I often get asked what energy I use during training and races, and when I tell people I will use energy gels as part of a larger fuelling plan, I always get questions about which ones are best. Gels are like marmite, you either love them or hate them, but they can be vital to get you through a long run or bike ride. Gone are the days of horrible tasting sachets because flavours now include salted caramel, rhubarb & custard and apple crumble. Some people find that gels upset their stomach so please ensure you test gels on training run and never on races. But used correctly, gels can stop you bonking/hitting the wall.
This review will examine 5 different energy gel brands that can be found in local supermarkets and supplement stores, and explore the pros and cons of each. I will look at taste, price and nutritional value so you can find the right gel for you.
Clif Bar have established themselves as one of the most recognisable brands in this market, especially with their successful Shot Boks (now called Clif Bloks). Their energy gels do not let down on flavour and the consistency is relatively thin compared to other products available. Clif have sweetened their gels with organic dried cane syrup to give it a natural sweetness. The Mocha Gel has an excellent blend of chocolate and coffee and even though it contains natural cocoa powder, it does not have a bitter aftertaste. The packaging is easy to open but you may have some difficulty fitting it onto a race belt. There is a 50 mg caffeine punch in this gel to keep you going, and there are a wide variety of flavours like chocolate, chocolate cherry, double espresso, razz, strawberry and Vanilla.
Nutritional Info – Mocha Energy Gel
Serving Size – 34 grams / Calories/34 grams – 100 kcal / Carbohydrates – 24 grams; of which sugars – 12 grams / Sodium – 60 mg / Caffeine – 50mg
Our Verdict: Flavours are really well balanced while the consistency ensures it is easily digested. Our Rating: 3.5/5
The High5 gels are the lower end of the price scale but still deliver the instant energy needed. High5 gel contains added maltodextrin that your body converts into glucose, which can be quickly absorbed, whilst real fruit juice means it has a natural, recognizable taste. The gels are promoted as non-sticky gels and their thin consistency allows them to be swallowed quite easily. Easy to open packaging. The High5 Energy Gels are available in Summer Fruits, Citrus Blast, Banana Blast, and Apple flavours, whilst there are also caffeine versions available.
Nutritional Info – High5 Orange Energy Gel
Serving Size – 40 grams / Calories/40 grams – 90 kcal / Carbohydrates – 23 grams; of which sugars – 2.7 grams / Sodium – 0.02 grams / Caffeine – None
Our verdict: Thin in consistency with great flavour at an excellent price. If you need your gels to be thin in order to take, then High5 should be tested at least once. The only down side is the low sodium content.
One of the most recognisable brands with excellent product ranges in most supermarkets, this gel is one of the top selling gels on the market. It has a slightly thicker consistency then the first two gels and the flavour isn’t overpowering. The flavour has a more subtle taste but this makes it easier to swallow and digest. We found the packaging a bit unwieldy to open and the sachet does weigh a little more than most other gels. It is available in the following flavours Orange, Blackcurrant, Apple, Pineapple, Tropical, Lemon, and Pink Grapefruit.
Nutritional Info – SiS Go Isotonic Gel Lemon & Lime
Serving Size – 60 ml / Calories/60 ml – 76 kcal / Carbohydrates – 19 grams; of which sugars – 0.5 grams/ Sodium – 0.01 grams / Caffeine – None
Our verdict: Well-established gel, and an excellent option for those who have never tried gels before or want a more subtle flavour. Calorific offer could be higher.
Our Rating: 3.5/5
TORQ isn’t as well known as SiS but is still well thought of in the running and triathlon community. TORQ normally have more interesting flavours and the Apple Crumble doesn’t let you down in taste. The gel’s sweet and syrupy consistency makes it easy to swallow, although I have been known to dilute it with water. There is a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin and fructose for “rapid, parallel delivery of multiple carbohydrates” according to TORQ. The packaging is easy enough to open on the move. Available in Strawberry Yogurt, Black cherry Yogurt, Raspberry Ripple, Orange & Banana, and my favourite Rhubarb & Custard.
Nutritional Info – TORQ Energy Gel Apple Crumble
Serving Size – 45 grams / Calories/45 grams – 114 kcal / Carbohydrates – 28.8 grams; of which sugars – 9.6 grams / Sodium – 0.05 grams /Caffeine – None
Our Verdict: A firm favourite just from flavour alone. A mid range priced energy gel which gives a great carb hit.
Our rating: 4/5
At the beginning of the review I mentioned marmite and GU is definitely one of the products that divides opinion due to its thicker consistency. Because of the ability to be more concentrated in less gel, the packaging is smaller but that creates added headaches when trying to attach to a race belt. The flavours are VERY interesting and they are recognising the trend of adding salt to everything so you will need to experiment. The Salted Caramel was really nice (not what I expected) with it being quite sweet but not unpleasantly so. The gel has a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin and fructose, a healthy dose of sodium and 20 mg caffeine per serving to keep you energized both physically and mentally. GU offers its energy gels in flavours like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Salted Watermelon, Maple Bacon and Cucumber Mint.
Nutritional Info – GU Salted Caramel Energy Gel
Serving Size – 32 grams / Calories/32 grams – 100 kcal / Carbohydrates – 22 grams; of which sugars – 7 grams / Sodium – 0.125 grams / Caffeine – 20mg
Our verdict: The GU energy gel has the highest number of calories even though it comes in a small 32gm packet. It is decent value and will keep you going whilst working out, if you can get past the thick consistency of the gel. I’m still waiting to try the Salted Watermelon! Our rating: 3.5/5
I have tried to give you an honest review of my experiences with these gels but you will need to experiment what works for you. Every triathlete with have their own preferences but if training for longer distances, you will be surprised how many of these little packages you will go through. I have always favoured High5 because of their excellent value, especially when purchased in bulk. When on the bike I will empty a number of sachets into a bottle and top up with water. It makes it so much easier to get fuel into you quickly without the fuss of trying to open a gel sachet.
For flavour I would suggest you try GU (if the consistency agrees with you) or TORQ which is a firm favourite amongst athletes, if you can find a local store that stocks them.
For availability I would suggest SiS and High5, these can always be found in supermarkets or cycle shops.
If you are new to triathlon (or any of the disciplines), you can gather as all the advice in the world, but ultimately you have to find out what works for you. Triathlon is a very individual sport in terms of your approach to competing.
Hope this review helps