Running a marathon takes a toll on your body and running an ultramarathon is even harder. Energy gels have been designed to keep up your stamina and give you a burst of mental energy as well. Before energy gels, runners relied on water and sports drink to get them through the grueling races. Now, with energy gels, you will be less likely to hit the wall and your body will have the nutrients it needs to keep going. This guide will explain what energy gels are, the benefits, and how to choose the right ones for you.

What are Energy Gels?

Energy gels are packets of nutrients that replenish carbohydrates while you are running. When you run a marathon, your body uses carbohydrates and fat, with the primary fuel source coming from carbohydrates. Even if you eat all of the right food leading up to the marathon, your body can only store so many carbohydrates in your muscles. Once those carbohydrates are gone, they need to be replaced.The energy gels are designed to replace the carbohydrates that you are using, which are normally depleted or diminishedafter 90 minutes.

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Why You Need Them

When you run a marathon, your body primarily relies on glycogen that is stored in your muscles to keep going as well. Energy gels do not replace your carbohydrates at a one to one ratio. However, they do give you glycogen and calories to keep your body alert as you are running the race.

So how do you know when to take energy gels?Research has found that a 5k is too short of a distance for your body to need carbs. A 10K is when you can start considering thinking about replacing electrolytes. Can you run a 10K in under 40 minutes? If so, then you do not need energy gels to replace nutrients because your body can tolerate that time and distance well. If it takes you between 45 and 60 minutes to run a 10K, then use a sports drink instead of energy gels.This is because taking energy gels at this point will not make much difference. Once you start running over 60 minutes, energy gels will be helpful and you will notice an increase in energy.

 How to Choose the Right Energy Gels

Deciding on what type of energy gel is right for you will depend on what your body needs. Some people like the taste of one, but not others. If you have a favorite health company, chances are they have energy gels. If you are gluten intolerant, you will need gluten-free energy gels. In addition, your body may prefer some energy gels over others. For example, you may take some while you are running and notice you get an upset stomach. If this happens, try switching brands until you find something that is easier on your stomach.

The first thing you should do when choosing energy gels is rule out any of them that have ingredients you are allergic or sensitive to. Next, compare 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. Another thing to look at are vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and caffeine. If you need certain vitamins and minerals, or prefer caffeine, this will help narrow down your choices.

The Best Energy Gels for Runners

Once you have narrowed down your requirements for energy gels, it is time to go through the list and find which ones are right for you. It is a good idea to test various gels out before the big marathon. This is so you can find what works with your body and what works against it. Furthermore, you will be able to find what energy gels you like best because if they taste bad, chances are you will be less willing to use them.

Science in Sport Isotonic Energy Gel

Science in Sport Science in Sport Go Isotonic Gel 60ml - Box of 30 Pink Grapefruit by Science in Sport

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The Science in Sport (SIS) energy gels are one of the more popular brands available to runners. They can be taken with or without water and do not leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. They come in favorites like lemon and lime, pink grapefruit, tropical, lemon, pineapple, and much more.

The SIS has two different categories, the GO, which is taken during exercise and the REGO, which is taken after exercise.

Nutrition Information

The nutrition information for the SIS Go Isotonic Gel Orange includes:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.01 g
Fiber:  0.1g
Carbohydrates:  22g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  0.6g
Calories/60ml:  86 kcal
Serving Size:  60 ml

What People Had to Say

While doing research into what people experienced while taking these gels, we found that one energy gel pack sustained runners for a half an hour or more. Runners said the flavor of these gels are good and go down easily. Another thing people liked was there was no water needed for the gel to go down. One thing runners did not like was the packaging is not as compact as other brands.

Pros:  Taste good, go down easily

Cons:  Packaging can be somewhat larger than other brands


Huma Chia Energy Gel

Huma Chia Energy Gel, Variety Pack, 12 Gels - Premier Sports Nutrition for Endurance Exercise - 8 Flavors

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Huma Chia Energy Gels are one of the few on the market known for their fiber content. The fiber helps release the energy from the two to one ratio of glucose and fructose. These gels also have a high water content that makes them easy to drink down while you are running. There are flavors such as lemonade, café mocha, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, and many more.

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Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the Human Chia Strawberry Lemonade:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.24g
Fiber:  1g
Fat:  0 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrates:  24g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  14g
Calories/44 g:  100
Serving size:  44 g

What People Had to Say

Our research into these energy gels showed that people did not have any upset stomach or nausea when drinking these. Runners also said they tasted great and liked using them during marathons because it gave them a lot of energy. One thing people did not like was the consistency of these gels because they said they were too jelly like.

 Pros:  Taste good, give energy

Cons:  Jelly-like consistency


CNP Hydro Gel

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The CNP Hydro Gel Passion Fruit is very fruity because it is made from fruit juice, coconut water, and passion fruit. Furthermore, it is a natural energy gel, which is nice. If you love fruit and want and a natural energy gel that taste like it, this is the one for you. They also have a pineapple flavor that is not as sweet as passion fruit. The base of these gels are coconut water from concentrate, which is a healthy way to create a gel. The other flavor this gel comes in is pineapple. They do offer a Hydro Gel Max if you are looking for an even more boost of energy.

Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for the CNP Hydro Gel Pineapple include:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.03 g
Fiber:  0 g
Fat:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  37.7g
Carbohydrates from sugars:  7.7g
Protein:  0 g
Calories/60 g: 91 kcal
Serving size:  60 g

What People Had to Say

One of the favorite things about these gels that runners noted was the taste. During our research, runners noted how light the taste was across the differentfavors, which made them easier to swallow and more comfortable on the stomach. Another thing people noticed was the energy they received from the gels was sustained rather than a quick boost. This can be a pro or con depending on what you are looking for. Runners did note how bulky these energy gels are, which means they take up more room in your pockets.

Pros:  Natural, fruity tasting, goes down easy

Cons:  Bulky package


Clif Energy Gel

CLIF SHOT - Energy Gel - Mocha - 1.2 oz (Pack of 24)

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Clif Bar is another large brand name when it comes to sports nutrition. The Clif Shot Double Espresso Gel gives you a double shot of energy when you need that little extra kick during the race. The energy gels contain coffee extract and green tea extract, which gives it that double caffeine content.  The syrup comes from dried cane sugar, so it has a natural sweetness to it.Other flavors include chocolate, mocha, vanilla, razz, chocolate cherry, and razz.

Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for the Clif Shot Mocha Gel includes:

Caffeine:  100 mg
Sodium:  0.06 g
Fiber:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  24 g
Carbohydrates from sugars: 12 g
Calories/34 g:  100 kcal
Serving size:  34 g

What People Had to Say

While doing research into Clif energy gels, we found that runners liked the taste of them and most like the caffeine content. Runners said they received a quick boost after taking one of these gels, so if you are looking for something to work fast, this is a good option. One of the biggest complaints runners had was how messy these were. They said they were sticky if you got them anywhere else besides your mouth. People also said they are thick and need to be taken with water.

Pros:  Quick boost, taste good, natural

Cons:  Thick, sticky


High5 Energy Gel

High 5 Energy Gel - 20 x 38g Sachet - Summer Fruits

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The High5 Energy Summer Fruits Gel has maltodextrin, which your body willchange into glucose so it will be absorbed fast. It is made with actual fruit juice and does not contain any caffeine. It is not too sweet, so most people shouldn’t have a problem with the taste. It does not leave a horrible aftertaste either. Other flavors available includes citrus blast, apple, juicy orange, and banana blast.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the High5 Energy Summer Fruits Gel includes:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.02g
Fiber:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  23 g
Carbohydrates from sugar 2.9g
Calories/40 g:  90 kcal
Serving size:  40 g

What People Had to Say

During our research, we found that runners like the smaller package these energy gels come in. People also said they keep them going during long marathons and give them a good amount of energy. Furthermore, nobody had any complaints about the taste. Runners did note that these gels can get messy and somewhat thick, so you may need to take them with water.

Pros:  Small package, good boost of energy

Cons:  Somewhat messy


PowerBar PowerGel

PowerBar PowerGel, Strawberry Banana, 1x Caffeine, 1.44-Ounce Packets (Pack of 24)

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The PowerBar Gel Strawberry Banana has caffeine, electrolyte blend, fructose, and maltodextrin to make a powerful energy gel. The combination of sugars and flavoring do make these sweeter than other energy gels that are available, which may be good or bad depending on your taste buds.If the Strawberry Banana flavoring doesn’t sound like your style, you can try vanilla, chocolate, tangerine, or green apple. The caffeine amount will vary depending on the flavoring. It is recommended that you take these energy gels with water because they can be somewhat sticky.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the PowerBar Gel Strawberry Banana includes:

Caffeine:  25 mg
Sodium:  0.2g
Fiber:  0 g
Fat:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  27 g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  10g
Protein:  0 g
Calories:  100

What People Had to Say

Runners like the ease of opening these packets as well as how compact they are. People also noted that these are very sweet tasting, so much in fact that you will need extra water because of how sweet they are. PowerBar does suggest taking them with 150ml of water anyway, so that can be good or bad depending on your preference.

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Pros:  Easy to open, compact, sweet

Cons:  Must be taken with water


Mulebar Kicks Fast Natural Energy Gel


If you like the taste of coffee in your energy gel, the Mulebar Kicks Fast Natural Energy Gel Apple Strudel is a good choice.It is best to take these with water so they go down easier. They are made with brown rice syrup, organic apple juice, organic agave nectar, and Himalaya salt crystals. This is a nice feature if you are looking for an all-natural energy gel made with minimal ingredients. If the apple flavor isn’t your favorite, try other flavors such as lemon zinger, cherry bomb, café cortado, and salted caramel.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the Mulebar Kicks Fast Natural Energy Gel Apple Strudel includes:

Caffeine:  100 mg
Sodium:  0.1 g
Fiber:  0.04g
Carbohydrates:  27 g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  25g
Protein:  0.1g
Calories/37 g:  452 kcal

What People Had to Say

Our research about what people experienced while taking these energy gels showed that runners thought these were stickier and thicker than other brands. However, they did like the flavors better than the sweetened fruit gels. Runners liked the energy was delivered over time instead one quick hit.

Pros:  Delivers energy over time, good flavors

Cons:  Thick and sticky


Gu Energy Gel

GU Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel, Salted Caramel, 24-Count

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Gu Energy Gel comes in a variety of flavors as well as plain, so you can choose one or a few to curb your various cravings while you are running.Some of the flavors do have a small amount of caffeine in each serving to increase your boost. Gu has other flavors such as maple bacon, salted watermelon, cucumber mint, and chocolate peanut butter.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the Gu Energy Gel Espresso Love:

Caffeine:  40 mg
Sodium:  0.05g
Fiber:  0 g
Fat:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  25g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  5g
Protein:  0 g
Calories:  100

What People Had to Say

While doing research into what runners experienced while taking these gels, we found that most people found these were easy to take and gentle on the stomach.Another nice feature people liked were they are simple to open while running. Runners said they gave them enough energy to finish their long runs and marathons. Some people did not like the flavors, which are a little different than typical energy gels so that is something to keep in mind.

Pros:  Simple to swallow, easy to open, good boost of energy

Cons:  Some runners didn’t like the taste


Torq Energy Gel

TORQ Energy Gel with added Guarana 20 x 45g Sachet, Forest Fruits by TORQ

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Torq is another well-known brand that makes energy gels. The Torq Energy Gel Raspberry Ripple is sweet with a sort of syrup consistency so it is can be taken with or without water, although it is easier to swallow with water. It is gluten, dairy, and wheat free along with being suitable for vegans.They give you a two to one ratio of maltodextrin and fructose, which helps give you carbohydrates fast so you can keep running through any wall you may hit during your marathon.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for Torq Energy Gels Raspberry Ripple includes:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.05 g
Fiber:  0 g
Fat:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  28.8
Carbohydrates from sugar:  9.6 g
Protein:  0 g
Calories/45 g:  114 kcal
Serving size:  45 g

What People Had to Say

Runners like the design of the package because it made the package easier to open while on the run. People also said the taste is pretty close to the description on the package, so you can know what to expect when choosing a flavor. However, some runners did not like the sweet flavors, saying they were too sweet for their liking.

Pros:  Suitable for varying diets, quick energy boost, easy to open

Cons:  Too sweet for some people


USN Vooma Energy Gel

USN Vooma Energy Gels give you a good value for the price. However, most people do not like the taste. If you can get past the taste, they do have a lot to deliver. It has flavors with and without caffeine, so you have that option if you need caffeine during your run. The energy gels have a good balance of maltodextrin, dextrose, and sucrose so you get a steady release to keep your energy up.Other flavors include vanilla and chocolate.They are slightly cheaper than other brands, which does give them their own appeal in that regard.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information for the USN Vooma Energy Gels include:

Caffeine:  No
Sodium:  0.111 g
Fiber:  0 g
Carbohydrates:  25.0g
Carbohydrates from sugar:  11.9g
Calories/36 g:  429 kcal
Serving size:  36 g

What People Had to Say

Runners noted that these did have their benefit when providing energy and the price is good if you are on a budget. People did note the taste can be pretty bad.  For this product, they work great if you are trying to save money and can get past the taste.

Pros:  Give a good boost of energy

Cons:  Taste bad

Energy gels can help you get through the physical and mental wall you hit while running a marathon or ultramarathon. Go through the list and find what will work best for your body, taste buds, and wallet. That will aid you in narrowing it down so you find the right energy gels for your run.


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