10 Best Energy Gels for Running

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The market is full of different energy gels which contain different ingredients. Check out our list to find the best energy gels for running right here.

There are quite a few different energy gels out there which are good for running. They come in many different flavors, different formulas and contain many different ingredients. There are gels that are intended for different uses by the many different runners who may be using them.

Our Top 3
Clif Shot  Energy Gel
  • Clif Shot Energy Gel
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 50mg caffeine
  • Price: See Here
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GU Original Energy Gel
  • GU Original Energy Gel
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Caffeine Free
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Jeunesse Reserve 30
  • Jeunesse Reserve 30
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Price: See Here
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To get a better picture of some of the top choices that are available out there, we have put together this list of the best rated energy gels that are suitable for runners:

Our Top Picks For Runners

 

1. Clif Shot

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This is a popular one. the Clif “Shot” energy gel is intended to be consumed during a race or other endurance competition. Made of 90% organic ingredients, this Kosher energy gel also delivers a quick 50mg of caffeine to boost you up during your run.
Pros
  • Mocha flavored for the chocolate lovers
  • Kosher
  • 90% organic ingredients
Cons
  • High in caffeine content, so could cause stomach issues

2. GU Original, Big Apple

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Yet another great flavor to deliver the energy needed to come out on top of the competition. This one, unlike some of the others on this list by GU, is caffeine free.
Pros
  • Apple flavor is one everyone can enjoy
  • Caffeine free for those with sensitive subject
  • Amino acids helps to decrease muscle damage
Cons
  • Does not have caffeine so if you need caffeine for those long runs, you may need to try something else

3. Jeunesse Reserve 30

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Containing the essential fatty acids which help in the function of the digestive tract. Also, this gel is packed with antioxidants to resist oxidative stress and helps with maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Pros
  • High in antioxidants which helps prevent premature aging
  • Also helps boost the immune system
  • Helps maintain a healthy metabolism
Cons
  • It is a bit expensive compared to other gels

4. GU Original, Jet Blackberry

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Containing 450mg amino acids, 55mg sodium and 40mg of caffeine, this sports energy gel has all of the useful supplements that the other GU products have, but this one comes in delicious “Jet Blackberry”.
Pros
  • Blueberry flavor is a unique flavor not too many gels have
  • 40mg of caffeine give a great energy boost
  • only 21g of carbs make it a good energy source for those who are diabetic
Cons
  • Chance of headache for those not used to high caffeine intake

5. GU Roctane Ultra Endurance

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Similar to a lot of the other energy gels, this one also contains 100 calories and all the essential electrolytes, as well as 1425mg of amino acids to help preventing or decreasing muscle damage and mental fatigue. Suitable for high intensity racing, as well as rigorous training sessions. This variety pack includes Vanilla Orange, Cherry Lime, Lemonade and 6 packets each of Blueberry / Pomegranate, Strawberry Kiwi. The caffeine content is different depending on the particular flavor.
Pros
  • The variety of flavors in this one is a good selling point. You are going to find some you’ll like.
  • The efficient absorption means lasting energy.
  • High in sodium helps with those who tend to sweat out a lot of salt
Cons
  • Some may find the consistency a bit thick

6. GU Original, Espresso Love

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Containing all of the necessary ingredients as the product above, except this one comes in the “Espresso Love” flavor for all of you coffee nuts out there. Just like the chocolate flavor, this gel is ideal for competition and training alike.
Pros
  • If you are a coffee lover, this one is for you
  • 40mg of caffeine will give you a huge energy boost
  • It has amino acids to help decrease muscle fatigue
Cons
  • Some may find the flavor a bit strong

7. GU Original, Chocolate Outrage

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The original energy gel for sports nutrition, GU still holds a popular place amongst athletes involved with high endurance sports and activities. Maltodextrin and fructose take different pathways in the body to allow efficient absorption leading to energy that lasts. Each portable packet contains 100 calories as well as 20mg Caffeine, 50mg Sodium, 40mg Potassium and essential electrolytes to get you through your challenge.
Pros
  • It’s chocolate. Enough said.
  • It’s the original. So therefore it has been proven over time to be effective
  • It has been proven effective for both training and racing
Cons
  • If you need to watch your sodium intake, this one has 50mg of it

8. Honey Stinger

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Made with USDA certified organic ingredients, Honey Stinger has got to be as good as its name. This honey based gel is perfect for those athletes that strive to push on to the finish line ahead of the others. With flavors like Acai & Pomegranate Honey Stinger energy gel is sure not to disappoint!
Pros

 

  • Honey-based alternative to other gels
  •   Easier on the stomach than a lot of the other gels
  •  The texture and consistency is perfect for runners, It goes down easily

 

Cons
  • No caffeine, so may not have the boost that others will

9. Huma Chia

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Huma Chia Energy Gel is Nutrition Energy Gel intended for high tempo, continuous such as running, cycling, triathlons and any other endurance. They are pre and in-Race Energy Supplements which can also be used during rigorous training sessions, workouts or any activities that call for glucose/glycogen replacement.
Pros
  • All natural energy gel made from organic food.
  • 100% Gluten & dairy free, reducing the occurrence of upset stomachs
  • Available in many Natural flavors like strawberries, lemonade, blueberries, Apples & Cinnamon, chocolate, Mangoes, Raspberries & Café Mocha
Cons
  • Not all flavored variations contain an adequate amount of caffeine

10. PowerBar Power Gel

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Born of the brand that was one of the first and biggest names at the beginning of the energy bar craze in the mid 1990’s, continuing to carry on strong among athletes and hikers alike. Containing C2MAX, Power Gel offers maximum energy to help push through the riggers of your sport. Power Gel contains 25 milligrams of caffeine, with 10 grams of sugar and 27 grams of total carbs in 110 calories per packet.
Pros
  • Great taste. Strawberry/banana is a particular favorite of ours.
  • One of the best tasting gels out there!
  • Easy to open
  • It has caffeine for that extra boost you need in a race
Cons
  • Some felt the caffeine amount upset their stomach

Criteria for picking out the best energy gels for your run

Energy gels are one of the most popular sport snacks. Loved by hikers, cyclists, paddlers and runners for on-the-go (during-workout). Love them or hate them, there’s no doubting the benefit of downing a quick energy gel at vital points of a ride or race. But then what are energy gels: They are syrupy, semi-liquid products—usually high concentrations of carbohydrates. Their main benefit to a runner being that they are able to deliver a very fast energy boost that is easy to digest. Considered to be the quickest energy input of any performance food for any given sporting activity. This quickly absorbed hit of energy that energy gels deliver to the body is very important especially when the body feels exhausted. Energy gels come in small packets that are very light, mostly 1 or 2 oz. They can also be easily stashed somewhere close by as you work out. Some are sweetened by non-sugar products such as honey, agave or stevia. Some gel-makers create specialized gels by adding varying doses of caffeine (a potent fatigue-fighter) or sodium (for people sweating excessively due to high temperatures or humid conditions). Caffeine-enhanced products are usually clearly marked. If you prefer to avoid caffeine, take note when selecting gels. There is however a huge number of different products on the market. More and more flavors are becoming available and additives such as nitrate and caffeine often feature too.

With the market full of many energy gels, we recommend for you only the best energy gels for runners. Below are some of the factors we considered when picking out these energy gels as the best ones for runners.

Nutritional Content & Ingredients

It’s very important to look at the ingredients that have been used to make the energy gels before making any purchase. Should you be consuming these? Are they helpful or harmful to your body? A clear look at the energy contents of energy gels you will notice that they tend to have different types of sugars that vary in quantity. Gels can also contain electrolytes to replace those lost through sweat and prevent cramps. Some gels also contain caffeine. The most important thing to remember when choosing an energy gel is that ultimately, the most optimal fuel is the one that works best for you.  Make sure the ingredients used are able to get you what you are looking for during your work out session. The ingredients used not only serve the nutritional purposes they also determine the taste and flavors of the energy gels. Pick your favorite flavor and with the best taste for you. What constitutes “the best” is different among every individual. You will likely have to test a few different fuel sources before you find one that you like (in terms of flavor) and that also helps provide the best performance enhancement without upsetting your stomach.

If you look at the wrappings of the energy gel you will notice some of these ingredients used like, cane sugar, water, chocolate and green tea extract), what about the other ingredients that you can’t even pronounce their names. Maltodextrin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, malic acid and fumaric acid.

Here is a breakdown of each of those ingredients.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide (a long carbohydrate molecule) that is used as a food additive. Maltodextrin is the most popular ingredient used in gel and chew supplements. It is a complex carbohydrate made from a chain of simple sugars. Despite being a complex carbohydrate it’s widely used because the sugars are broken down and digested easily. Maltodextrin is easily digestible and absorbed rapidly in the body as glucose. It can be made from any starch, but in the U.S. it is typically made from corn. Maltodextrin can be made from wheat, but is so highly processed that little to no protein remains to cause an allergic reaction if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.

It’s an important ingredient to note, that’s since its easily digestible and absorbed, this makes it useful on long runs. Its major disadvantage to watch out for: Like sugar, consuming too much can cause weight gain. If you have wheat or corn allergy you need to be cautious, and highly processed.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is a food additive used for preservation. In acidic conditions it is a bacteriostatic and fungistat. This means it keeps your gel from growing bacteria or fungus. It is used in food, cosmetics, medicine, and fireworks (the whistling noise of fireworks comes from sodium benzoate). It makes sure your energy gels are free from any bacteria or fungal infection. Though this ingredient is toxic to cats at lower levels compared to humans. So don’t share your energy gel with your feline buddy.

Potassium Sorbate (aka Scrobic Acid)

Potassium Sorbate is a food preservative that inhibits mould and yeast from growing. It is also a useful substance for helping to increase the shelf life of a product. You should be cautious of this ingredient as it can be a skin, eye and respiratory irritant.

Malic Acid

Malic Acid is made by all living organisms which contributes to the sour taste of fruits and is used as a food additive. It is one of the few food additives in the U.S. that is also approved by EU, Australia and New Zealand. Malic acid is able to add a nice tart taste to your fruity gels and is considered safe all around the world.

Fumaric Acid

Fumaric Acid is a chemical that has a fruit-like taste. It is a food additive used to regulate acidity. Fumaric acid is also used in the production of polyester resins, polyhydric alcohols and a mordant for dyes. Its major use is that it “improves” the taste of gels.

When choosing an energy gel, you may also want to consider ingredients like sodium and electrolytes for replenishing salt and other important minerals lost through sweat, and caffeine for an extra boost of energy. Many gels and chews also contain glucose, sucrose and fructose (simple sugars). These carbohydrate sources are sometimes included in ingredients like cane syrup, tapioca syrup or even from fruit sources like dates. If you consume all of your carbohydrate in gel form, top up with plain water rather than carbohydrate drink (which would supply surplus carbohydrate). Consume too much carbohydrate and it won’t be absorbed – indeed, it could even upset your stomach.

Amount of electrolytes

Next, we did a comparison of the amount of electrolytes in each brand. Are you going to need more or less electrolytes? This will depend on the time of your run and what your body needs. As a result, athletes need to experiment with both water and electrolyte intake during exercise to see what works for them in different environments like the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The environment also plays a role in the amount of electrolytes lost during exercise.  We lose greater amounts of electrolytes in the summer heat.  The addition of humidity presents an extra heat stress on the body because off decreased evaporative cooling, which make you sweat more to compensate and leads to more electrolyte losses. However, thermal loads can also be high in the winter and should not be overlooked.

Electrolytes can be consumed in many different forms during exercise. Most think about an electrolyte drink, but electrolytes are also found in many sports products and foods. Since sodium is co-transported in the gut with glucose and amino acids, there are benefits to consuming sodium with other calories. Most other electrolytes are absorbed passively.

Taste

Taste is extremely important. After all, if a certain gel isn’t to your fancy, then you aren’t going to use it. However, it shouldn’t be the main reason why you choose a gel. The content is more important. It’s also worth mentioning that everyone’s taste is different. So what tickles our taste buds might turn yours off.

Price/Value

Whilst sports nutrition is expensive, we will factor in convenience and assess the value of the product compared to other products on the market. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra dollar to get what will best serve your work out goals.

 

Other Important Factors To Consider When Making Your Choice

There are more factors involved with energy gels than what one might really realize. We have done a bit more research in order to share those points, hopefully making it easier to make your decision on whether this type of energy stimulant is right for you.

Caffeine or No Caffeine

Some gels have caffeine components in them that is very addictive. But then one gets an option to pick whether they want an energy gel that has caffeine or not. So before buying the energy gel make sure you check if it has caffeine or not.

 Type of Runner

Each runner uses a different supplement in terms of energy gels. This is not only motivated by taste and preferences but also by the level and intensity of running. Others use it for light running while others will need the energy boosters in a marathon. That’s why it’s very important to consider the type of running you do before you make a purchase of these energy boosters.

How Energy Supplements Work?

Energy gels provide your body with extra fuel so that you can continue racing during say, a marathon or a triathlon. But what many gel and chew labels don’t point out is that the carbohydrates that you consume from those products don’t necessarily replace the stored glycogen in your muscles.

The process that allows your muscles to absorb carbohydrates is rather lengthy. So instead, when you consume a gel the glucose (a type of carbohydrate) is absorbed into your blood and in turn energizes your mind (our brains run on carbohydrates stored in the blood), which helps to eliminate feelings of haziness or exhaustion.

Ultimately, in race-fueling is certainly necessary for the purpose of replenishing glycogen, calories and electrolytes that are being lost while racing, but instead of helping to refuel your muscles, more so they help provide an energy boost for your mind.

Which one is right for you?

Being aware of each ingredient in the sport nutrition products that you consume, and knowing if those ingredients are helping or hindering your body’s performance, will keep you healthier and running stronger. The key to finding the perfect gel is testing, trying, and sampling a wide variety of flavors. Using this ingredients list, pick your favorite and give a few a try. Find the taste you like best and make sure to practice on your long runs before making the gel a part of your race strategy.

Is There Any Reason for Women Not to Use These Types of Products?

The main concern women should have about taking energy gels whilst running is the issue of energy gels during pregnancy. If you’re a pregnant runner, take your Doctor’s advice about caffeine consumption, and be sure to calculate any caffeine in your energy gels within your total daily intake.

A few energy gels list shellfish products as an ingredient, believe it or not, and this may be something you choose to avoid during pregnancy. The safety of taking herbal extracts when pregnant remains a hazy area, and you may wish to avoid any gel with herbal ingredients such as ginseng or kola nut extract

Certain products stand out for having new innovations. Where this is the case, these products will often score higher marks.

 

FAQ

We have put together a few frequently asked question which we found might be useful while conducting our research. Our hope is that these will answer any questions that you might have, or give you a little more to think about when shopping around.

 

Q. How do you consume these?

A. If your metabolism is slow, then one GU every 45 minutes works fine. If you have an athlete’s metabolism, try ingesting one GU Energy Gel every 30 minutes and see if it agrees with you. Rip open the top and squeeze the entire packet into your mouth—don’t save half of it for later.

Q. What exactly is this product?

A. Most Energy Gels are based on maltodextrin which directly provide glucose to your blood stream and provide an easily absorb-able form of carbohydrate. Energy gels are effectively concentrated energy drinks. Therefore, they need to be used diluted with some plain water. (The body needs water to digest carbohydrate).

Q. When should you take them?

A. Try half a gel or a few blocks or a few beans every 15 minutes until you determine how much your gut can take. JUST ADD WATER. Be sure to wash down those carbs with a sip of water. Do not chase an energy gel, chew, or any carbs-heavy fuel with sports drinks, which have carbs, too.

Q. Is this product vegan?

A. For example, GU Brew Tablets are now called GU Hydration Drink Tabs. Along with these changes, GU has also made all its gels vegan friendly by removing amino acids that were derived from animal products. The company has also introduced two new flavours: Big Apple and Sea Salt Chocolate Roctane.

Q. How do you use GU?

A. If your metabolism is slow, then one GU every 45 minutes works fine. If you have an athlete’s metabolism, try ingesting one GU Energy Gel every 30 minutes and see if it agrees with you. Rip open the top and squeeze the entire packet into your mouth—don’t save half of it for later.

Q. How much water do I need to consume?

A. If you rely on gels only, you must remember to take on board extra fluid, particularly during longer training sessions/races and in warmer conditions. In race conditions, this is usually not a problem; nearly all races have regular water stations so you can save weight and bulk by consuming your carbohydrate as gels, and topping up with water as and when needed.

If you consume all your carbohydrate in gel form, top up with plain water rather than carbohydrate drink (which would supply surplus carbohydrate). Consume too much carbohydrate and it won’t be absorbed – indeed, it could upset your stomach.

Q. What is typically in this product?

A. Created for demanding training and competition, GU Roctane Energy Gel stands out from original GU Energy Gel with more sodium, an electrolyte that aids in hydration, and even more branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) that reduce mental fatigue and decrease muscle damage

Q. How many should I take?

A. Check the ingredients and carbohydrate content of your gels. For standard gels – i.e. containing maltodextrin only and not a 2:1 glucose/fructose formulation – the maximum total amount of carbohydrate the average athlete can absorb is around 60g per hour. Work out how many sachets an hour provides this amount (for example, 3 x 20g, 4 x 15g) and aim for this as a maximum amount, consuming them evenly across each hour.

Q. What is in a sports gel?

A. Energy gels are carbohydrate gels that provide energy for exercise and promote recovery, commonly used in endurance events such as running, cycling, and triathlons. Energy gels are also referred to as endurance gels, sports gels, nutritional gels, and carbohydrate gels. They come in small, single-serve plastic packets.

Runners come in all ages, physical shape, etc and all run for various reasons. Some are serious marathon racers, while others are just recreational joggers looking to stay in shape. So a good gel for one may not be the right one for another. So to determine the top ten best energy gels really depends on who the runner is and what they are running for. One also must consider the individual tastes of the runner as well.

For example, If one runner is a absolute lover of of peanut butter and another is not as big of a fan, then obviously what might be the best for one is not as great for the other. One runner may have a much more sensitive stomach than another, so that is also something that has to be considered as well.


Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:

Sources

  1. Katie Rosenbrock , Race and Running Fuel: The Best Energy Gels, Sporting Website,
  2. Kylene Guerra, RD, How to Choose the Best Energy-Boosting Bars and Gels , Medical Website,
  3. Editorial Team, Jeunesse RESERVE Malaysia Review, Medical Website,
  4. Bryon Powell , Energy Gel Comparison , Running Website,
  5. Andrew Hamilton, Guide to using energy gels, Sporting Website,
  6. Fitday Editor, How Energy Gels Can Help when Participating in Endurance Sports , Fitness Website,
  7. Andrew Hamilton , Best energy gels review 2015 , Fitness Website,
  8. Henry Robertshaw, Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel, Cycling Website,
  9. Lucy-Ann Prideaux, Energy gels: what you need to know , Fitness Website,
  10. Joel Enoch, Review: Honey Stinger Organic Acai Pomegranate energy gel, Fitness Website,
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