Any time you turn on the TV to watch sports these days, you’re likely to see an athlete use energy gels at some point.
Whether it’s in the final throes of an elite soccer match or at a critical point in a widely-televised marathon, energy gels have been embraced within various forms of pro sport.
But what place do these performance-enhancing products have within the world of running?
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the key uses and benefits of gels for running, before giving you a comprehensive guide to the best running gels on the market in 2022.
We’ll explore these key areas:
- What Is Energy Gel?
- The Benefits of Energy Gels For Running
- The 5 Best Running Gels: Our Top Picks
- Push It To The Limit
Alright, let’s get started.
What Is Energy Gel?
Energy gels have become a common sight within the world of sports.
Designed to help give you fuel during lengthy workouts, they can be utilized in a number of different situations.
But what exactly is an energy gel?
Rich in carbohydrates that boost energy, energy gels help replenish your carbohydrate stores once they get depleted.
They do this by pumping extra sugars into your bloodstream, which comes in super handy when you’re running long distances.
The best gels for running can have a super positive impact on performance as a result.
Built for adults (so keep out of the way of children), energy gels are made out of a blend of sugars, often including maltodextrin and fructose.
Ideally, they’re taken before you feel like you badly need an extra lift, because they usually take at least a few minutes to kick in.
Gel packets will typically be pretty small, holding around 1 or 1.5 ounces of liquid, meaning that they’re compact and easy to both store and consume during endurance exercises such as long-distance running.
The Benefits Of Energy Gels For Running
When you run, your body uses carbohydrates as the main source of fuel for feeding your muscles.
This is because your body’s other fuel source, fat, takes longer to break down into usable energy.
Since your body can only use a limited amount of carbs, your supplies will become low during long periods of running. That’s where gels come in as a handy way of boosting your energy supplies.
Energy gels contain around 25g of carbohydrates per gel, which will generally provide you with about 45 minutes of running.
However, taking two sachets isn’t going to give you double that running time — it’s actually more likely to just crash your body, so beware!
It’s recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that athletes consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise.
This can be provided by sports drinks, but often a gel is a simpler, quicker way of taking extra carbs on board.
With most energy gels containing around 23 to 27 grams of carbohydrates, these supplements are clearly an efficient way of getting an extra boost.
Aside from the heightened energy levels that the best running gels can provide, other benefits are that they’re easily digestible and that they won’t fill you up.
A good way to start incorporating energy gels into your running routine is to come up with a fueling strategy well in advance of a big race. Practice taking on gels at similar intervals during training, and get your body used to digesting them.
We’ll provide a few more tips on how to bring these powerful gels into your routine later.
But for now, let’s get into our list of the best running gels on the market.
The 5 Best Running Gels: Our Top Picks
If you think you’d benefit from adding gels for running to your shopping list, see below for our list of the best energy gels for running in 2022.
#1. Clif Bar Clif Shot Energy Gel
– Trusted brand
– Wide range of flavors
Widely viewed as one of the most reliable manufacturers of energy gels, bars, and other high-performance sports products, Clif Bar is right at the top of our list today.
Their highly convenient and highly effective Clif Shot energy gels are seriously popular within the world of running.
24 packets are included in each bundle, with each one of those containing 1.2 ounces of gel, meaning your collection will last a while.
Clif Bar offers a wide range of flavors available including Strawberry, Citrus, Mocha, and Chocolate Cherry.
With 25 mg of caffeine included, this is bound to give you a burst of life.
#2. GU Energy Gel Multipack
– Simple and complex carbohydrates with antioxidants
– Easy-to-squeeze package
These multisport energy gels are ideal for runners, with 100 calories and essential electrolytes packed into each sachet.
Offering a dual energy source from maltodextrin and fructose, energy is absorbed efficiently and lastingly.
You can take a gel on board 5 minutes before a race and then every 45 minutes after — but that’s the maximum! You may not need to take gels quite so regularly, as each runner is different.
Their entirely vegan and gluten-free range includes a range of flavors you’d expect to see in an artisan coffee shop, from Vanilla Bean and Salted Caramel to Caramel Macchiato and Chocolate Outrage.
#3. Myprotein Pre-Workout Gel
– Provides instant energy boost
– Vegan and gluten free
Myprotein is the world’s no.1 online sports nutrition brand. But it’s not just protein powders and creatine for heavy gym-goers — there are tons of stuff for runners too.
This pre-workout gel is designed to be consumed straight from the sachet for ultimate convenience.
It contains 200g of caffeine, which is combined with a blend of other pre-workout ingredients that give you the boost you need.
And don’t be fooled by the name – this gel can be taken during a long run or other workout sessions, as well as beforehand.
Myprotein’s offering comes in two exotic flavors: Tropical and Berry Blast.
#4. Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel
– Made from a blend of honey and other nutritional ingredients
– Built for endurance and recovery
You may not have heard of Honey Stinger before. This US brand makes honey-powered products designed to give you serious energy injections during exercise.
As well as selling waffles, energy chews, and nutritional bars, they’ve also got an expansive gel range.
Made of real honey, with an added blend of water, potassium citrate, vitamins, and other energy-enhancing ingredients, their organic gels offer a fast uptake, with each packet’s 24g of carbohydrates designed to get into your system quickly.
Flavors include Fruit Smoothie, Acai Pomegranate, and Strawberry Kiwi.
#5. Maurten Gel 100
– Built for elite performers
– Neutral taste
If you’re reading about Fruit Smoothie, Salted Caramel, and Tropical flavored supplements and wondering where to get something a little simpler, look no further.
One of the world’s best energy gels for running, the Maurten Gel 100 is a no-nonsense product for elite athletes.
Its neutral taste and thick texture might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s guaranteed to get results.
Used by Eliud Kipchoge when he broke the world marathon record in Berlin, this gel bypasses your stomach and goes straight to your small intestine, so gastrointestinal issues become less of a risk.
With 25g of carbs packed into each 40g gel, you’re sure to get a serious boost with this one.
Push It To The Limit
The best gels for running can provide a useful burst of life when you need it most. Why not try one of the products we’ve recommended in this article and see for yourself?
Before we go, here are a few tips to get you started using energy gels:
- Plan a fueling strategy
- Work out the best intervals and times to consume the gel
- Always take with water to ensure fast digestion
- Keep in mind that gels can have different effects on different people, both in terms of how much energy levels rise and how long it might take for it to start working its magic
- To make sure you don’t intake too much simple sugar at once, wait between 45-60 minutes between gels
- And remember: gels don’t make you superhuman! You still need to be careful not to overtrain or put yourself at risk of injury
Keep those pointers in mind, and you’ll soon be seeing the benefits of the best energy gels for running.
If you want to find out more about how your body uses carbohydrates, take a look at our guide to the science of carbohydrate loading.
Or for practical advice on other ways to boost your performance, take a look at our article on vitamin D for running.