Abby Housefield

Written by Abby Housefield

8 COMMENTS

Which Energy Gel is Best for You?

How many times have you found yourself reading the ingredients label of different energy gels trying to determine which might be the best energy gel, only to get mixed up and frustrated, and not able to decide which gel might work the best for you?

Each company that sells sports nutrition products has it’s own marketing argument as to why their gel is the best one available. You may read statements such as:
“Contains 4x as much sodium as the leading competitors”
“Provides more energy to muscles…”
“Scientifically Proven”
“Wholesome Ingredients” etc.

It’s no wonder deciding which nutritional gel is best for you can be very confusing!

I have no intention of suggesting one gel over another in this blog since each person’s reaction to a particular gel is different. Some runners love the consistency of one brand but can’t stand the taste of another. Likewise, some runners need gels that are gluten-free, or they sweat more and thus need more electrolytes.  I simply want to supply you with a list of nutritional facts from gel products that only use natural ingredients in their products. No marketing propaganda aloud, just hard cold facts.

This will allow you to compare gels straight across the board and make an educated decision about the gel product that you would like to use on your runs. You can use this list for several valuable purposes:

  • Check different gels for ingredients you may be allergic to or sensitive to. Analyze gels for ingredients that may upset your stomach while running, or that you simply chose not to consume.
  • Compare electrolyte amounts; which will help you decide if you want to get your electrolytes and energy in one form or if you need to plan to carry a separate electrolyte source?
  • Compare added nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or caffeine.

Ingredients in common energy gels

Brand: PowerBar

PowerBar Gel Vanilla (0mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 110, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 200mg (8%), Potassium 20mg (1%), Total Carbs 27g (9%), Sugar 10 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients
C2 Max Carbohydrate Blend (Maltodextrin, Fructose), Water, PowerBar Electrolyte Blend (Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride), Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (to maintain freshness)

Other flavors: Raspberry Cream, Plain

PowerBar Gel Strawberry Banana (25mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 110, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 200mg (8%), Potassium 20mg (1%), Total Carbs 27g (9%), Sugar 10 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients
C2 Max Carbohydrate Blend (Maltodextrin, Fructose), Water, PowerBar Electrolyte Blend (Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride), Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Green Tea Extract and Caffeine from Tea, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (to maintain freshness) MADE ON EQUIPMENT THAT ALSO PROCESSES MILK AND SOY.

Other Flavors: Green Apple, Chocolate

PowerBar Gel Tangerine (50mg)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 110, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 200mg (8%), Potassium 20mg (1%), Total Carbs 27g (9%), Sugar 10 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients C2 Max Carbohydrate Blend (Maltodextrin, Fructose), Water, PowerBar Electrolyte Blend (Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride), Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Green Tea Extract and Caffeine from Tea, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (to maintain freshness)

Other Flavors: Double Latte

Brand: Gu Energy

GU Energy Gel Peppermint Stick
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 50mg (2%), Potassium 40mg (1%), Total Carbs 25g (9%), Sugar 5 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin C 100%, Vitamin E 100%, Calcium 2%
Ingredients
Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, GU Amino Blend (Leucine, Valine, Histidine, Isoleucine), Sodium And Potassium Citrate, Natural Peppermint Extract, GU Antioxidant Blend (Natural Vitamin C And Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Contains Preservatives [Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate], Fumaric Acid, Gu Herbal Blend [Chamomile, Ginger], Pectin.
Gluten-free. Dairy-free. No Caffeine.

Other Flavors: Strawberry Banana, Lemon SubLime, Mint Chocolate, Peanut Butter

GU Energy Gel Mandarin Orange (20mg caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Ingredients
Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, GU Amino Blend (Leucine, Valine, Histidine, Isoleucine), Sodium And Potassium Citrate, GU Antioxidant Blend (Natural Vitamin C And Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Natural Clementine Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Contains Preservatives [Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate], Fumaric Acid, Gu Herbal Blend [Chamomile, Cola Nut (Has Caffeine), Ginger], Oleoresin Paprika (natural color) Pectin.

Other Flavors: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Outrage, Triberry, Just Plain

GU Energy Gel Espresso Love (40mg caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 50mg (2%), Potassium 40mg (1%), Total Carbs 25g (9%), Sugar 5 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin C 100%, Vitamin E 100%, Calcium 2%
Ingredients
Maltodextrin (glucose polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, GU Amino Blend (Leucine, Valine, Histidine, Isoleucine), Sodium and potassium Citrate, nature coffee flavor, GU Antioxidant Bend (Natural Vitamin C and Vitamin E), Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Contains preservatives [Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate], Fumaric acid, malic acid, GU herbal Blend [Chamomile, Cola Nut (Has Caffeine), Ginger], Pectin

Other Flavors: Jet Blackberry,

Gu Roctane Ultra Endurance Gel Blueberry Pomegranate
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 125mg (5%), Potassium 55mg (2%), Total Carbs 25g (8%), Sugar 5 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin E 50%, Calcium 3%, Roctane Amino Blend: histidine, leucine, valine, isoleucine, orthanine alpha-ketoglutarate 480 mg, caffeine 35mg
Ingredients
Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, Roctane Amino Blend (Histidine, Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine), Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (Okg), Sodium Citrate, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Pomegranate Flavor, Natural Berry Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Caffeine, Contains preservatives [Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate], Natural Vitamin E.
Gluten-free. Dairy-free. 35mg of caffeine

Other Flavors: Vanilla, Orange

Brand: Hammer Nutrition

Hammer Gel Raspberry (0mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 80, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 20mg (1%), Potassium 10mg ( Ingredients
Maltodextrin, Filtered Water, Raspberry Puree, Energy Smart® (Fruit Juice, Natural Grain Dextrins), Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (as a preservative), Salt, Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine), Potassium Chloride.

Other Flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Orange, Vanilla, Unflavored

Hammer Gel Tropical (25mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 80, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 35mg (1%), Potassium 20mg (1%), Total Carbs 21g (7%), Sugar 2 g, Protein 0 g, Alanine 3.3mg, Isolucine 3.3mg, Leucine 6.6mg, Valine 3.3 mg, Caffine 25mg
Ingredients
Maltodextrin, Filtered Water, Pineapple Concentrate, Energy Smart® (Fruit Juice, Natural Grain Dextrins), Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (as a preservative), Caffeine, Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine), Potassium Chloride.

Other Flavors: None

Hammer Gel Espresso (50mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 90, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 35mg (1%), Potassium 35mg (1%), Total Carbs 22g (7%), Sugar 3 g, Protein 0 g, Alanine 3 mg, Isolucine 1.6 mg, Leucine 6 mg, Valine 3 mg, Caffine 50mg
Ingredients
Maltodextrin, Filtered Water, Energy Smart® (Fruit Juice, Natural Grain Dextrins), Cocoa Powder, Natural Flavor, Coffee Powder, Sodium Acid Sulfate, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (as a preservative), Caffeine, Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine), Potassium Chloride.

Other Flavors: None

Brand: Honey Stingers

Honey Stingers Banana
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 120, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 50mg (2%), Potassium 85mg (2%), Total Carbs 29g (10%), Sugar 29 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin B 25%

Ingredients
Honey, pure water, potassium citrate, salt, natural flavors, maltodextrin, niacinamide (vitamin B3), calcium panthothenate (vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride
(Vitamin B6), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Other Flavors:Chocolate, Gold, Ginsting (contains ginseng extract), Strawberry,

Vanilla Organic Energy Gel
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 50mg (2%), Potassium 50mg (1%), Total Carbs 23g (8%), Sugar 13 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin B 25%
Ingredients
Organic tapioca syrup, organic honey, water, potassium citrate, natural flavor, citric, acid sodium chloride
Other Flavors: Fruit Smoothie, Acai and Pomegranate

Brand: Clif Bar & Company

Clif Shot Energy Gel Razz (0mg caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 90mg (4%), Potassium 55mg (2%), Total Carbs 24g (10%), Sugar 12 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients
Organic Maltodextrin, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Water, Raspberry Juice Concentrate, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate Citric Acid.

Other Flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate

Clif Shot Energy Gel Strawbery (25mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 90mg (4%), Potassium 55mg (2%), Total Carbs 24g (10%), Sugar 12 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients
Organic Maltodextrin, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Water, Organic Strawberry Concentrate Extract, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Citric Acid, Green Tea Extract (contains caffeine).

Other Flavors: Citrus

Clif Shot Energy Gel Mocha (50mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 0g (0%), Sodium 60mg (2%), Potassium 85mg (2%), Total Carbs 24g (10%), Sugar 12 g, Protein 0 g
Ingredients
Organic Maltodextrin, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Water, Organic Cocoa (processed with alkali), Coffee Extract, Natural Flavor, Sea Salt, Green Tea Extract (contains caffeine), Potassium Citrate.

Other Flavors: None

Clif Shot Energy Gel Chocolate Cherry (100mg Caffeine)
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 110, Fat 1.5g (2%), Sodium 60mg (2%), Potassium 85mg (2%), Total Carbs 22g (7%), Sugar 12 g, Protein 1 g
Ingredients
Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Water, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Cherry Juice Concentrate, Green Tea Extract (contains caffeine), Natural Flavor, Potassium Citrate, Sea Salt.

Other Flavor: Espresso

Brand: Vega Performance

Vega Sport Endurance Gel Raspberry
Nutrition Facts
Calories: 100, Fat 1g (2%), Sodium 60mg (2%), Potassium 730mg (21%), Total Carbs 22g (7%), Sugar 17 g, Protein .5 g, Vitamin c 70%, Calcium 25%, Iron 4%
Ingredients
Dates, filtered water, EnergySource (grape juice, natural rice dextrin), sorghum malt,
Electrolyte blend (potassium, magnesium, calcium phosphate, sodium chloride, Vitamin C, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium) Coconut oil, citric acid, natural raspberry and strawberry flavors

Other Flavors: Orange Zest

What in the World are Some of Those Ingredients?!

Now that you’ve had a chance to compare ingredient lists (and you recognize most of the ingredients like, cane sugar, water, chocolate and green tea extract), what about the other ingredients. Maltodextrin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, malic acid and fumaric acid. Should you be consuming these? Are they helpful or harmful to your body? Luckily, that’s what we’re here for.

Here is a break down of each of those ingredients.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide (a long carbohydrate molecule) that is used as a food additive. Maltodextrin is easily digestible and absorbed rapidly in the body as glucose. It can be made from any starch, but in the U.S. it is typically made from corn. Maltodextrin can be made from wheat, but is so highly processed that little to no protein remains to cause an allergic reaction if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.

With maltodextrin being so readily absorbed, studies are suggesting that a combination of maltodextrin and fructose during exercise is more effect than maltodextrin alone. Does your gel combine maltodextrin with fructose? Or does it use a form of sugar that breaks down to both glucose and fructose, and not just glucose alone? Depending on whether your stomach agrees with these research findings, it’s an important ingredient to note.

Pros- easily digestible and absorbed, making it useful on long runs
Cons- Like sugar, consuming too much can cause weight gain. If you have wheat or corn allergy you need to be cautious, and highly processed.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is a food additive used for preservation. In acidic conditions it is a bacteriostat and fungistat. This means it keeps your gel from growing bacteria or fungus. It is used in food, cosmetics, medicine, and fireworks (the whistling noise of fireworks comes from sodium benzoate).

Pro- Your gel should be free of bacteria or fungus
Con – Sodium Benzoate can be toxic to cats at lower levels than humans (so don’t share your gels with your feline friends :). When combined with potassium benzoate, benzene is formed, which is a known carcinogen. Some studies are suggesting that Sodium Benzene combined with artificial colors may cause hyper activity.

Potassium Sorbate (aka Scrobic Acid)

Potassium Sorbate is a food preservative that inhibits mold and yeast from growing. It is also a useful substance for helping to increase the shelf life of a product.

Pro- No moldy gels! Research implies that it has a long-term safety record.
Con – It can be a skin, eye and respiratory irritant.

Malic Acid

Malic Acid is made by all living organisms which contributes to the sour taste of fruits and is used as a food additive. It is one of the few food additives in the U.S. that is also approved by EU, Australia and New Zealand.

Pro-Adds a nice tart taste to your fruity gels and is considered safe all around the world.
Con- None that I have found.

Fumaric Acid

Fumaric Acid is a chemical that has a fruit-like taste. It is a food additive used to regulate acidity. Fumaric acid is also used in the production of polyester resins, polyhydric alcohols and amordant for dyes.

Pro- “improves” the taste of gels.
Con- Although it is deemed safe world-wide, it is still a chemical and there are other more natural food additives that can accomplish a similar goal.

So which gel is best for you?

The goal of this blog is to provide you with a convenient list of nutrition facts and ingredient lists of a wide variety of brands and flavors of gels. A vital key to improving your running performance and physical health is nutrition education. Being aware of each ingredient in the sport nutrition products that you consume, and knowing if those ingredients are helping or hindering your body’s performance, will keep you healthier and running stronger.

The key to finding the perfect gel is testing, trying, and sampling a wide variety of flavors. Using this ingredients list, pick your favorite and give a few a try. Find the taste you like best and make sure to practice on your long runs before making the gel a part of your race strategy.

More on the science of energy gels here

Free Marathon Nutrition Course

The Simple 3 Step Calculation To Vanquish The Marathon Bonk

Here’s what we’ve got for you

How to calculate your exact glycogen storage and carbohydrate use so you know exactly how much you have to refuel

How to calculate your sweat loss and re-hydration rate to maintain optimal performance.

How to develop your individualized fueling plan using you sweat rate and glycogen usage.

References

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8 Responses on “Which Energy Gel is Best for You?

  1. Hello,

    Interesting article. I run a small business and we believe gels can be made better. We manufacture water based gels with no preservatives, sweeteners, gelling agents.

    Our gels stay fresh for over 12 months and have a nice gel structure which seems odd.

    We use a specific process step to ensure food safety with no preservatives and thicken the product with carbohydrates.

    Please take a look as we are very proud of them but struggle against the big companies to get listings.

    James Harrington
    MD Push Nutrition

  2. James, Brilliant you replied to this, my partner, she’s allergic to the preservatives in the standard energy gels and I was wondering how to overcome that for her, as she’s to train for a marathon next year. Will google your website.

    Chris

  3. Great comparison article! I work with a company named Endurance Products out of Portland, OR.

    We have a 4-6 hour sustained electrolyte release tablet made for runners, triathletes, cyclists, and other endurance athletes. If you still are updating this article, I would love to send over some samples so you can check us out!

    Our website is http://electrolytereplacementtablets.com/

    You can also reach me via email!

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