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best running gel

7 of the best running gels for 2023

06 Feb 2023 • 9 min read

With more understanding of sports technology than ever before, it’s not only sports professionals that can reap the benefits of the advances of sports nutrition, but you find the best ways to fuel your body on the go too.

Today, the market is littered with food and drinks designed to improve performance, but the introduction of running gels appears to be the front-runner when it comes to convenience.

But choosing the right fuel for your body can be a bit of a minefield, which is why we decided to take a look at hydration gels, electrolyte gels, best gels for running, best gels for cycling and pretty much everything you will need to know so you can spend more time doing what you enjoy!

What are running gels?

Energy gels or running gels as they’re known help you replace your carbohydrate stores when your stocks get low.

Of course, they’re not just exclusive to running and can be used during any sport or exercise.

However, the reputation of energy gel for running has grown because they’re popular in the running community.

This is because when you run your body uses two sources of fuel to feed muscles, fat and carbohydrates.

Although when running a marathon or long distances, fat is deemed ineffective as it's much slower to break down in terms of a usable energy.

Instead, your body relies on carbs as a primary fuel source.

This fuel is known as glycogen, and your body is only able to store a limited amount of carbohydrates in your muscles, so the faster you move the more glycogen you will use.

To put this into running terms, the average runner will be running low on glycogen stores at around an hour and a half to two hours of running.

How do running gels work?

So, this is where energy gels come into play.

The simple sugars in running gel gets absorbed into your bloodstream as glucose, which gives you an energy spike, which is then absorbed by the active muscles and organs.

However, it's worth pointing out at this stage that energy gel isn’t a direct replacement as you’re unable to control which muscles the glucose goes to, yet they do help you continue to fuel your run.

What is in running gels?

Each running gel will usually contain around 25g of carbohydrates per gel, which is made up of simple sugars that are an accessible energy source for your body to process.

Each gel is thought to provide around 45 minutes of running, yet it’s worth explaining that by taking two energy gel sachets you are not able to have 90 minutes of running and the chances are that would crash as your body attempts to process the sugar.

Running gels may also contain other ingredients that are designed to improve performance, such as: electrolytes which can replace lost minerals and caffeine which is used to open blood vessels, and speed up the delivery of energy to your muscles.

The common flavours of energy gels are often fruit which can be super-food sources like berries, which are rich in antioxidants which can aid clearing waste products out of the muscles.

When should you use energy gels?

Every runner is different, so the right time to take your energy gel completely depends on you and your body.

Each runner absorbs and processes carbohydrates at different rates. So, some of you will feel the effects of taking a gel within 3-5 minutes, whereas for others it can take up to 15 minutes.

If you ever suffer with unwanted toilet stops on your runs this could be down to the way you absorb your carbs.

As your body redirects blood to your active muscle, your absorption may slow or even shut down completely, which is what causes those annoying breaks.

The trick is to have your running energy gel before you need it, not as you feel your energy levels drop or hitting the ‘wall’.

Top Tip

Try practicing on your runs for when the best time for you to take your fuel gel. That way, when it comes to your big race you’ll be fully prepared.

How often should you use energy gels?

As mentioned above, it will be of value to you and your bladder to not overload your stomach as your digestion process slows during your run.

You don’t want to take in too much simple sugar at once or you’re likely to crash, so if you wait around 45-60 minutes or 6-7 miles between your running fuel.

It’s also worth considering switching between caffeine, hydrating gels and electrolyte gels to ensure that your body doesn’t get too much of one thing at once.

Top Tip

Always take your running gels with water and never just on their own, or with a sports drink.

Without water, they will take you longer to digest and take longer to enter your bloodstream.

If you were to take them with a sports drink you may put yourself at risk of taking on too much sugar at once.

7 of the best running gels

Energy gels may not be to everyone’s taste.

Their consistency and taste can vary quite a lot – some can be on the thicker stronger-tasting side, while some can be thinner, and more water-based.

There are so many on the market that you can find various flavours from coffee or chocolate to more fruity flavours, our advice would be to test a few different brands and styles to find what is right for you.

We’ve picked out seven of our favourites that we think show a good basis of what you can expect to find on the market.

  1. SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel Variety Pack 

The GO Isotonic Energy Gel effectively delivers an easily digestible and quick supply of carbohydrate for energy during exercise.

They come in seven different flavours, which allows you find out what works for you..

These SIS energy gels are purposely designed to be taken without water, minimising the risk of bloating that may occur with taking on too much fluid.

They provide you with 22g of carbs per sachet.

They contain 1 of the following:

  • Orange
  • Blackcurrant
  • Apple,
  • Lemon & lime
  • Pineapple
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Tropical

The Isotonic formula allows the gel to empty from the stomach quickly as no fluid needs to be drawn into your stomach to dilute the gel, providing fast energy.

GO Isotonic Energy Gels are highly practical and can easily be carried without the requirement for bulky bottles.

What our customers think:

Betty Road Runner - Not a gimmick - 5/5 stars
“Not a gimmick. Does actually work and makes a huge difference when putting the miles in.”

Christopher778 - SIS isotonic gels - 5/5 stars
“These are ideal to take cycling or running, they give a quick energy release when you need that bit extra towards the end of a long ride or run.”

  1. High5 Energy Gel Taster Kit

The High5 Gel Taster pack contains a range of 8 energy gels, made with real fruit juice, which each contain 23g of carbohydrates.

High five gels have a smooth, light consistency that make it easy to have on the move.

Whether you’re looking for a running gel or cycling gel they’re an ideal fuel as they’re easy to open and drink.

What our customers think:


RLoughran - On the go energy - 5/5 stars
“Using High 5 for years, always great products, good taste and competitively priced.”

  1. HIGH5 Zero: Orange and Echinacea

High5 Zero is a zero-calorie electrolyte tablet which is made with plant extract with a number of vitamins, including vitamin C, which means the advanced Zero tablet not only hydrates you, but also maintains your immune system during and after intense exercise.

You can use this great tasting zero calorie electrolyte immune drink during exercise and throughout the day to rehydrate with vitamins, plant extracts and key electrolytes, including sodium and potassium.

Simply drop a tablet into your re-usable water bottle and enjoy!

What our customers think:

KimP - Zero Orange - 5/5 stars
“Delicious and works wonders for cramp! Oh! And sugar free!”

HiCross - Fast service - 5/5 stars
“Happy with the product and the service would definitely recommend to a friend”

  1. TORQ Energy Gel 

TORQ Gel is a naturally flavoured highly effective, fast-acting energy gel, containing no artificial sweeteners or colours, with a great tasting rhubarb and custard flavour

TORQ Gel forms part of the TORQ Fuelling System range, so they can be used alongside TORQ’s energy drinks, bars and chews to fuel optimal performances.

What our customers think:

Training soicaneat -Torq gel - 5/5 stars
“Good flavours and nice consistency in my opinion. Not dense like some others or too thin.”

Dick9 - torq rhubarb and custard gels great product - 5/5 stars
“Great value from holland and barratt long may it continue!”

  1. High5 Run Kit

The HIGH5 Run Pack is a selection of gels designed for provide runners with a pack that will give runners’ a variety of energy packed flavours.

This is ideal for those who are new to sports nutrition or training for a running event like a half or full marathon, this pack is full of all your nutrition essentials.

The pack contains a mix of energy gels, ZERO hydration tablets, recovery drink and a 330ml run bottle – everything to get you started or to keep you going.

What our customers think:

Monique - Great starter kit – good value – 5/5 stars
“Great little starter kit. Bought to try out products on my first big charity event 18miles. Loved the drink holder. It was like a little security blanket for me to grip onto towards the end when I was struggling make taking on board enough fluids so easy. The fluid replacement/energy drink was great would not have made it without this kit. Highly recommended.”

Noele - High 5 – 5/5 stars
“Good value for this pack. Use it for training, handy water bottle included.”

  1. SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel Orange 60ml

SiS GO Isotonic Gels are a practical solution to support your in-training and competition fuelling strategy by providing you with a quick supply of 20 grams of carbohydrate per gel.

At just 60ml per drink, these handy gels can be easily carried in your pocket or race belt without needing to carry a bulky bottle.

What our customers think:

HMW12 – Fab product and great price – 5/5 stars
“Fab product at great price. My ‘go to’ gel of choice for cycling. Holland and Barrett were selling at a great price, so I stocked up!”

AMR75 – Great product – 5/5 stars
Bought these recently. Am training for my first marathon & have been using them in my training runs. They are easy to take & give me a boost when I need it. The taste is good & they can be taken without water.”

  1. SiS GO Energy + Caffeine Gel Berry 30 x 60ml

SiS GO + Caffeine is a clean, easy to digest 60ml drink. It contains added sweetener, with berry flavoured carbohydrates for that quick boost to help tiredness and fatigue.

It also contains B vitamins which are proven help support your immune system, as well as 75mg of caffeine which is sure to give you a spring in your step.

What our customers think:

LauLau1910 – Great for long runs – 5/5 stars
“I bought this product a couple of weeks ago. I use it for long runs ( >10miles). It has a nice taste and keeps you going! For me, it doesn't make me feel pain in the stomach as opposite to other products. I would recommend it!”

Sheranwithgel – Gives a boost – 5/5 stars
“Never tried these with caffeine in them before but it was recommended for long training runs and marathon day. Took towards end of a run and I was really pleased with the results.”

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 6 February 2023

donia-hilal

Donia Hilal

Author

Nutritionist

Joined Holland & Barrett: January 2018

Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition

Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.

Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.

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