Here are the gels I reviewed for Trail Running Magazine. I took one (sometimes two) on my long runs. How a runner tolerates gels is very individual, therefore I tried to be objective and not let my personal preference influence my reviews! I hope it helps all you undecided gel users choose which ones to try on your next run.
SIS Go Isotonic Energy Pink Grapefruit (60ml) £1.29 87kcals, carbs 22g, sodium 25mg
This is a palatable, mild tasting gel that doesn’t require water. The sachet is easy to open, though larger in size so the packet is not as easy to fit into a pocket after consumption. Sugars used are maltodextrins. Great for trail runners due to ease of use without need to carry water.
Verdict Isotonic gel, so no water needed and top marks for ease of use.
High 5 Isogel Orange (60ml) 99p
94kcals, carbs 23g, sodium 27mg
This is more of a drink than a gel, no extra water needed. Mild tasting and made with real fruit juice. It’s easy to swallow but due to watery consistency, it did get messy on opening. There’s a knack to opening the rip tab, I had to stop running the first time. Sugars used are glucose and maltodextrin. Good for trail runners that can’t tolerate gel consistency and no need to carry water. Verdict Can get messy due to liquid consistency, slightly sweeter due to glucose content.
Torq Gel Apple Crumble (45g) £1.25 114kcals, carbs 28.8g, sodium 50mg A very sweet, strong flavoured gel. Medium consistency and can be taken without water. Small sachet so good for carrying/disposal. The 2:1 (maltodextrin:glucose) carbs combination can allow for higher carb absorption rates. Good for trail runners as it’s very compact making it easy to carry and store in pockets. Verdict Small and portable with higher carb absorption rates possible if 3 gels/hour are taken. 8/10
Clif Shot Gel Citrus + Caffeine (34g) £1.35 96kcals, carbs 24g, sodium 90g
A thick non-spilling gel needing plenty of water, sweet tasting with a pleasant citrus flavour. Useful litter leash attaching tab to sachet so easier to dispose. Sugar is maltodextrin and contains fatigue-delaying caffeine but only 25mg – you need minimum 3mg/kg of bodyweight for an effect so that’s 210mg for a 70kg (11 stone) runner and therefore this is of little effect. Verdict Great for litter dilemma with tab leash and very compact, and mess-free thick consistency but requires water with it. 7/10
Huma Chia Energy Gel Blueberries (46g) £1.99 99kcal, carbs 22g, sodium 90mg An all natural gel, sweet taste but the lumpy texture due to chia seeds takes some getting used to. Water needed especially as it’s not a smooth consistency. The small sachet is easy to hold and consume while running. Sugars used are cane juice and rice syrup (the equivalent of glucose and fructose). Good for trail runners that don’t like synthetic nature of regular gels. Verdict Perfect for those that want a natural product and don’t mind a lumpy gel. 7/10
Sponser Liquid Energy Long Salty (40g) £1.25 94kcals, carbs 23g, sodium 180mg Claimed as Britain’s first savoury gel but as well as the salt taste it is still relatively sweet and may be an acquired taste for some. Water is needed with consumption. It’s easy to open and the sachet quite small and easy to carry. Sugars used are glucose and isomaltulose, however the latter is slower to digest and some studies show a higher use of muscle glycogen stores as a result. This gel has the highest sodium content so good for hot environments. Verdict Taste may take getting used to but great for those who hate sweet gels doing races in hot places. 6/10
DIY energy gel The most important ingredients in a gel are carbohydrate and electrolytes, mainly sodium (deleted potassium). You won’t get an exact gel made at home, but it’s perfectly straightforward to achieve a similar balance. This simple recipe provides the basic equivalent of one energy gel, 92kcals with 23g carbs, 26mg sodium:
21g (1 tbsp) honey
12g (1/2 tbsp) black strap molasses
Add a little warm water to help these ingredients mix together in a small, strong plastic bag or scale up for use in a gel bottle. The gel is tasty and sweet as it is, or you can add flavour with vanilla or peppermint essence, or crushed fruit like raspberries. However, the fibre content in fruit might not agree with some, and adding fruit will add more sugar (ie energy) to your DIY gel.