Race Day: Do Energy Gels Work?

Race Day: Do Energy Gels Work? | 21 of 26 Marathon Series

Whilst it’s hard to get through a race without them, many people still wonder “do energy gels work?”

Well that depends on what they mean by “work”. An energy gel is by no means a magic potion that will give you a speed boost or see you break your personal best, but if you want to know whether it does what it proposes then the answer is a resounding; yes! Of course it gives you energy, it’s made of the stuff that gives the body energy.

Energy Gel medley

So energy gels are designed to give you energy, there’s no surprise there, but how do they do it then?

  • Firstly – they include sugars such as Glucose or Fructose, which is broken down by the body into ATP (pure energy), the important thing to realise here is that the form of the Glucose makes a big difference to the quality of the product (how well it will be absorbed and used by the body).
  • Secondly – They provide electrolytes such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium which help your body with several key processes during exercise; such as conducting nerve impulses, allowing muscle cells to contract and helping with metabolism. So pretty important!
  • Thirdly – Some gels provide Caffeine. This helps to dilate blood vessels and therefore improves blood flow around the body; thus improving oxygen uptake and exercise efficiency. In other words caffeine when exercising will give you a, sometimes much needed, boost!

Whilst they all vary in their ingredients and quality; they normally include certain main ingredients:

Energy Gel Infographic

Obviously the ingredients vary from one gel to another, and no two brands are the same; in fact the brands vary enormously in terms of quality, taste and texture.

We recommend the following gels based on our exhaustive testing of pretty much every gel on the market and also by scrutinising the science behind the claims that the brands make:

Torq Gel

Our most recommended gel, purely down to the fact that it is such high quality. Torq uses its proprietary blend of 2:1 Maltodextrin to Fructose, which ensures that not only do you have optimal absorption (as the maltodextrin is a more complex form of Glucose than just its simple sugar formation), you also have a sustained energy release thanks to the Fructose . Torq gels also contain a well balanced blend of electrolytes and come in a delightful range of flavours (all using natural flavourings); think Rhubarb and Custard or Apple Crumble and you’ll see why we rave over Torq Gels. Also available in Caffeinated versions as well!

SIS Go Gel

The SIS Go Gel is one of the best known and longest standing sports gels. It is used by the British cycling teams and many other top athletes. It claims to be isotonic, which means that it should be close to the concentration of your blood, therefore will be absorbed more quickly. Many of our customers love the mild taste of the Go gel, as it’s not too sickly; however it doesn’t pack as much energy per ml as other gels.

Again it is available in a caffeinated version and also a version that has L-Carnitine in it to help encourage your body to metabolise fat for energy more readily when exercising.

High Five Energy Gel

The High Five Energy Gel has a strong following, as many love its taste; not too sweet or sickly and like the Torq, it uses all natural flavourings and even includes real fruit juice.

Slightly less energy dense than the Torq gel (it packs 56g of carbohydrate per 100g, as opposed to 63.9g), but still more than the SIS Go gel. They are also lighter than the other two gels, so good for shorter events, or occasions where every gram matters such as ultra-endurance events.

So energy gels do work, they provide energy, and in some cases an extra boost in the form of caffeine or L-Carnitine, they are ideally suited to mid-run use where eating isn’t an option and you can’t carry a big bottle of energy drink. If you know any interesting stories to do with energy gels, leave your comments below.

Here is the next blog article in our marathon series:

22. Race Day: Start Slow



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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.