What are energy gels for runners and do you need them?

Runner in race carrying energy gels

When it comes to running, there is a lot to think about. From having the right trainers to figuring out what you should be eating. Nutrition is a big part of your overall performance, espeically when it comes fuelling yourself during your runs. This is where energy gels for runners come in.

Not everyone likes these sticky packets of fuel, but they have their place. When you’re running for more than an hour, you’re going to need to think about replacing some of the calories and salts you’re losing. It’s much better to get fuel into your body before you need it – run out, and you’ll know about it (aka hitting the wall).

Real food is great, especially in long-distance ultras or on trail runs, when you’re likely carrying a pack that you can stuff with flapjack and sandwiches. But when you’re doing a road race or around 10 miles or more, you just want something quick, easy and light to throw down your neck without breaking pace.

What are energy gels?

Energy gels have advanced a lot over the years. They are simply gels that are created to top up your carbohydrates and hence give you a steady stream of energy. The best gels will offer a 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose, as this is most easily absorbed by your body. Some gels will also have electrolytes in them, which is really important to replace salts (such as sodium and potassium) lost through sweat.

The advantages of energy gels are:

  • Light to carry and take up little space
  • Quick to ingest on the go
  • Are absorbed quickly into the body
  • Some have caffeine for an added boost
  • They come in lots of flavours and textures, so you can find one to suit

On the downside, they can be somewhat of an acquired taste. And for others, they can cause stomach distress. This is why you should experiment with gels in your training runs and never leave it until marathon day. One brand might suit you, but another might not – and this is not something you want to discover at mile 23 of a marathon after picking up an untested gel at an aid station.

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Best energy gels for runners

GU Energy Gels


GU  Energy Gels are in small packets that fit easily into your belt or running pack. They come in a huge choice of flavours, so you can test a few to see which ones you like best. Each gel gives you about 100 calories and a burst of carbohydrates; some options also have caffeine in so check what you’re ordering. They also contain sodium to replace lost salts, and are vegan, gluten-free and kosher. Having been around since 1991, these are one of the oldest gels on the market.

Gu Energy Gels for Runners

Huma Gel


If you’d rather keep your sports nutrition as natural as possible, then these gels are made with 100% real fruit and no added flavourings. They also contain ground chia, and stick to a 2:1 glucose to fructose ratio for better carbohydrate absorption. Some flavours have caffeine added too.

HUMA energy gels for runners

TORQ Energy Gel


These gels are designed to give you a really good carbohydrate hit, with about 30g per sachet, which is higher than most other gels. They also use the 2:1 ratio and they offer electrolytes; most flavours don’t have caffeine, but there are a couple that do so check the ingredients before ordering.

TORQ energy gels for runners

Honey Stinger Energy Gels


If you’re looking for energy gels for runners that are organic and natural, Honey Stinger could give you a great alternative to traditional gels. They are made with tapioca syrup, honey and electrolytes, in a choice of three flavours. The texture is different to other gels, so worth trying if you struggle with gels normally.

Honey Stinger energy gels for runners

SIS Go Isotonic Energy Gel


These isotonic gels are thinner than some other variants and can be taken without water. They are quite easy to swallow on the go, and give you 22g of carbs per sachet and 87 calories. They are good for replacing lost salts as well as a burst of energy.


Main image by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels