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Best energy gels for running and when to use them on your run

If you’re looking to take your running to the next level, you need to know about these energy gels

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33Fuel
By
23 September 2022
F

or any sort of long distance running that will take more an hour, these energy boosts will play an integral role in getting you past that finish line.

These liquid sachets add fuel mid-run, offer a quick top up of your glycogen stores and replenish lost calories.

Carb-loading before a run is crucial but you can actually only store about 90 minutes worth of glycogen before it runs out. After this you burn fat which is less effective and slower to breakdown into usable energy. The gels act as a quick fix solution that you can consume before, after or during without interrupting your run and easily store in your pocket or running belt due to their compact size.

When to use energy gels

You must be careful when taking this form of concentrated energy. Always check the recommendation on the packaging but as a rule of thumb, you should only take one at a time. It will not give you double the energy if you take two at once - you’ll likely just crash instead.

Never take more than two an hour, every 45 minutes is the norm but varies by person and brand. You can even take a quarter every 15 minutes rather than the whole thing at once it this suits you better. It’s all about trial and error.

Gaby Hayward, personal trainer, seasoned marathon and Ultra runner recommends “giving each one a go and seeing which one suits you best. After your first long run, have a look at your splits on Strava – you’ll be able to see at what kilometre (or mile depending on which units you use) your pace starts to slow. Say you noticed your pace dropping at mile 4, then in your next run you’d want to take on a gel around mile 3 or 3.5.”

What you need to know about energy gels

Some gels are quite hard to consume due to their thick consistency. They can also make you feel dehydrated, so drink with water – it will also help them enter the blood stream quicker. Pairing with a sports drink, however, may lead to a sugar overload.

Look out for ingredients like caffeine that will give an extra energy hit, added sodium to replace the salt lost by sweating and a combination of carbs such as glucose and fructose.

These professional-level products are far more accessible and affordable than you may think but it’s all about practice, practice, practice. You need to try them out and find the gels that work best for you while you are training for your big race, especially when you are running a half, marathon or any other long mileage as they can have an effect on your stomach and you may not want to waste precious time in the portaloos.

Don’t underestimate the importance of nutrition for more efficient running by introducing gels into your regime.

We’ve tried and tested some of the best on the market to find the tastiest and most effective options.

Maurten

Maurten

Energy: 425Kj per 40g serving

Calories: 100Kcal per 40g serving

This is one of the most popular brands with professional athletes and from first look, you can tell they are different to others on the market. Maurten opts for pared-back packaging with a minimalistic feel but that doesn’t reflect the powerhouse formulation inside. There’s a reason why this is the energy gel of choice for pro runners to smash their PBs - including long-distance heroes Eliud Kipchogue, Sir Mo Farah, Mary Ngugi and Charlotte Purdue.

The brand’s roots are in the co-founder’s - a seasoned triathlete - struggles with fueling and GI conditions and uses a patented and unique hydrogel delivery system so as not to wreak havoc on your stomach. This also propels the uptake of energy.

Both the Gel 100 and Gel 100 CAF 100 (the latter of which contains 100mg of caffeine) are packed with 25g of carbohydrates, electrolytes and water, which means it doesn’t need to be followed by a beverage.

The product itself is a translucent, chunky texture that you can sink your teeth into - but the process is not as quick as some of the other formulas on this list. In fact, it took a while to complete the gel in its entirety, while the rip top is not the easiest as you need to make sure it is off completely to really get into it - this then makes storage a complication. We preferred the taste of the Gel 100 in testing.

Vala Energy Gels

Vala

Energy: 430.85Kj per 35g serving

Calories: 102Kcal per 35g serving

Vala creates its energy gels purely from natural foods and it shows. The snack-worthy running essential combines ingredients like maple syrup, date paste, lemon and lime juice, chia, matcha tea powder and salt for a formula that is not only packed with easily-abrobed sucrose and fructose, electrolytes and antioxdiants but, and most importantly of all, tastes really good.

The product is like a sweet puree and is palatable even when motivation is at an all time low. Rip off the top with ease and you’ll be chowing down on the digestible lightweight texture in no time. The ingredients have been chosen to provide a quick relase of energy, be easily consumed and slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar for long term fueling as well as to increase hydration too. It is entirely free from preservatives and additives.

Myprotein Energy Gel Elite

Myprotein

Energy: 426Kj per 50g serving

Calories: 100Kcal per 50g serving

This is one of the best tasting energy gels on the market and actually is enjoyable to consume (which is not always the case as we learned the hard way!). It has a refreshing orange flavour and will have you looking forward to the next time you can tear one open.

When it comes to energy boosting, the formula worked its magic straight away where we noticed a significant improvement on the next mile versus the previous. It is packed with maltodextrin and fructose for fuel and to replenish lost electrolytes and vitamins so you can race more efficiently.

Price for 12.

TORQ gel Forest Fruit

TORQ

Energy: 480Kj per 45g serving

Calories: 113Kcal per 45g serving

The TORQ gels are made from all-natural ingredients to give you an energy hit as you pound the pavements. In the 45g sachets, there’s 29g of carbohydrate and a whole lot of electrolytes to keep you going longer and faster. The brand opts for a 2:1 ratio of Maltodextrin to Fructose to give a fast delivery and for everything you need to power up.

The brand has put taste at the forefront and they come in an array of flavours that are actually palatable, which means you don’t necessarily need to pair them with water in order for them to go down. When you’re feeling sluggish, try the Forest Fruit (with natural guarana extract that provides 89mg of natural caffeine) or the sweet , which both came particularily welcomed. We also sampled the Banoffee and but as someone who doesn’t love the taste of banana flavouring, these weren’t as appealing. There are non-caffeinated versions too.

The texture of the liquid gel is thin, lightweight but ultra-sticky. Luckily the exterior of the packaging is mattified to encourage better grip but we still found that it went all over our hands, even with the small rip-off opening (the easiest to open on this list). The effects are almost immediate.

These sachets can be used for running as well as cycling, hiking and all sorts of endurance sports.

33Fuel Chia Energy Gels

33Fuel

Energy: 418Kj per 21g serving

Calories: 100Kcal per 21g serving

33Fuel takes a whole different approach to its energy gels. The individual sachets have a screw top and capped lid that you fill with your beverage of choice - be it water, coconut water, fruit juice or even coffee as suggested by the brand - and then sip away to get a stable energy boost. The latter is achieved as the chia seeds absorbs eight times its weight in water, which is then gradually released, while also aiding in hydration.

The contents without additional liquid contains a chia seed electrolyte blend that also includes coconut sugar, pure vanilla and Himalayan pink salt to top up lost reserves. Shake to mix and in 10 minutes, you have a plant-based, vegan concoction that serves to improve mid-run nutrition.

While both our stomach and consistent energy levels appreciated this, it wasn’t the easiest to create during exercise (unless your pouring technique is better than ours) but you can prepare in advance as they last 24 hours and the lid did make it easy to consume. Be warned: you may find yourself clearing the seeds from your teeth for the rest of the day.

By adding the water yourself, this makes for a more sustainable product in terms of the shipping process. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, the ingredients are organic and there are no preservatives or nasties.

Have one every 45-60 minutes.

NutritionX Energel+ and Energel+ Caffeine

NutritionX

Energy: 405Kj per 50g serving

Calories: 95Kcal per 50g serving

There’s a new addition to the NutritionX line-up. To go alongside the scientifically formulated and bestselling energy gel, there’s a caffeinated addition - including 80mg of the stimulant within the fast-acting carbohydrate concoction. It comes in cola with no artificial sweeteners and taste a lot like the Haribo variety. The sachets aren’t the easiest to open, especially with sweaty hands, but introducing teeth will do the job quickly.

The original Energel+ comes in three flavours; Orange & Lemon, Fruit Punch and our personal favourite Mixed Berries that is just the right amount of sugary to drive you on when the fatigue hits. The brand suggests you follow with water but this is not a necessity. With the added bonus of electrolytes, it should also reduce the likes of muscle cramps.

Consume one or two per hour.

Price for 24 gels.

PowerBar PowerGel Hydro

PowerBar

Energy: 436Kj per 67ml serving

Calories: 102Kcal per 67ml serving

PowerBar has formulated this energy gel so that you can ramp up your training without needing to follow with water. The Hydro formula gives you a replenishment of carbohydrates in a two to one ratio of glucose and fructose to offer an effective energy release. The contents are lightweight in texture but we did find that it went everywhere when ripping off the top on the move so pay attention to the direction of the opening.

The product comes in four flavours. There’s Orange without caffeine as well as Cola, Cherry and Mojito (yes please!) that have a high caffeine content of 100mg (cola) and 51mg (the others) per pouch. The flavours are natural and vegan but taste very sugary - which may come welcome to those who start flagging during particularily long and grueling sessions.

Honourable mention also goes to the Original - the stalwart in the brand’s offering since 1996. This gel has set the pace for many of the other labels on the market and has remained as popular in the modern day for its ease in consumption and near immediate energy boost. There are also flavours to suit all palates but the Blackberry deserves an honourable mention for those who grew up on Robinsons.

Price for 24.