Five Things – Running Gels Rundown

The number of different energy gels for runners out there is bewildering, so we put a number of them through their paces in our Running Gels Rundown, along with the energy ‘jelly beans’ and a much cheaper alternative!

We won’t go into the rights and wrongs of using gels here, that’s a whole argument in itself. I decided to try out a number of different energy options for my long runs, with a decent selection to try out. Most of the gels have your usual fruity flavours, but the Jelly Belly Running Beans and the Gu Gels stood out as being the alternative options.

Here’s a summary, where you can see quickly which gels pack the most calories and best value for money as far as calories go. We found pricing to be difficult to pin point, with a wide variation in pricing. We went with an average range where possible, so if an item was £1.50 – 1.70, we used £1.60 in lieu of an RRP. Most of these can be bought much cheaper in bulk, but we went on the individual prices here.

Product Weight Cost Cals Cals/G Cost per Cal
Maxfuel Viperactive 70g £1.50 100 1.43  1.5p
SIS GO Isotonic Energy 60g £1.50 86 1.43  1.74p
High5 38g £1.40 92 2.42 1.52p
Lucozade Body Fuel Energy Gel 45g £1.00 123 2.73 0.81p
Powerbar Fast Fuel 41g £1.49 107 2.61 1.39p
Gu Energy Gel 32g £1.50 100 3.13 1.5p
Jelly Belly Sports Beans 28g £1.65 100 3.57 1.65p
Bassets Jelly babies 42g 35p 140 3.33 0.25p

Here’s what we thought of the individual gels:


1 Maxifuel ViperActive (70g, 100 calories, £1.50)

The mixed berry flavour doesn’t taste as expected! It has a tart, youghurty flavour which unpleasant at first, only as it was unexpected. The tartness is rather refreshing, and pleasant once you know it’s going to hit your taste buds. We also tried out a citrus burst caffeinated gel which was most pleasant, though we didn’t feel much impact from the 100mg caffeine fix. I did get a second wind on a 16k run, but it was probably due to people stopping to chat and taking up the entire cycle path while I had to run on the grass verge on one side with their dog doing something on the opposite verge that makes me supremely nervous on stepping on them in the first place.

They’re currently on offer in Boots as well, so these are currently my gel of choice, though only through price. Rating – 4/5

2 SIS GO Isotonic Energy (60g, 86 calories, £1.50)

These taste like orange jelly, which for me is good, but don’t have an overpowering taste. While most of the other gels were either gloopy, had a strong taste or an after taste; the SIS GO seems to win points for being inoffensive. All you want during a run is the energy boost, and this does just that.

Rating 4/5

 

3 High5 Energy Gels (38g, 92 calories, £1.30-1.60) 

The orange EnergyGel+ with caffeine has a bitter taste, which I put down to the caffeine. It’s not particularly unpleasant, and strangely familiar. The regular gels also have this strange flavour and only after the third or fourth tube did I realise that the orange one tastes a bit like sherry. The Summer Fruits gel however, is like squeezing melted jelly babies into your mouth, which would definately be our first choice of flavour in the future. This one is the cheapest gel, and packs in an impressive 92 calories into its 38g, but the strange after taste may or may not go down well. Rating 3.5/5

 

4 Powerbar Fast Fuel (41g, 107 calories, £1.49)

I tried the Lemon and Lime flavour, and it really was a shock to the palate! It was extremely citrusy, as expected, but after the initial shock I realised it was OK if not something I’d go back for more. The nearest thing I can think of to describe it is lemon curd, though not as tangy. It’s also available in a wide range of other flavours, though we didn’t get the opportunity to test them out for this review.

It was among one of the thicker, gloopier gels out there which means it might well be a marmite moment. 3.5/5

 

5 – Lucozade Body Fuel Energy Gel (45g, 123 calories, around £1)

Similar in flavour to their energy drinks, but not at all overpowering. Again, the Lucozade gels were a bit on the gloopy side, but like most of the others they kept the mouth refreshed and provide a most impressive amount of calories.

These don’t seem to be available on the official site any more, so they appear to be discontinued. 3.5/5

 

6 – Gu Energy Gel (32g, 100 calories, £1.50 ish)

This one is totally different to the others here. The flavours we tried had a mix of Lemon Sublime, Chocolate Outrage and Vanilla Bean. My first impressions were that I didn’t expect these to be particularly refreshing. However, I was totally wrong about that as they leave the mouth feeling as clean and refreshed as any of the other gels unlike chocolate which i find makes me immediately thirsty. The Chocolate Outrage is a bit like eating Nutella from a tube, without the nutty flavour (now that’s an idea). Add to that the sheer taste explosion, caffeine kick and the high calorie fix making these something to look forward to on a run. 4.5/5

7 – Jelly Belly Sports Beans (28g, 100 calories, £1.50-1.80)

While the bag is a pain to deal with while running, this is one of the few options that you don’t have to consume in one go. I liked the taste of these, which have a pleasant mouth watering tang.

The only thing we didn’t like is the price which is the only reason we score these down – four times that of a similar bag of jelly babies and higher than most gels. If they were available for a quid or so, without having to order a boxful then we’d rate these a more respectable 4.5, but as it is then it has to be 3.5/5

8 – Bassets Jelly Babies (42g, 140 calories, 35p)

If you just want an energy boost, then these are your budget choice! What else is there to say about them? There’s no vitamins or minerals, but you should be getting them from a balanced diet and not your running gels unless you’re pushing yourself seriously hard. For your 35p, you get 140 calories from your 42g of jelly babies. Buy cheaper supermarket brand JBs and you can get them even cheaper. They enjoy a cult following with fell runners, which says it all. 4/5

Summary

What we found was that many of the gels are similar, with only the GUs standing out as being ‘different’ with their chocolaty flavours and the Powerbar for having a bit more ‘chew’ than the others. The winner? The best budget buy has to go to the Jelly Babies, at only 35p for 140 calories, obtainable in any corner shop and tasty. As they don’t provide you with lost minerals, you need to question whether or not they’re suitable for your chosen activity or not.

The winner overall was a tough one. The GUs taste amazing, If they were a a bit larger then I’d take a couple for a wild camp as a pudding. The SIS was the least offensive, but it really was much of a muchness between them. The Maxifuel mixed berry I’m really not sure about, but the citrus one went down well. Likewise with the High5 berry, though the others didn’t overly impress they were far from being unpleasant. The SIS GO is maybe a nose ahead of the others as it is isotonic, but I didn’t use water with any of the others anyway (it is winter, and I keep hydrated) and it would be unfair to mark it up for that factor alone as the others are also available in an isotonic variety (High5 do an Isogel that’s isotonic).

I think that the GUs come out as overall winners, simply for the fact that they offer something different that stands out from the very similar gels from other companies. If you’re going to go for a gel, then you won’t go far wrong with the SIS, High5 or Maxifuel but you’ll need to try out a few yourself to see what pleases and then see which ones are available on offer in bulk before deciding. I’ll definitely continue with a selection of these, depending on availability and price.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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