chia Energy Gel for Runners
Do you like chia seeds? If so, this is a great gel worth trying for its simple ingredient list and choice of eight flavors. The chia seeds are a nice touch and make the whole process of slurping goo down your throat a little bit easier. Huma consists of brown rice syrup and fruit puree — pretty simple choices to do right by your body. They’re also vegan, which is a plus for those seeking a vegan diet. The only downside for some people is that Huma doesn’t make their gels with caffeine, so if you’re looking for that extra boost, these aren’t for you. But if you’re here for a natural, healthy gel, come on over and try them.
6. Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel
You’ve probably heard of or eaten Honey Stingers, those delicious little energy waffles. Now they’re back with a gel that comes in a variety of flavors with the main sugar component being, yup, you guessed it: honey. These running gels contain enough carbohydrates and calories to keep you going during endurance exercise and only use organic ingredients.
7. Science In Sport Energy Gel Pack
This is a lesser known energy gel brand but just as good as the others on this list. Science in Sport is a company that boasts for the lack of excess water needed to be drunk during the consumption of their energy gels. Each gel contains 22 grams of carbs and 90 calories, a little bit less of each than other products. Science in Sport Gels don’t contain caffeine or electrolytes, so if you’re looking for those, seek our other products mentioned. Otherwise, these are a great option for those searching for an affordable gel option.
8. Spring Energy Gels
BEST LOW ACIDIC LEVELS
Made specifically with natural products for athletes with sensitive digestive systems, Spring Energy Gels are for those who may have found other energy gels to be too acidic. At last, a product that’s easier on your stomach! Rich in electrolytes, these gels are made with the correct acidity levels and osmotically active nutrients to prevent GI problems. With the same amount of calories as GU or CLIF Bar gels, Spring is in a league of its own when it comes to organic, easy on the stomach ingredients. Try these if no other energy gel has worked for you.