The Best Energy Gels of 2022, According to a Dietitian

Energy gels are convenient, individually packaged gels that contain a concentrated source of carbohydrates. Endurance athletes often use them in longer training sessions to improve performance and maintain adequate blood sugar levels (1).

Most energy gels are made of a quick-digesting carbohydrate source, often in the form of maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, or glucose.

In addition to the carbohydrate source, gels may include caffeine, which has been shown to improve exercise performance, as well as branched-chain amino acids, which can help relieve muscle soreness (2, 3).

We researched the best energy gels based on the following criteria:

  • Recommendations from experts. We spoke with running experts to get their takes on the best energy gels.
  • Reviews. We included gels with mostly positive customer reviews.
  • Price. We looked for energy gels to suit a range of budgets.
  • Ingredients. We included products to suit a variety of dietary needs and preferences, including gluten-free gels and ones made from all-natural ingredients.
  • Vetting. All the products included have been vetted to ensure they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards.

Keep reading for our picks of the 11 best energy gels, plus tips on how to choose.

When deciding on a gel for your running needs, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  • Carbs per serving. Most energy gels have 20–25 grams of carbs per serving. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming 30–60 grams of carbs per hour when exercising for longer than 1 hour. You may need to do a little number crunching to determine how many gels you’ll need to meet this recommendation (1).
  • Sugar source. The carbohydrates found in energy gels often come from simple sugars such as dextrose, maltodextrin, glucose, or fructose, as these are easily digested and absorbed. Some gels contain other sources of sugar, such as maple syrup or honey.
  • Ingredients. In addition to a carbohydrate source, you may see other ingredients on the label, such as gelling agents like xanthan gum and gellan gum, which help with texture. Some gels may contain artificial sweeteners and colors, as well as additives and preservatives, which may be a downside if you prefer a more natural product.
  • Caffeine content. Caffeine may help boost performance. However, some people are more sensitive than others to its effects, and too much caffeine may cause unwanted side effects. To balance your caffeine intake, you may want to alternate between caffeinated and non-caffeinated gels or skip the caffeine altogether (4, 5).
  • Electrolytes. Some gels contain added electrolytes that can be beneficial during training and workouts. This can be a convenient way to get in carbs and electrolytes together. However, if you typically use another source of electrolytes, it may be best to choose a gel without them.

Additionally, according to Amy Goblirsh, a registered dietitian for runners, it’s a good idea to experiment with a few types of gels to figure out what sits well in your stomach.

“Your training runs are not just to train your legs but also gives you the chance to train your gut and figure what fuel source works best for you,” Goblirsh says. “Race day is not the day to experiment with a new fuel.”

Road Runners Club of America running coach Briana Kolbo agrees with the importance of testing out gels before race day.

Kolbo also recommends stopping by your local running shop to ask for recommendations: “They usually know the newest products out there and what they would suggest for your current weather conditions and climate.”

Best overall energy gel

Science in Sport (SiS) GO Isotonic Energy Gels

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: orange, lemon and mint, salted strawberry, apple
  • Carbs per serving: 22 grams
  • Caffeine: no
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin

SiS is a nutrition brand that offers various endurance nutrition products, including gels, powders, drinks, and bars.

We chose SiS as the best gel overall because it’s convenient for long runs and is a favorite among runners.

“Science in Sport (SiS) has an energy gel that is meant to be consumed without water. This can be helpful if water stops don’t line up with when you take your fuel. Most gels require water to be consumed at the same time to help with absorption,” says Goblirsh.

Keep in mind that while you won’t need to time your water intake with your gel intake, it’s still important to hydrate during your workout.

On top of the convenience of not needing water, SiS can be a suitable option for athletes with allergies because it’s free from dairy, gluten, nuts, animal products, and wheat.

SiS isotonic gels have more than 4,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon, many of which mention the perk of not needing water to take the gel and note that it doesn’t cause digestive issues.

Potential downsides: contains artificial additives and sweeteners; orange flavor could be better

Best overall runner-up energy gel

Maurten Energy Gel 100

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: unflavored
  • Carbs per serving: 25 grams
  • Caffeine: caffeinated and non-caffeinated options
  • Sugar source: glucose, fructose

Maurten energy gels are our overall runner-up because they’re known to be a great choice for athletes with sensitive stomachs.

Maurten sells sports products that include their patent-pending hydrogel, which, according to their website, behaves like a sponge and can hold carbohydrates.

Maurten claims this allows for better transportation of carbohydrates to the intestines, which decreases digestive issues, but there’s currently limited evidence to support this.

That being said, many positive reviews mention that Maurten gels provide energy without causing any stomach upset during longer training sessions.

According to Kolbo, “[Maurten Energy gels] are a bit spendy, but many people have great results with it. You can get them with or without caffeine. They claim to help you digest twice as many carbohydrates without upsetting your stomach.”

Maurten offers both caffeinated and non-caffeinated options, with the caffeinated gels containing 100 mg of caffeine per serving.

Potential downsides: unflavored, expensive, Jell-O-like texture

Best-rated energy gel

Gu Energy Original Sports Nutrition Gel

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: salted caramel, chocolate outrage, strawberry banana, tri-berry, jet blackberry, vanilla bean, espresso love, caramel macchiato, birthday cake, lemon sublime, campfire s’mores, and more
  • Carbs per serving: 23 grams
  • Caffeine: in some flavors
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin, fructose

Gu Energy is known for offering sports nutrition products in a variety of fun flavors.

Considering that they have more than 7,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon, it’s easy to see why Gu energy gels are included on our list as the best-rated option.

More than 25 flavors are available, some of which contain 20 or 40 mg of caffeine from green tea extract. Fans of the gels appreciate the flavor variety and pleasant taste.

What’s more, Gu energy gels are vegan and gluten-free, though they do contain some preservatives, so they’re not ideal if you prefer a more natural product.

Potential downsides: contain preservatives; may cause stomach upset in some runners

Best natural energy gel

Huma Chia Energy Gel

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: strawberries, blueberries, apples and cinnamon, cafe mocha, chocolate, lemonade, mangoes, raspberries
  • Carbs per serving: 21 grams
  • Caffeine: in some flavors
  • Sugar source: cane sugar, brown rice syrup, fruit

Huma is a sports nutrition company that was inspired by the Tarahumara, a group of Indigenous people living in Mexico who are renowned for their abilities to run long distances.

The Huma Chia Energy Gel is 100% natural and gluten-free. The ingredients include real food, like fruit and chia seeds, which some runners may find easier to digest.

Reviews are mostly positive, with several runners mentioning that the chia gel is easier to digest and doesn’t cause stomach upset. Additionally, many appreciate the recognizable ingredients.

While several flavors are caffeine-free, others provide 25 or 50 mg of caffeine per serving.

Potential downsides: may cause digestive discomfort if not consumed with adequate amounts of water

Best organic energy gel

Clif Shot Energy Gels

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: mocha, double espresso, razz, citrus, vanilla, strawberry
  • Carbs per serving: 24–25 grams
  • Caffeine: in some flavors
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin, cane sugar

Clif Bar & Company is known for its bars and snacks, but it also offers a line of organic energy gels.

Clif Shot Energy gels are made from organically grown, non-GMO ingredients.

Overall, reviews on these gels are positive, especially because they’re less expensive than others on the market. However, some reviewers do recommend double-checking the caffeine content before consuming, as some flavors contain 25, 50, or 100 mg of caffeine per serving.

Potential downsides: may cause stomach upset in some runners

Best keto-friendly energy gel

UCAN Edge

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: orange, strawberry banana
  • Carbs per serving: 19 grams
  • Caffeine: no
  • Sugar source: SuperStarch

UCAN is a sports nutrition company that sells products containing its proprietary SuperStarch, a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate that’s designed to provide steady energy rather than spike blood sugar levels.

Preliminary research has shown potential benefits of SuperStarch, although more research is needed (6, 7).

Because UCAN Edge uses SuperStarch rather than more traditional sugar ingredients, the company claims it may be a suitable choice for those who follow a keto diet.

The gels are also gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.

Reviews of UCAN Edge are mostly positive, with several people noting how easy the gel is on their stomachs.

Potential downsides: expensive, larger size than other gels, contains erythritol, not the best-tasting

Best gluten-free energy gel

Honey Stinger Energy Gels

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: acai pomegranate, gold, fruit smoothie, strawberry kiwi
  • Carbs per serving: 24–26 grams
  • Caffeine: in some flavors
  • Sugar source: organic honey, organic tapioca syrup

Honey Stinger is known for its use of organic honey in its sports nutrition products.

The energy gels are certified non-GMO and free of gluten, soy, nuts, and dairy, making them a suitable choice for runners with allergies.

These gels have added electrolytes to help you stay hydrated during longer training sessions, but you’ll still need to take them with water.

Reviews are mostly positive, with many runners finding these honey-based gels easier to digest.

Strawberry kiwi is the only caffeinated flavor, providing 32 mg of caffeine from green tea extract.

Potential downsides: original gold flavor isn’t the best-tasting

Spring Energy Any Distance Fuel

  • Price: $$$$
  • Flavors: canaberry
  • Carbs per serving: 17 grams
  • Caffeine: no
  • Sugar source: basmati rice, fruit, maple syrup

Spring Energy uses 100% natural, real-food ingredients in its sports nutrition products.

The Any Distance Fuel comes in just one flavor, canaberry, which is described as mildly sweet.

It’s also free of gluten-containing ingredients and produced in a gluten-free facility, making it a good option if you have a gluten-related disorder.

In addition to Any Distance Fuel, Spring Energy offers other gel products — Speednut, Hill Aid, and Long Haul — which vary in calories, caffeine, flavor, and other ingredients.

Happy customers appreciate the gel’s real-food ingredients, such as basmati rice and fruit.

Potential downsides: expensive, only one flavor available

Best vegan energy gel

PNG Refuel Gel

  • Price: $$
  • Flavors: orange cream, watermelon cucumber
  • Carbs per serving: 21 grams
  • Caffeine: no
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin, dextrose

Pinnacle Nutrition Group (PNG) makes sports nutrition supplements, gels, and drinks.

PNG Refuel Gel is vegan and gluten-free, but it’s not clear whether PNG’s products are processed in a gluten-free facility, so you may want to take caution if you have a gluten-related disorder.

The gel contains added electrolytes, which can be helpful during long training sessions.

Potential downsides: mixed reviews on the taste; sticky texture

Torq Energy Gel

  • Price: $$$
  • Flavors: apple crumble, black cherry yoghurt, raspberry ripple, rhubarb custard
  • Carbs per serving: 21 grams
  • Caffeine: no
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin, fructose

Torq offers various fueling and recovery products in the form of gels, chews, bars, and powders.

In addition to being vegan, Torq Energy Gels are wheat-free and contain added electrolytes.

Torq energy gels are designed to have a thinner consistency than others, which may help make them easier to digest. However, it’s still important to drink plenty of water with the gel for optimal digestion and absorption.

Many reviewers agree that the gels are easy on the stomach and don’t cause any digestive discomfort during exercise.

Overall, reviews are very positive, and most mention that the unique flavors taste great.

Potential downsides: expensive

Best variety of flavors

Hammer Energy Gel

  • Price: $
  • Flavors: apple cinnamon, banana, chocolate, espresso, huckleberry, hazelnut, orange, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, raspberry, tropical, vanilla
  • Carbs per serving: 22 grams
  • Caffeine: in some flavors
  • Sugar source: maltodextrin, dextrose

Hammer Nutrition sells various types of sports nutrition fuel, supplements, and bars.

Hammer Energy Gels are available in 12 flavors, including peanut butter, tropical, and apple cinnamon.

The espresso and tropical flavors do contain caffeine, so be sure to check the caffeine content before purchasing.

Every flavor is also gluten-free, though it’s unclear whether these gels are processed in a facility that also processes gluten.

According to the website, every flavor except hazelnut is also vegan.

Unlike other gels, Hammer Energy Gel can be purchased in a larger containers so that individuals can portion out their own gels, which may be more cost effective.

Reviewers like the wide variety of flavors, and most feel that the gels digest easily and have a pleasant taste.

Potential downsides: may cause stomach upset in some runners

Below are some of the most common questions on using energy gels to support your performance.

What are running gels?

Research shows that consuming carbohydrates during endurance exercise such as running can improve performance and help maintain blood sugar levels (1).

For this reason, many athletes use running gels, also known as energy gels, that contain an easily digestible source of carbohydrates and are designed to be quick and convenient to consume during long-duration workouts.

Are running gels necessary?

Running gels may not be necessary for all runners, especially when exercising for shorter periods of time.

Says Kolbo, “I recommend using them on any runs 90 minutes or longer. You can use them on shorter runs, too, but make sure you don’t ignore them when your runs get that long.”

That being said, some athletes prefer to use a food, such as dates, instead of gels.

How do you use running gels?

As Kolbo suggests, it’s a good idea to incorporate fuel for any training sessions longer than 90 minutes, but you can use them in shorter sessions as well.

Goblirsh recommends taking a gel every 30–45 minutes during longer training sessions. “Some runners may find it easier to think about miles rather than minutes. This may mean taking a gel every 3–6 miles, depending on pace,” Goblirsh adds.

Additionally, Goblirsh notes that everyone is different and some athletes may find they do better when fueling more often than these guidelines, so it’s important to experiment and see what works best for you.

Remember, consuming water with gels is important too. Goblirsh recommends taking a few sips of water before and after taking the gel to help with absorption and keep you hydrated.

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/energy-gel

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