No matter how much you load up on carbs the week before a long-distance event or training session, when it comes to taking part in endurance sports, taking on additional fuel is a necessary step in order to keep your body moving over long periods.
The best energy gels claim to do just this, supplying your body with quick-releasing carbohydrates that top up the glycogen stores that your body uses as fuel. Some gels now also contain caffeine, a popular addition for providing an additional boost in focus and attention, but one which isn’t always suitable for every athlete.
Figuring out which type of energy gel is best for you will require some trial and error. With everything from isotonic gels to energy bars and chews, it's best to test out a range of energy supplements when training to find the ones best suited to your body. Leave it to race day, and you could risk undoing months of hard work by taking a gel that upsets your stomach or doesn’t provide your body with the right fuel.
To help you achieve your long-distance fitness goals, The Recommended searched the internet to find a selection of the best user-reviewed energy gels online. We’ve listed the key ingredients and nutritional contents below each product and also included some helpful advice at the bottom of this article, explaining in simple terms what an energy gel is and when to take them.
The best energy gels at a glance:
- Best overall energy gel: HIGH5 Energy Gel
- Best high carb energy gel: OTE Super Gel
- Best resealable energy gels: Dextro Energy Energy Gel
- Best high caffeine energy gels: Powerbar PowerGel Hydro
- Best quick-release energy gels: Torq Energy Gel
- Best energy gels used by pros: Science in Sport Go Isotonic Energy Gel
- Best choice of flavours: Gu Energy Gel
- Best natural energy chews: Luchos Natural Guava Energy Bars
The best energy gels
Best overall energy gels: HIGH5 Energy Gel
Nice selection of fruity flavours
These glucose energy gels from High5 contain 23g of carbohydrates and are available with or without the addition of caffeine (30mg per gel) for a boost in focus.
- Carbohydrates: 23g
- Caffeine: 30mg (optional)
- Contents: 40g
Available in apple, banana, berry, blackcurrant, citrus and orange flavours, these fruity energy gels contain no artificial sweeteners or colourings and have a lump-free consistency to help when taking on the move. High5’s range of energy gels is used by the Team GB Taekwondo squad and professional road cycling team BORA - Hansgrohe.
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Best high carb energy gels: OTE Super Gel
These energy gels contain 40g of carbohydrates in each sachet, which is double the amount found in a typical gel, providing a significant boost of energy.
- Carbohydrates: 40g
- Contents: 66g
These energy gels are made with natural flavourings and come in berry or tropical flavours. They also contain maltodextrin and fructose, which are said to help the body absorb carbohydrates more quickly, as well as electrolytes, which help replace salts lost during exercise. OTE’s range of energy gels is used by Olympic triathletes, the Brownlee brothers and Denmark’s number one cycling team, Riwal Cycling Team.
Best resealable energy gels: Dextro Energy Energy Gel
High in dextrose
Dextro Energy’s liquid orange, blackcurrant, and apple energy gels contain 28g of dextrose, a naturally-occurring sugar and carbohydrate, which is said to provide an immediate boost of energy.
- Carbohydrates: 28g
- Contents: 60g
Great for scenarios where you don’t need to consume a whole pouch at once, these energy gels have a resealable screw-top to stop the contents from leaking into your bag or pockets. These gels are both gluten- and lactose-free and are suitable for vegans.
Best high-caffeine energy gels: Powerbar PowerGel Hydro
With 25g of carbohydrates per pouch, These liquid energy gels also contain 51 mg of caffeine, helping boost concentration and alertness without the hassle of drinking a coffee.
- Carbohydrates: 25g
- Caffeine: 51mg
- Contents: 67g
The addition of 200mg of sodium per pouch is great for replacing salts that you lose during exercise and for maintaining hydration. These cherry-flavoured energy gels are also made with natural flavourings, contain 67ml of liquid per pouch, and are suitable for vegans. Powerbar’s energy products are used by the likes of triathlete Sam Long, long-distance runner Des Linden and pentathlete Claire Green.
Best quick-release gels: Torq Energy Gel
Unique range of flavours
A 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose is said to help your body quickly absorb the 30g of carbohydrates in these energy gels.
- Carbohydrates: 30g
- Contents: 45g
Available in a range of interesting flavours, including rhubarb custard, apple crumble and cherry bakewell, these energy gels also contain five electrolytes to help the body replace salts lost through exercise. They are also formulated without artificial sweeteners and are gluten-free and suitable for vegans. Torq’s range of energy products is endorsed by a range of professional cyclists, triathletes and runners.
Best choice of flavours: Gu Energy Gel
These energy gels are denser than most alternatives, hence the name Gu. These small 32g sachets contain 22g of carbohydrates and come in a choice of bold flavours such as salted caramel.
- Carbohydrates: 22g
- Contents: 32g
These gels contain 100 calories per sachet, which Gu says is great for those with a slow metabolism as more calories would divert blood away from your muscles. If you are an athlete with a high metabolism, Gu recommended taking a gel every 30 minutes. They also contain sodium to help restore electrolytes lost when you sweat. Gu’s products are endorsed by a range of professional endurance athletes.
Best energy gels used by pros: Science in Sport Go Isotonic Energy Gel
Used by a plethora of elite athletes ranging from professional football teams to NBA stars, Science in Sports’ isotonic ‘Go’ energy gels contain 22g grams of quick-releasing carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates: 22g
- Contents: 60g
These popular energy gels come in a choice of flavours, such as raspberry, pineapple, and lemon and lime, and are also available with or without additional electrolytes. Designed to be consumed without water, they are said to be easily digestible and don’t leave you feeling bloated. They are also gluten-free, vegan and wheat-free.
Best natural energy chews: Luchos Natural Guava Energy Bars
A great alternative to gels, these Colombian energy bars from Lucho Dillitos are made from natural guava paste and contain 22.5g of carbohydrates per 40g block.
- Carbohydrates: 22.5g
- Contents: 40g
These energy blocks are great for endurance athletes who prefer solid chews over gels when on the move. They come in a range of interesting flavours, all containing guava, and are both gluten-free and suitable for vegans. Another perk over the majority of energy gels is that Luchos’ packaging is also compostable.
What is an energy gel?
Energy gels are sachets of quick-releasing carbohydrates and electrolytes that sometimes also include caffeine. Designed for endurance athletes, such as runners, cyclists and swimmers, they work by topping up your body’s glycogen stores, which are used to fuel exercise. The addition of electrolytes replenishes essential minerals - such as sodium, calcium and potassium - that are lost through sweat during exercise.
When to take energy gels
When to take energy gels is a contentious topic. Most manufacturers offer a guideline for how often to take a gel, with some suggesting consuming them as often as every half an hour. While this might be suitable for some athletes, it might not be advisable for others. It’s best to test it for yourself and find a balance that suits you.
How long does an energy gel take to work
Again, how long energy gels take to work will depend on your body. Manufacturers say that energy gels boost instant energy by providing carbohydrates that quickly enter the bloodstream. Everyone will absorb carbohydrates at different rates, but in general, you should feel the effects within five minutes.
If you would like to read more expert-recommended fitness round-ups, check out our Fitness page for a full list of recommendations, including the best resistance bands, the best kettlebells, and the best dumbbells, recommended by personal trainers.
Luke Chamberlain is a Staff Writer for The Recommended, and interviews some of the world’s most knowledgeable product experts to help readers make smarter decision about the products they buy online.