Best Hydration & Energy Gels Reviewed for Performance
An important part of running is maintaining both the fuel and hydration level of your body. Much like your car, your body isn’t going to run properly without fuel. Does this mean you should eat right before you head out for a run? Well no, you shouldn’t eat right before a run doing so can cause an upset stomach. There are other ways to fuel your body before or even during your run. In the past, during long runs, runners would hit the water bottle and down something sugary. Doing this would give the runner that last blast of energy they needed to push through their run.
- GU Energy
- Huma Chia
- Natural Ingredients
- Gatorade Prime
Now with the changing times, runners have the advantage of using what is called energy gel. These are small pouches, packed with carbohydrates and electrolytes for your body’s refueling. The carbohydrates are what provides your body with the fuel. While the electrolytes will help to keep you hydrated during your run. Choosing the right one for you can seem like a daunting task, as there are so many options on the market now. Here we have compiled a list of ten potentially top hydration and energy gels. This information should help you choose which hydration and energy gel you might like to try.
10 Best Hydration & Energy Gels
1. GU Energy
Electrolytes are essential for remaining hydrated during your run. Sometimes you will need a little boost along with your water intake, to keep your body balanced. A hydration and energy gel like this one will provide you with added electrolytes to keep you hydrated.
Amino acids are great for combating muscle damage, but will also aid in your overall run recovery. This gel comes with 450 milligrams of amino acids in each packet. Your muscles will thank you for the help with their recovery.
Cost and Value
For a sliding price range, this hydration and energy gel can be purchased in bulk or in a lesser quantity. It is also available in a multitude of flavor profiles as well. Aiding your body with hydration, recovery, and endurance that to me is a lot of bang for your buck.
- Contains amino acids
- Provides electrolytes
- Some flavors come with caffeine
- Aids in muscle recovery time
- Some flavors seem too sweet
- Can cause stomach irritation
2. Huma Chia
Made mostly from fruit puree, chia, and coconut water this gel is said to be easy to digest. Making it suitable even for those that are sensitive to this type of product.
A steady source of energy, instead of a sugar rush sounds like it is more practical. That is why this gel uses chia as one of the main ingredients, chia is known for being a more stable energy source. So you get the same great benefits, without the crash that happens after consuming too much sugar.
Cost and Value
This hydration and energy gel will cost more than some of the others, due to the natural ingredients used to make the gel. If you're looking to avoid the issue of stomach sensitivity, you won't mind paying the extra to get your hands on this gel.
- Natural ingredients
- Easy to digest
- Comes in plenty of flavors
- No sugar crash feeling
- Some flavors are sweet
- Not able to take one handed
3. Clif Shot
Loaded with 50 milligrams of caffeine, which comes from green tea extract, this gel will push you through the race. Even when your body doesn't feel like it can go any further.
Included in the gel packet is both sodium and potassium. These two minerals are not only essential for hydration but can help reduce muscle cramping caused by fatigue.
Cost And Value
A powerful way to give your body the boost it needs, this gel will carry through the weakest of moments. Packed with electrolytes and caffeine, your body will benefit from this hydration and energy gel.
- Contains sodium and potassium
- Made with mostly organic ingredients
- Thin in consistency
- Fast acting
- Caffeine content can cause stomach issues
4. GU Roctane Ultra Endurance
I know we went over the effects of amino acids earlier, so I will cut to the chase. This gel has over three times the milligrams of amino acids as it's original formula. What that means for you, even more, prevention against muscle damage.
With plenty of flavor options to select from, you are sure to find one or even two that you will enjoy. Each flavor comes with its own caffeine content, so it is wise to check the label before you purchase.
Cost and Value
A little higher in price, this gel is definitely for the more hardcore runner. Packed with extra electrolytes and amino acids, your body will recover much quicker with the help of this gel.
- 1425 milligrams of amino acids
- Plenty of flavor options
- Some flavors have caffeine
- Absorbs quickly
- Complaints of after taste
- Thick consistency
5. Accel Gel Rapid
The formula for this gel is a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein. This formula is backed by a study that proves this gel will improve your recovery time, lengthen your endurance, and improve your overall performance.
For those training for a marathon, looking to improve their endurance, this gel would be worth a try. With it's combined ingredients, some users have seen as much as a 13% improvement in their endurance level.
Cost and Value
With a study to back its claims, runners who have tried this hydration and energy gel have gotten their money's worth. Looking to improve your performance or endurance for the next big race? I'd give this gel a shot.
- Contains 5 grams of protein
- Promotes muscle recovery
- Increases endurance and performance
- Gel seems runnier than normal
6. Science in Sport
You can choose from products that are easier to digest, where you don't need as much water to consume the gel. Looking for electrolytes, there is a gel that provides you with both carbohydrates and three essential minerals for replacing electrolytes. If a serious boost is what you're after, try one with caffeine, or double the caffeine.
No matter which line of product you choose, you know for sure that you will be getting 22 grams of quick absorbing carbohydrates. The faster you can absorb the carbohydrates, the quicker your body can benefit from them.
Cost and Value
Since this manufacturer has covered all the benefits you might be looking for in a gel, I'd say they are worth your time to try. These come in at one of the lowest for cost on the list but have the potential to pack the biggest punch.
- Comes in a vast variety
- No need for water when consuming
- Carbs absorb quickly
- Fast acting energy boost
- Packaging is big for on the go
- Texture is off putting
7. PacificHealth 2nd Surge
To fight the idea of fatigue in your mind, you might drink coffee or tea when you feel sluggish. Much like both of those, this gel provides you with the caffeine you need to fuel your mind for focus.
Combining protein, carbohydrates, and calorie replacement, this gel has just what your body needs to fight that fatigue. Replacing those calories lost during a run are extremely important for your body to perform properly.
Cost and Value
With all the potential benefits found in this gel, paired with the great price point this gel offers you a ton of value. When you start to feel like you dragging, this hydration and energy gel has what you need in order to succeed.
- Reduces damage to muscles
- Combines protein and carbohydrates
- Reduces the signs of fatigue
- Caffeine content can cause stomach irritation
8. Gatorade Prime
Vitamin B is an essential aspect of breaking down the carbohydrates you consume. The faster you can break them down, the quicker your body can benefit from them. That is the reason this brand chooses to add vitamin B to the mix, for your benefit.
For the balance of your hydration system, this gel provides you with the electrolytes you need. It is crucial to your performance and recovery time to keep your electrolyte balance in check.
Cost and Value
For a great price, you can both hydrate and fuel your body through to the finish line with this gel. These come in packs of 20, with three flavors to choose from you can stock up on these without being a burden to your wallet.
- Has vitamin B
- Contains electrolytes
- Comes in bulk
- Has three flavor options
- Poor package quality
9. Spring Energy Gel
Made from things such as organic bananas, chia, and beetroot just to name a few things. You can be sure that your electrolytes and carbohydrate sources in this gel are coming to you in a clean form.
Since your carbohydrate source is more stable., than those that use sugar, you can be sure that you won't have that feeling of crashing. For those that don't know what that is, think back to when you were a child. Remember all the candy you ate at Halloween, and how you felt after? That my friends are a sugar crash.
Cost and Value
For a more natural approach to hydration and energy, this gel uses natural ingredients as their source. So naturally, the cost of this product will be slightly higher. For those who follow a cleaner eating style, the higher cost isn't normally an issue.
- Natural ingredients
- Source of electrolytes
- No crash after
- Easy to digest
- Very thick in consistency
10. Carb Boom
For a steadier carbohydrate source, this gel has only 3 grams of sugar added to it. This means that your carbohydrate absorption will be much quicker, turning it into fuel faster.
Comes in a wide variety of fruity flavors, which is great for those who are sick of the chocolate and caramel craze. With so many different flavors to choose from, you're sure to find one that will suit your flavor needs.
Cost and Value
This option comes in a pack of 24, with plenty of flavors to choose from. The price is decent, so after you have tried these out you can feel free to stock up on these.
Being able to choose the right hydration and energy gel for you is really done by process of elimination. You might be able to find one right away that doesn’t upset your stomach. While others need to try several different ones before finding what works best for them. To get yourself started, try taking one packet of hydration and energy gel before your run.
In the event you run for longer than an hour, you may need to take another packet after 45 minutes to an hour have expired. It is recommended that you start with one packet to see how well you tolerate the gel. If you pay attention to how your body reacts to the gel, you will know whether or not the gel you have chosen is right for you.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Performance of Hydration & Energy Gels
Knowledge of the ingredients used in the gel
The best thing you can do before choosing a hydration and energy gel is to check the ingredients used in the gel. Some will contain a form of caffeine, to give you an added boost. A gel that does contain caffeine, will be marked on the packet. People with caffeine sensitivities should opt to select a different gel. There are gels that provide you with electrolytes, which play an important role in your hydration. Electrolytes can normally found in the form of specific minerals, like sodium, potassium, or magnesium. Most of the gels will contain sugar, in one or more forms, some may have more sugar than others. Let me ask you this, what do you do about the ingredients you don’t know?
In this section, we will cover the most commonly found, bigger named ingredients. This will further arm you with the knowledge you need to choose a gel with good fit ingredients for you. Just because you can’t say it, doesn’t mean that you should ignore that ingredient.
This is one of the most popular ingredient choices among the hydration and energy gel manufacturers. Simply put, maltodextrin is a combination of simple sugars, that come together to form carbohydrates. Typically made from corn, these sugars are one of the fastest to be broken down in the metabolism. For this reason, maltodextrin is a more popular form of carbohydrate used to date. Some people have been known to have a sensitivity to maltodextrin, if you are one of those individuals, a gel with this ingredient may not work for you.
Sodium benzoate is added to the gel as a preservative, which prevents bacteria or fungus from forming in the gel. Preservatives spark a wide variety of opinions, but ultimately the choice is yours to whether or not you like this ingredient. What I will tell you, sodium benzoate, along with other preservatives are used in many food and non-food items all the time.
Scrobic acid can be used to extend the life of the product, as it tends to slow the growth of both mold and yeast.
Fumaric acid is an additive used to counter the level of acidity in the gel. Since fumaric acid has a somewhat fruity taste, it is often times used to aid in improving the taste of the gel.
Are electrolytes necessary
A key part of both hydration and energy is keeping your electrolytes balanced. Hydration and energy gels can help you achieve that balance when used properly. Since we all lose our electrolytes at a different rate, finding the correct gel for you may take some experimenting. A factor that should also be considered is the weather, during times of warm weather you will surely need more electrolytes. This might lead to using more than one gel during a run or pairing the gel with a sufficient amount of water.
One could say that there are a plethora of flavor choices on the market when it comes to hydration and energy gels. This gives you the opportunity to select a flavor of your preference. However, it is not recommended to solely base your purchase decision just on flavor.
How hydration and energy gels actually work
It is a popular opinion that hydration and energy gels are your biggest lifesaver during a run. This statement has both truth and fiction to it. Sure, the gel will give you a boost, but really it is boosting your mind to get over the hurdle for the last stretch. Since your body uses the carbohydrates stored in your muscles, the gel itself doesn’t have the time to affect your muscles. These gels will, in fact, help replace the electrolytes and calories lost during your run.
Which gel is best for me
As we briefly touch on earlier, finding the hydration and energy gel that works best for you is typically done by elimination. Since we all spend electrolytes and energy at different rates, what works well for your friend may not work for you. What type of a runner you are will also be a factor in choosing a gel. Those who run more frequent for longer periods will need something stronger than a person who runs occasionally for short time frames. Be sure to check the ingredient list, this will allow you to rule out any brands that have ingredients you are sensitive to. It is recommended that you choose a brand that carries ingredients that are truly good for your body. This will add to the performance of your run, rather than hinder your run.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When should I take the gel during my run?
A: You should consume the gel according to your bodies timing. For example, if your run at extreme paces, taking the gel early is a good idea. As most runners know, your body will restrict the blood to your stomach during heavy physical activity. This allows the blood to flow to the muscles doing the work, which in turn can cause your digestion to slow. For this reason, runners who consume a gel or even water can sometimes vomit when consuming these things too late in the run.
Q: How many gels should a person take?
A: This will rest on how many your stomach can handle without getting upset. With that being said, this doesn’t mean that the gel is the only item in your diet. When taking the gel during a run, it is best to wait at least one hour between each gel. If you are running for a short distance, one gel should be plenty. For those longer runs, like marathons, you can repeat the gel after one hour. Just try to avoid over consuming them, this will overload your system with sugar, eventually leading to the crash.
Q: I want to use these gels, but my stomach doesn’t tolerate them well what can I do?
A: This is probably due to your system not being able to digest the gel properly during your run. In this case, you could try taking less of the gel, but at earlier times. For example, try taking a quarter of the packet but every 20 minutes instead of the entire thing at once. This should allow your stomach the time to digest the contents without any adverse reactions.
Q: Can I take a gel and follow it with a sports drink for better hydration?
A: Doing this is not recommended, after taking these gels your body needs water to aid in the digestion process. Using a sports drink will only add to the level of sugar you are consuming, which can cause an upset stomach. This can also lead to an electrolyte overload, causing further stomach and digestive tract issues.
- Running Competitor, Everything You Need to Know About Energy Gels
- Runners Connect, Energy Gels for Running: How They Work and When You Should Take Them
- Rei, How to Choose Energy Bars, Gels & Drinks