One of the trickiest components of training for something like a marathon or triathlon is mid-race and long workout nutrition. Figuring out how much fuel your body needs—and actually consuming it mid-workout—is key to performing at your peak, without "bonking" or getting sick.
Energy gels and chews are a super-easy way to get those calories and carbs, plus other important nutrients like sodium and potassium—fast. What's more, a lot of these products are made from glucose, fructose, and other high-glycemic sources that are easy to digest.
So, whether you're a cyclist, runner, triathlete, or ultra-adventure racer, you'll benefit from the products we've highlighted. Everyone reacts to gels and chews differently, so it might take a bit of trial and error to determine what works best for you (what doesn't upset your stomach; what goes into effect the quickest). Everyone has a different absorption rate and sensitivity; and these are all made with varying carb sources and amounts.
Each product has different recommendations for how often you need to refuel, so be sure to read the packaging.
All PowerGel pouches pack 200mg of sodium, the key electrolyte you sweat out during exercise, in addition to 27g of a specific carb blend (maltodextrin, a complex sugar, and fructose, a simple sugar) that fuels your muscles with 20 to 50 percent more energy than glucose alone, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Together, these components can boost your endurance performance by 8 percent, per research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. PowerBar PowerGels are gluten free and void of artificial flavors; all have caffeine (in varying concentrations) from green tea extract—except Pomegranate Blueberry Acai and Vanilla.
These natural supplements were created by sports scientist Allen Lim as a way to keep Tour de France cyclists he worked with from getting sick (due to all the processed carbs they were consuming in energy bars and drinks). Made with pectin, real fruit juice, sea salt, and cane sugar, these fruit chews have a subtle taste. Plus, they can help stabilize your blood sugar, rather than spike it.
Flavors include: Raspberry and Orange
Nutrients in one pouch of Raspberry Fruit Drops: 80 calories, 20g carbs, 14g sugar, 80mg Sodium
Honey Stinger Energy Gels are gluten-free and the caffeinated flavors are jazzed up using green tea extract or other natural ingredients. You'll get a carb kick from tapioca syrup, organic honey, electrolytes, and natural flavors. Only Organic Strawberry Kiwi Caffeinated Energy Gel, Organic Gel Chocolate, and Ginsting contain caffeine. Ginsting has Siberian ginseng, said to provide mental clarity, energy, and stamina—plus 32mg of caffeine from kola nut extract.
Flavors include: Organic Strawberry Kiwi Caffeinated Energy Gel, Organic Gel Chocolate, Organic Gel Acai & Pomegranate, Organic Gel Fruit Smoothie, Organic Gel Vanilla, Organic Gel Mango Orange, Gel Gold, Gel Ginsting
Nutrients per one Organic Strawberry Kiwi Caffeinated Energy Gel: 100 calories, 25g carbs, 11g sugar, 50mg Potassium, 50mg Sodium
GLUKOS uses glucose, pectin, and organic cane sugar in their gummies—for great texture and taste. The benefit to using glucose is it's partially absorbed into your bloodstream through your mouth (whereas sucrose and fructose have to make their way through your digestive system), so the energy boost is quicker. And pectin helps keep the chews from melting, so you can keep them in a pocket, belt, or pretty much anywhere else. The all-natural gummies are caffeine- and gluten-free, vegan, have no artificial colors, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, or soy.
Made with super-endurance athletes in mind, GU's Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gels differ from the original GU Energy Gel formula because of the added sodium and amino acids to help you stay hydrated and minimize mental fatigue and muscle damage. Like PowerBar, GU uses a carbohydrate blend of maltodextrin and fructose, which is said to be easier on the stomach and asborbed quicker into the bloodstream. All gels have caffeine except Strawberry Kiwi and Lemonade.
Flavors include: Chocolate Coconut, Blueberry Pomegranate, Vanilla Orange, Pineapple, Cherry Lime, Lemonade, Sea Salt Chocolate, and Vanilla Spice
Nutrients in one Sea Salt Chocolate: 100 calories, 19g carbs, 7g sugar, 55mg Potassium, 125mg Sodium
These semi-solid energy chews are a good source of carbs and electrolytes; not to mention they're a breeze to store, open, and eat. Specifically the chews are made from organic brown rice syrup (tapioca and cane), maltodextrin, and pectin—so the carb source is minimally refined and has naturally-occurring sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Also, because there are separate chews in a pack, you can easily keep track of your intake during long bouts of exercise and eat less more frequently if that works better for you. (I.e. With a gel, you're more inclined to take the whole thing in one go, but with these, you can take just one or two chews at a time.) You can further customize your nutrition by mixing and matching gels for varying needs: For instance, some have caffeine (Black Cherry, Orange, and Tropical Punch), while Margarita has 3x more sodium.
Hammer Gel takes a different approach when it comes to carbs. They use long-chain complex carbs (maltodextrin), rather than refined, simple sugars, so you experience a consistent energy release—rather than insulin spikes, they say. The gels are easier to digest and feature four amino acids to elevate performance and keep you going harder for longer. The syrup-like consistency mixes easily with water; but you can also take it straight, or use it to flavor other nutrition fuels before, during, and after exercise. All gels are vegan and Kosher, except Nocciola; none contain artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Espresso and Tropical flavors contain caffeine.
These gels are made from simple ingredients: chia, fruit puree, brown-rice syrup, sea salt, and coconut water. You get a 2:1 glucose to fructose ratio and all 9 essential amino acids. Chia offers a steady energy release without the crash thanks to its high fiber content. Plus, the amount of water and natural food ingredients make this gel easy on the stomach—perfect if you're sensitive to other energy products. All flavors are available caffeinated or non-caffeinated.
Flavors include: Apples & Cinnamon, Mangoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Lemonade, Cafe Mocha, Strawberry Lemonade, and Berries & Pomegranate
Nutrients in 1 packet of Strawberries: 100 calories, 22g carbs, 14g sugar, 40mg Potassium, 105mg Sodium