black forest gummy bears

Energy gels are expensive – at least $0.99 each. And they’re really just sugar.

Yeah, I like gels for racing because of the convenience factor, but on normal rides, it’s not really necessary. (Unless you’re bonking, then they’re pretty nice since the sugar hits your bloodstream so quickly.)

In most cases, I recommend looking at these energy gel alternatives:


1. Fig Newtons

Fig Newtons give you tons of carbs, and they won’t melt or freeze. They do require some chewing, but aren’t too far off from an energy gel (somewhere between a bar and a gel, I’d say.)

2. Honey

Grab some honey at the health food store (or Wal-mart if you have to,) and you have a cheaper version of energy gel that is basically the same thing.

You can either carry the honey around in a small honey squeeze bottle or put it in a gel flask.

3. Dates

Dates are fruit that tastes good and provides lots of sugar, kind of like the fig filling in Fig Newtons.

Dates are moist and taste very sweet, so they are easy to eat while riding. You can carry whole dates in a little plastic sandwich bag stuffed in your jersey pocket.

4. Raisins

Raisins are high in sugar and potassium, so they are similar to energy gels (carbs and electrolytes.) Carry them like dates. Since they are very low in water content, you can carry quite a few calories in a small space.

5. Gummy bears

Gummy bears are pure sugar, fun to eat, and you can easily carry them in your jersey pocket. Some brands are kind of sticky, but most are dry, so there is no mess in your pocket or on your fingers.

6. Jelly

Look for the single-serving packets at restaurants – you can usually find grape jelly, strawberry jam, and orange marmelade on your table. Take a few with you next time and try them on a ride.

It can be messy to lick the jelly right out of the container, but it’s doable.

7. Honey on bread.

For a more substantial snack that is still very easy to digest, take a slice of Italian bread, spread honey on it, and fold it over. Then put it in a baggie or aluminum foil and you’re good to go.

In a short time, the honey will soften the bread even more and be very easy to eat. And tasty!

8. Dried fruit

There are many dried fruits that are tasty and easy to carry on a ride. My personal favorites are apricots, papaya, and pineapple. You can also get kiwi, coconut, mango, and probably others.

9. Banana chips

Like dried fruit but slightly different, you have banana chips. Banana chips are crunchy, unlike most dried fruits, so it gives you a change of pace. They are cheap, too.

10. Rice Krispie squares

You can make these at home with some cereal, marshmallows, and a microwave. Cut into squares and packed in aluminum foil, they give you some sugary goodness! They’re sticky, though!

11. Banana

If it doesn’t get squished in your jersey pocket, a banana makes for a cheap, natural energy boost.

12. Pretzels

Get some mini pretzels or pretzel nuggets and stash a handful in your jersey pocket. You’ll get carbs and salt.

13. Pudding

These days, you can get pudding in tubes that don’t require refrigeration. I’ve never tried it, but maybe you’ll enjoy it.

14. Homemade gel

There are many ways to make a homemade energy gel which you can carry in a gel flask.

Start with a base like organic brown rice syrup, add sea salt and some sort of flavoring, and mix it up.

15. Fruit roll-ups

Standard kids food that can double as an energy gel replacement. As with gummy bears, these are pure sugar.

Even if you get the healthier ones made with real fruit, they’re still not as expensive as gels.

16. Maltodextrin

Add lots of this complex carbohydrate powder to your favorite juice and you’ll end up with a gel-like substance to stick in your gel flask.

17. Agave nectar

I’m not a big fan of agave nectar when it’s used in supposed “health” foods, since it’s still sugar. However, it would make a good energy gel replacement. It’s like honey except ranks lower on the Glycemic Index.


*I didn’t say all of these are healthy alternatives. Some are healthier and more natural, while others are still refined and processed, but cheaper than an energy gel packet.

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1 Comment
  1. This is the type of stuff my wife doesn’t like me to buy. But she never says anything about my supply of energy gels in their little pouches!

    I might use the mini honey sandwiches idea though.

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