Subscribe now

6 best energy gels

Restock vital carbs with the best calorie-packing energy gels for running, cycling and endurance

Energy gels tend to pack somewhere between 15 and 30g of carbohydrates, with most coming in around the 20g mark ( The Independent )

Whether you’re a marathon or ultra runner, a cyclist who goes on lengthy rides or footballer looking for a hit of energy to see you through the full 90 minutes, energy gels are a fantastically convenient way to get a quick hit of carbs into your system.

Gels come in a huge range of shapes, sizes, flavours and consistencies, but they all share the same goal: to top up your energy stores once the body has run short of its own available stocks. 

What to look for when choosing an energy gel

The top considerations when you’re choosing an energy gel are taste, the amount of carbohydrates you get per gel, portability and, crucially, whether it plays nice with your stomach. While it’s always useful to take recommendations, when it comes to sports nutrition, everyone is unique. What sends one runner speeding to the finish line, can easily send another sprinting to a portaloo with tummy troubles. So the best advice is to try a few and find one that works for you. 

With that in mind, when you’re selecting which gels to try first, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the weight of the gel overall, the quantity and source of the carbohydrates it contains and whether it delivers additional benefits, such as a hit of caffeine for an extra kick, or electrolytes to help aid hydration by keeping your salt balance right. 

Gels tend to pack somewhere between 15 and 30g of carbohydrates, with most coming in around the 20g mark. Many use maltodextrin as the main source of carbs, while others opt for more natural ingredients – such as fruit sugars. 

We spent the past two months sampling the best on the market, judging them on portability, the hit of energy, taste and, of course, price. Here’s our pick of the best energy gels for sports.

Maurten Gel 100: £2.90 per gel, Energy Snacks

Weight: 40g
Carbs per gel: 25g
Electrolytes: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: Yes

The world’s fastest marathon runner, Eliud Kipchoge, used Maurten to fuel his epic world record run in Berlin in 2018. And while there’s no guarantee this all-natural hydrogel will turn you into a record-breaking athlete, it’s a powerful and palatable source of energy for endurance. 

With just six ingredients and no added colourings, preservatives or flavours, it provides a unique blend of fructose and glucose, which enables the uptake of up to 100g of carbohydrates per hour. That’s much more than single-source gels. It’s virtually tasteless and has a jelly-like texture that’s much less gloopy and sticky than traditional gels.

This hydrogel form also helps the carbs move through to the lower intestine where it’s absorbed, avoiding the gastrointestinal upset you can get with gels that linger in the stomach longer.

Buy now

NamedSport total energy carbo gel: £36 for 24 gels, Evans Cycles

Weight: 51.2g
Carbs per gel: 30g
Electrolytes: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: Yes

If you want a gel that’ll give you a more gradual hit of energy rather than a big rush power-up, these have been designed with a multi-source mix of two different types of maltodextrin and a supply of fructose. The carbs are absorbed into the body at different rates, creating a gradual release feel to the energy you get. There’s sodium and potassium too, to help prevent cramping and muscle soreness. They’re a bit heavier in the pocket than most gels, but that’s a trade-off for their higher-than-average hit of carbs per pack. 

Buy now

33Shake chia gels: £1.99 per gel, 33Shake

Weight: 21g
Carbs per gel: 11.2g
Electrolytes: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: Yes

33Shake is one of the pioneers of all-natural endurance fuels, and there are just four ingredients in its chia seed gel. Organic chia seeds, coconut palm sugar, organic vanilla and Himalayan pink salt all come together to create a gel you can actually look forward to eating. The dry ingredients come in a small pouch, so you need to add water to hydrate. They also pack a lower carb hit per gel than a more traditional option, but they’re much easier to stomach than the maltodextrin-based alternatives. The flip-top resealable lid also means you don’t have to eat it all in one hit like most other gels. 

Buy now

Torq energy gel: £19 for 15 gels, Wiggle

Weight: 45g
Carbs per gel: 28.8g
Electrolytes: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: Yes

Another gel with a blend of carbs, Torq’s glucose and fructose mix provides a faster injection of energy than single-carb options. There’s a small bump of electrolytes too to support hydration, though not enough to be the sole source of salts, particularly on a hot day or during longer endurance events.

With familiar dessert-inspired flavours such as apple crumble and cherry bakewell, these will hit the sweet spot for anyone who likes their gels on the sugary side. They’re smooth textured and easy to swallow and the compact, easy-open tubes are brilliantly faff-free, even on the move. This means you can avoid the dreaded mid-session sticky fingers.

Buy now

Stealth real fruit banana energy gel: £11.64 for 7 gels, Cycle Store

Weight: 60g
Carbs per gel: 22g
Electrolytes: No
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: No

Weighing 60g per gel, these will take up more space in your pockets or gel belt – but you do get a 22g dual-fuel hit of carbs from from sticky rice and fructose. They’re much less gluey than some gels and they deliver fast-acting energy with a reduced risk of gastrointestinal woes thanks to that consistency. Each gel is made up of 20 per cent banana, which gives a more natural flavour that’s not a million miles away from a smoothie – it's certainly more palatable than many other gels.

Buy now

OTE Apple Energy Gel: £1.50 per gel, OTE

Weight: 56g
Carbs per gel: 20.5g
Electrolytes: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian: Vegan
Gluten-free: Yes

OTE’s apple-flavoured gel doesn’t quite go as far as using real fruit, but the fruit concentrate does give it a nice freshness that softens the chemical edge that is common in other gels. The carbs come from a dual source of maltodextrin and fructose and there are electrolytes included for good measure. The loose, liquid consistency makes it easy to get down, even without water. But the real reason it made this list? It’s the only gel to feature two openings, so you have the option to rip it and down it in one or tear it and sip with less leakage.

Buy now

The verdict: Energy gels

For the best hit of reliable energy in a pack that’s easy to carry, easy to open and with a neutral flavour that’s unlikely to offend anyone, Maurten’s 100 gel offers the best bang for buck source of endurance fuel. If you prefer something that’s 100 per cent natural, then 33Shake is a tasty option.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Black Friday 2019 is nearly here. Read our guide on how to get the best Black Friday deals

Article bookmarked

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile