When to grab an energy gel on a ride

8 tips for getting your energy right on a ride

Sugar-rich gels get a bad rap from some riders but they have their place, and mountain bike coach Chris Kilmurray explains how to use them and when to grab a gel.

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1. Know when to take them

Only consume gels after the first hour of exercise — unless it’s very intense!

2. Drink water

Always drink water with them, or make sure to buy isotonic gels.

Remember to drink water with gels, unless they’re isotonic
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media

3. Don’t rely on gels alone

Ensure you have real food, energy bars and/or an energy drink as well. Gels should form only part of your nutrition strategy.

4. One per ride

As a rule of thumb, one gel a ride is enough for an MTBer if you have other food sources.

5. Check the carbs

Read the label and see how much carbohydrate is in each gel. Usually it’s up to 25g. You seldom need more than 90g an hour.

Make sure you eat some real food too
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media

6. Timing

Timing is key. Most gels take 15 minutes to digest, so plan accordingly.

7. Watch the caffeine

Many gels contain caffeine — great at the end of ride, but a bad idea on an empty stomach.

8. Keep it real

Only buy gels that contain NO artificial sweeteners. Your stomach will thank you.

If you eat other foods on a ride you should only need one gel
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media

Three of the best

HIGH5 IsoGel Plus

The ultimate all-in-one gel. Multiple types of carbohydrate for a happier stomach, added water for a smoother texture and easy swallow, and just enough caffeine to keep you alert and sharp. Winning!


Not an energy gel but a ‘protein’ gel to be used after training, as a snack or during long days out. One of the new breed of gels that cover more than just your sugar hit.

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A 2:1 blend of carbohydrates. Natural flavourings and loads of flavours (rhubarb & custard, anyone?) make this a top choice.