gu energy gels

Whether you enjoy their sweet, syrupy goodness, or you think they’re a necessary evil, energy gels are the best way to get a quick energy boost during a ride or race.

I have tested countless energy gels. Here are the best energy gels for cyclists, runners, and all endurance athletes. (Needs don’t really vary between sports. If it’s a situation that calls for an energy gel, choose one of these.)

Best Overall Energy Gel

If you’re looking for an energy gel with quality ingredients, a wide variety of flavors, and a wicked energy boost, GU Energy Gel is the top choice.

Did I mention the flavors are delicious?

Not only that, there are flavors for every palette, any time of year. There are indulgent flavors like Chocolate Outrage and Salted Caramel for the cold weather, fruity flavors like Strawberry Banana and Salted Watermelon for hot summer days, Campfire S’mores for a brisk fall day, and many more: Birthday Cake, Cola, French Toast, Jet Blackberry, Root Beer, and Peanut Butter, just to name a few.

And you can get them with caffeine if you want (in certain flavors).

Learn more about GU Energy Gel at the GU website, or read my full review here.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Tasting Energy Gel

While most energy gels these days taste pretty good, one company has been making delicious energy gels for a long, long time. Hammer Nutrition Energy Gel tastes incredible.

Hammer’s Apple Cinnamon flavor energy gel is still to this day the best tasting energy gel I have ever had.

There’s something for everyone. They offer fruity flavors like apple cinnamon, banana, and huckleberry, and indulgent flavors like chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter.

Competition is fierce these days, especially with GU energy gel releasing some amazing flavors, but I have to give the nod to Hammer Nutrition here. They really set the bar for delicious, realistic energy gel flavors.

Learn more about Hammer Gel at the Hammer Nutrition website, or read my full review here.

Best for Long-Distance Events

Normally you wouldn’t rely on energy gel as a primary food source for ultra endurance events. But that’s changing, thanks in part to energy gel formulations like GU Roctane.

GU Roctane looks like a regular GU energy gel, but rest assured, it is no such thing. The Roctane packets are packed with up to 3X as much sodium and 3X as many branched chain amino acids as compared to the original gels.

The extra electrolytes may improve hydration and extra BCAAs may increase energy, decrease muscle damage, and even reduce mental fatigue.

Roctane gels even contain extra amino acids: taurine, which can help improve cardiac output during long exercise sessions, and beta-alanine, which can help promote formation of the intramuscular buffer carnosine, which can help delay the onset of fatigue during high-intensity efforts.

You can get caffeine-free Roctane, but most flavors contain 35 mg caffeine per packet. (The cold brew coffee flavor contains 70 mg caffeine!)

All in the same 100 calorie package.

Learn more about GU Roctane at the GU website, or read my full review here.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Alternative Fuel Source

In a stark departure from the sugary syrups we are used to, you can now find energy gels made from chia seeds. Check out Huma Chia Energy Gels.

Though the main ingredients are fruit purees and cane sugar, that’s probably unavoidable. The powdered chia seeds would not be heavy enough to land first on the ingredients list.

These gels taste just as good as others (they are not weird or gritty) and many athletes say they are easier on their stomachs compared to traditional gels.

There is also a “PLUS” version containing double the electrolytes.

Learn more about Huma Chia Energy Gels at the Huma website.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Packaging

We want energy gels to be easy to carry and easy to eat, with no mess. Most energy gel packets do a good job at this (and you can trim sharp edges if necessary), so what else is important?

“Leave no trace.”

Clif Shot Gel, with their innovative “Litter Leash” concept, is the best packaging I have seen. It keeps the little tear-off top connected to the rest, so you’re less likely to drop it on the trail.

Learn more about Clif Shot Gel at the Clif website, or read my full review here.

Best Nutrition (Most Natural Ingredients)

Energy gels based on natural ingredients like real fruit are becoming more common, but again I go back to the original – Honey Stinger. Honey Stinger gels are based on honey and tapioca syrup. They are also organic.

There is not a huge flavor selection, but they do offer some really good flavors, in addition to the traditional honey flavor. (Honey Stinger “Gold” is basically pure honey plus electrolytes.)

Learn more about Honey Stinger gel at the Honey Stinger website, or read my full review here.

Honorable Mentions

There is no shortage of energy gel, and unfortunately a lot of good ones didn’t make the list. But that doesn’t mean you should skip over them.

33Fuel Chia Energy Gels
33Fuel chia-based energy gels provide a complete natural fuel source with carbs, proteins, good fats, and antioxidants. These gels consist of just four natural, real food ingredients: Organic Chia Seeds, Coconut palm sugar, Organic vanilla, Himalayan pink salt. While the ingredients list is phenomenal, the downside is they are only available in one flavor – vanilla.
33fuel.com

Accel Gel
Like the Accelerade sports drink, Accel Gel contains the patented 4:1 carb:protein ratio. It uses a combination of three carbohydrates to maximize energy transport and uptake into muscle cells, and the added protein speeds muscle recovery.
PacificHealthLabs.com.

CarbBoom! Energy Gel
CarbBoom! Energy Gels use a fruit based formulation and a 9:1 ratio of complex carbs (maltodextrin) to simple sugars for superior taste and performance.
boomnutrition.com.

Crank Sports e-Gel
e-Gel is loaded with complex carbs and half the sugars of other energy gels, allowing them to cram 150 calories into one pack (where as most other gels contain 100 calories per pack). The gel also contains electrolytes, antioxidants, and amino acids.
cranksports.com.

Enervit
Established over 50 years ago by Italian pharmacist Paolo Sorbini, Enervit is a legend in European endurance sports nutrition. There is an original version as well as a new isotonic version (which does not require you to drink water with it). They have regular gel packets, packets with a resealable lid, and even “one hand” gel packs designed to allow for the easiest opening during competition.
enervit.com

Frog Fuel
Frog Fuel is a liquid protein shot. It contains pre-digested, pure collagen protein with enhanced amino acids and added taurine. So it’s all protein, no carbs. A neat product, but not how I plan to fuel my endurance events.
frogfuel.com

Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel
This gel offers a thinner consistency than other gels, and only 80 calories per packet. Available in flavors with or without caffeine.
gatorade.com.

Muir Energy
Muir Energy makes some really interesting gels. They have “fast burning” energy gels that are based on fruit purees, and “slow burning” gels that are based on nut butters. Either blend uses very few ingredients, and they are focused on using only natural, organic ingredients. Intriguing flavors include Blueberry Bergamont, Sweet Potato Oregano, and Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana (among others).
muirenergy.com.

PowerBar PowerGel Original
While I appreciate the history of the PowerBar performance bar, the Power Gels were never my thing. The flavors were okay, but the gels did not sit right in my stomach.
PowerBar.com.

SIS GO Isotonic Energy Gel
Science in Sport created the world’s first isotonic gel. The isotonic formula means you don’t need to take with water, and since it’s less concentrated, it’s also less likely to upset your stomach. Each packet still provides 90 calories. They are also Informed Sport Certified. Unfortunately they use an artificial sweetener.
scienceinsport.com.

UnTapped
Pure maple syrup in a convenient squeeze pack offering 100 calories.
Untapped.cc.

How to Choose a Good Energy Gel That’s Right for You

Here are the most important criteria to consider when choosing the best energy gel.

Ability to digest it

There are two things that have to happen for an energy gel to work:

1. You have to swallow it.
2. You have to digest it.

And both those have to happen without any gastric distress.

So first, it needs to be palatable. It doesn’t have to be a culinary delight, but if you don’t enjoy slurping it down, you might never use the gel.

The gel also needs to agree with your digestive system. If it causes you any gastric distress or upset stomach, it’s going to ruin your ride or race.

Similarly, always read the ingredients list to be sure it is free of allergens.

Energy boost

What I love about energy gels during a race is the near-instant energy boost I get. More important than the calories I’m getting, is that mental and physical boost I get immediately after ingesting a good energy gel.

Only some energy gels actually give me that.

If an energy gel isn’t lifting your mood and giving you more perceived energy, find a different one!

Taste / Flavor

An energy gel needs to be palatable, but even better, you should enjoy eating it!

You want to find an energy gel that you enjoy. And you want to make sure that you like it during exercise. Your palate is often more sensitive during exercise, so light, subtle flavors at rest can become intense during your rides and races.

Also important is the number of flavors available. This way you have options and you’re less likely to get sick of it because you had to eat the exact same flavor every single day. It can also be nice to switch things up if you’re doing really long endurance events that last longer than eight hours.

Calories

If you are relying on gels as your primary source of fuel, take note of how many calories they offer. Typically, one gel packet = 100 calories. There are very few exceptions. But small variances add up over the course of many hours.

What may really differ is the main source of calories. Almost all gels will be based on some type of sugar, but that could be maltodextrin, fruit puree, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, or something else.

Quality of ingredients

All else being equal, I prefer natural ingredients in my energy gels. Natural sweeteners, natural flavors, natural colors, etc.

I prefer to avoid all instances of artificial sweeteners like sucralose. You’d think that energy gels would be sweet enough without an artificial sweetener, but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter artificial sweeteners occasionally.

You might want a gel that uses only certified organic ingredients. You might want a gel that’s Informed Sport Certified.

Price

You can go through energy gels quickly. At $1.50 per serving (or more), the costs add up.

If you’re not picky about your energy gels, buy whatever is cheapest or whatever is on sale.

You can also look for companies that sell their gel in bulk. I know Hammer Nutrition and GU Energy Labs both offer large containers that you can buy and then use them with a refillable gel flask.

Overall, energy gel is not a huge expense, especially compared to the extreme importance of getting your nutrition right. But there are so many things to spend money on, make sure nutrition is in your budget.

Why trust Coach Levi?

I’ve been using energy gels since the 90’s, and you know what – I really like them! Rather than using energy gels purely for the convenience, I really look forward to each one. So I’ve consumed countless gels, in many flavors, from many companies, in a wide variety of conditions.

Unlike some “reviewers” that create these lists, I’m actually out there breaking a sweat and burning calories to where I really need to use energy gels. And I’m taste testing each and every flavor.

I’m also a certified nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1) so I like to combine my practical experience with scientific evidence.

Crafting Your Own Sports Nutrition Plan

A proper fueling strategy is more than choosing the best energy gel. You need to eat properly before your rides and during your rides. And stay hydrated.

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