I'm kinda lost in all those energy gels options we have nowadays. I used to run marathons and back then there were just a few options and the main thing was whether or not it had caffeine in it.

Now it seems there's like like 1000's of different ones, gels, liquids, 100% naturals.... and a bunch of other things. I can't even begin to keep up.

So my question - I'd like to have a good, overall summary of the TYPES of gels/beans/in race supplements that are now out there. I don't care about specific brands - I mostly want to put all those options in some sort of framework so I can begin to tests some of each types & figure out what works for me...

Looking for 2 hours + runs in preparation for a 100k. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


The basic idea of an energy gel is to help maintain your blood sugar levels without you having to stop to eat something. It has to be easy to swallow and to digest. Our body absorbs simple carbohydrates faster than complex ones. If a particular gel has different types of carbohydrates (like glucose, maltodextrin, fructose, etc.), you'll absorb them even faster because there are different receptors that can absorb them at the same time.

Where it gets complicated is when you start to think of what other ingredients you might want in your gel to help with performance, recovery, etc. A bit of sodium is definitely desirable for long races or if you're sweating a lot, to prevent cramps and other symptoms of electrolyte imbalance. Some gels also have vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and others. I'm not sure if they help with performance, but they probably help with recovery.

That's basically it. Other more expensive gels might have additional ingredients like caffeine, taurine, amino acids, etc., but they're not as important. "All natural" is just a silly sales pitch that doesn't have any scientific basis.

For a 100 km race, most people will alternate between running and walking. In this case, I think it would be better to just eat a snack while walking. For really long races you'll probably need other nutrients as well, not just carbs. I'd recommend eating real food whenever you can and supplementing only when necessary. Expensive energy gels generally offer very little additional benefit, so I personally prefer the cheaper ones.

  • So essentially, for longer, lower-intensity stuff, you're more into a keep it simple school of thought, you point being that the added value at that intensity vs easily digested real food might not be much. Reading you it would seem a lot of the novelty is mostly added fluff for a nicer sales-pitch - basic stuff is basically just as good?
    – Francky_V
    Dec 10, 2019 at 17:12
  • @Francky_V Exactly.
    – Wood
    Dec 11, 2019 at 5:53

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