When you're pushing your body to the limits, you need to keep your fuel levels up. While a sandwich and piece of cake can do the job, and in a very pleasant manner, sometimes that's just not efficient enough.
An energy gel is a very quick and simple way to get a load of easy to digest energy straight in to your system.
We've been slurping and squeezing a wide range of gels from a range of companies to find out which one gives the most palatable of energy hits.
Stealth Advanced Isotonic Gel
- Price: £1.25 (60g)
- Buy a pack of seven at Cycle Store
The latest nutrition brand on the block is masterminded by Dr Tim Lawson who started SIS back in his kitchen 20 years ago, before selling it a few years back.
These rice starch and fructose gels have a distinctive starchy texture that gives more of a sense of having food, but it’s still isotonic.
Subtle but ‘real’ flavours (the citrus ones are actually slightly bitter) don’t gripe even after you sucked down several either. If you're feeling low, the quick pick-up of energy is handy, but they still manage to provide fuel for extended efforts. Considering how well they work, the pricing is reasonable.
Wiggle Nutrition Energy Gel
- Price: £0.50 (38g)
- Buy 20 at Wiggle
Despite being less than a third of the price of some competitors here, Wiggle’s gel does a perfectly acceptable job of keeping your fire lit most of the time.
It’s noticeably sweet and synthetic in taste , especially if it’s hot or you’re working hard and it needs swilling down with extra water. They don’t have the Fair Trade/organic/ethical/no artificial flavouring kudos of some either, but it opens easily and puts you back on pace fast when you’re flagging.
Caffeine enhanced versions are also available if you need a mental as well as motor boost.
- Price: £1.55 (45g)
- Buy Torq Gels at CycleStore
Torq’s excellent natural ‘dessert’ flavours (rhubarb and custard) make these the only gels we actually enjoy gulping down rather than enduring as effective fuel. They do taste strong though so it’s worth trying a few to find the one you really like before bulk buying.
The 2:1 Maltodextrin/Fructose energy delivery is fast enough to catch a sudden fade but won’t unbalance you on steady runs.
While price might seem high, the actual Kcal per £ count is reasonable and the small pack is matched to Torq’s energy bars for easy energy intake pacing.
OTE Isotonic Gel
- Price: £1.50 (56g)
- Buy 20 at Chain Reaction Cycles
With a PH neutral balance and vegan, kosher and gluten free recipe for all flavours, OTE’s gel is designed to be as inoffensive as possible.
The natural flavours are light and combine with the balanced acidity to keep them useable all day rather than emergency only. The mix is isotonic too so you don’t need to gulp down more water, and while 20g carb count is slightly low it syncs with OTE’s bar and energy drink doses.
Two different ‘sip’ or ‘gulp’ lines on the packet make them physically user friendly too.
High5 Energy Gel
- Price: 99p (40g)
- Buy a box of 20 at Pro Bike Kit
High5’s standard EnergyGel (isotonic ‘Isogel’ also available) uses an ‘unset jelly’ style mix and five different real fruit flavours. These are okay for a couple of gels but they can get a bit much in a ‘how do pros eat these all day way’ if you slam a load down without getting used to them beforehand.
It’s vegan friendly and well priced with WADA certified batches available at a slight premium.
The glucose/maltodextrin mix is rich at 23g for a 40g gel, which makes it a bit more abrupt in arrival than some, so beware peaks and troughs when you’re taking them and keep water levels topped up too.
PowerBar PowerGel Hydro + Caffeine Boost
- Price: £1.58 (70g)
- Buy a box of 24 at Evans
Powerbar’s isotonic gel runs a ‘C2Max’ 2:1 Maltodextrin carb:fruit sugar mix for versatile fuelling whether you’ve suddenly hit the wall or for steady slurping on a longer ride/run.
The fast tearing pack saves struggling and it's wet enough not to need swilling down with a drink. Carb content is average despite the larger than average size, but the 100mg caffeine is a big dose that needs treating with care.
The very synthetic, acidic taste of the citrus versions pushed the limits of palatable for several testers too.