How many energy gels do I need for my run?

The question of how many gels to use for a race is a popular one. Of course the number of energy gels you should consume depends entirely on the distance and the amount of energy in the gel. Your nutritional needs vary greatly according to distance and this is the deciding factor in how many energy gels you’ll aim to consume per race or run.

Rule of energy gels

holding energy gel

As a rule of thumb you should aim to consume 60 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates per hour of exercise to prevent rapid glycogen depletion. This depends on exercise intensity and how many calories you are burning, but is a good rule of thumb to start with. If you are operating at high levels of intensity and performance, then you can increase this to 90g per hour; beyond this the body isn’t able to absorb and use the energy so you’ll just be risking unnecessary stomach aches and discomfort.

How much carbohydrate does my gel have?

That’s simple, just look on the nutritional info on the back of the gel packaging, it will normally tell you how many carbs per 100ml (or grams) and then per gel. So using this information it’s easy to calculate how many energy gels you should need for your run or race. Just bear in mind any energy bars/ sweets or drinks you consume on the run as these will obviously also contribute to your total carbohydrate intake. For convenience we have created a quick reference chart for the energy gels that we stock right now:

  Model of gel                                                    Carbohydrate (g) Gels per hour
  SIS Go Isotonic Energy Gel (60ml)  22  3-4
  Torq Gel (45 g)  30  2-3
  High 5 Energy Gel (40 g)  23  3-4
  Powerbar Powergel (41 g)  26.7  2-3

Do you need energy gels for a race?

energy gel for race

This depends on how long your race will go on for. If you are running a 5k then then chances are you shouldn’t need any gels, as long as you are well fuelled before the race. If you are running a marathon then you will struggle to complete the distance without fuelling throughout the race and as energy gels are a highly convenient form of energy, it makes them the logical choice of nutrition for such an event; extend your run out to ultramarathon and gels pretty much become a necessity.

The only other thing you need to consider when running with energy gels, is how you will store them. Many brands make a range of energy gel holders, but also most running apparel contain gel pockets; so this is worth considering next time you buy a new running jacket or tights. Our favourite carrier is currently the SpiBelt as it is very lightweight and stretchy so although it looks very small, it can easily fit 6 gels!

Do you have any interesting stories or facts when it comes to running with energy gels? If so comment below.

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.