Love them or hate them, there's no doubting the benefit of downing a quick energy gel at vital points of a ride or race. Here's our guide to what for look for, as well as a few of our favourites
Gels are useful for delivering a quickly absorbed hit of energy when your body needs it. There is however a huge number of different products on the market. More and more flavours are becoming available and additives such as nitrate and caffeine often feature too. So what’s best?
How much and how often?
Guidelines suggest that for those cycling at a moderate intensity over 90 minutes, you will need between 30g and 65g of carbohydrates per hour to replace what’s being lost and maintain performance. Consuming anything more won’t improve performance. In fact, it may cause gastric distress, as the body struggles to be able to absorb such large quantities.
Recent research has shown that when glucose is consumed with fructose (fruit sugar), carbohydrate consumption can significantly increase by up to 90g per hour, enhancing performance further. But this takes training, and is only really necessary for elite cyclists, where every millisecond counts. For the everyday cyclist, 60g of carbohydrate per hour will suffice.
Now you know how much carbohydrate you need an hour. The next step is working out how to get it into your body. Whilst you could get all your carbs from gels, it’s not ideal. Not only is it extremely expensive, it’s tedious and can have extreme effects on your stomach.
Gels should be one part of your nutritional plan. You can get the rest of your energy from bars, drinks and of course, real foods.
Fortunately, all nutritional products display their values on the packaging, so it’s really easy to tally up the totals. For example, if one gel contains 30g of carbs, a bar has 20g and your drink contains 60g per 500ml, then one of each, plus a couple of mouthfuls of drink will get you that 60g each hour.
While the science behind sports nutrition is complex, and there are many factors that influence fuelling and recovery, the guidelines are simple and should be kept that way. The only thing you’ve got do is choose which gels work for you.
Energy gels: our top picks
In terms of ‘natural’ credentials The MuleBar Kicks Natural Energy Gel is hard to beat. Only six ingredients are listed…
Honey Stinger pride themselves in the fact that they only use natural ingredients in their products, something that they’ve continued…
As a guideline, one should strive to consume ~60g of carbohydrates per hour to optimise cycling performance. Note that this…
As a rough guideline, you should aim to consume ~60g of carbohydrates per hour whilst cycling. Failure to keep your…
A natural energy gel (although not organic), as gels go the CNP Hydro gel is fairly liquidy. The reason for…
SiS have launched a new gel which contains twice the caffeine content of their current products.
Whilst they contain a similar amount or carbohydrate to High 5 or SiS gels we have reviewed, the PowerGels contain…
How have we rated the gels?
We have assessed the energy content of these gels. For the most part they tend to contain various forms of sugar in varying quantities. Gels can also contain electrolytes to replace those lost through sweat and prevent cramps. Some gels also contain caffeine. For the benefits of caffeine click here.
Taste is extremely important. After all, if a certain gel isn’t to your fancy, then you aren’t going to use it. However, it shouldn’t be the main reason why you choose a gel. The content is more important. It’s also worth mentioning that everyone’s taste is different. So what tickles our taste buds might turn yours off.
Whilst sports nutrition is expensive, we will factor in convenience and assess the value of the product compared to other products on the market.
Certain products stand out for having new innovations. Where this is the case, these products will often score higher marks.