Racing has begun, so to kick off the season, here is a list of my favorite (and least favorite) gels.
Enervit is quite possibly my favorite gel and my “go-to” race nutrition for several years. The gel is very thin, which I like, and it has a screw-off cap. The cap may be annoying to some, but it’s better than ripping straight through a gel pack, or not ripping enough to get any gel.
It is difficult to describe the taste. There is a flavour on the packaging, but it is more like what an alien would guess that flavor tastes like.
Enervit also has a 2:1 Maltodextrin to Fructose mix that really sat well in my tummy. The only downside to Enervit is it is nearly impossible to find it in the USA. It is an Italian brand and we seem to be in one of the ebbs of the “ebb and flow “ of popularity of Italian cycling accessories.
GU is the "OG" of energy gels. They have been around seemingly forever (especially to all you youngbloods that never rode high-end aluminum bikes with 9-speed rear derailleurs).
GU also uses Maltodextrin and Fructose as carbohydrates, but the information is lacking on the ratio of the sugars. I would categorize GU as a thicker gel, which I personally do not enjoy. I have also not found a flavor of GU I really like; plain is okay, but I like celery (it is just as hard to hate as it is to like it). I have no ill will toward GU, it is just not for me.
3. Clif Shot
Clif Shot is another gel that has been around seemingly since the beginning of time. Texture-wise, Clif Shots are about the same thickness as GU. However, Clif sets itself apart by being made of Maltodextrin and Cane Sugar (i.e., Sucrose). Clif Shots taste good because sucrose tastes good. Unfortunately for me, sucrose makes my tum tum backfire, so I try to stay away from them while racing.
Maurten is the new kid on the block and the taste of IRONMAN. I like Maurten. Its only flavoring is the glucose and fructose, which are the main ingredients. Glucose is not only nice and sweet but super digestible. Maurten has a constancy somewhere between GU and Enervit, which gives a good mouth feel.
My only knock on Maurten is how much it costs. It is by far the most expensive on this list. Don’t tell anybody, but I'll load up on Maurten on the last aid stations of the bike and run, so I have some to train with after the race.
5. SIS Isotonic Gel
Science in Sport--the nerds of the gel world. SIS is a very close second for my favorite gel. Even though Science in Sport Isotonic Gel has the most sciency-sounding name, it is the simplest (carbohydrate-wise) on the list. SIS only has Fructose as the main ingredient. It sits well in my stomach and is nearly as thin as Enervit. The beauty of SIS is it is thin enough to not need any fluid to wash down the gel.
Roctane is in the GU family. It has the same basic thick consistency as GU, it it has a bunch more salts. As a person that does at least one 100+ degree race a year, the added electrolytes really come in handy. I also enjoy the Roctane flavors more than the basic GU.
Another one of the "OG" gels, PowerGel is PowerBars’s gel. It is similar in thickness to GU and Clif, and relies on Glucose and Fructose in a 2:1 ratio for its carbohydrates. While PowerGel checks the box for my ideal carbohydrate combo, I just haven’t had a flavor that I like. Long story short - good on paper, bad on the tongue.
8. Hammer Gel
Yet another of the gels that have been around forever. Hammer Gel is thick and made from Maltodextrin with a little Sucrose and Dextrin. As mean as it seems, I have nothing nice to say about Hammer Gel. Maltodexrin feels like a brick in my stomach, it takes genuine effort to get it out of a packet, and it is sickly sweet. If Hammer Gel works for you, that’s great, but it is not for me.
9. Gatorade Gel
Gatorade Gel is another relative newcomer to the gel game. It has a thin consistency but is the most lacking in the carbohydrate department.
The main carbs are Maltodextrin, Brown Rice Sugar, and Sugar. Brown Rice Sugar is mainly Maltotriose, Maltose, and a tiny bit of Glucose. Meaning the only carb is essentially Maltodextrin, which is not ideal nutritionally.
10. Potato in a Bottle
This one is a bit weird. Back when I first began cycling, a guy I rode with was a former national champion XC skier and swore by the potato in a bottle.
The way you make it is the night before a race, you peel a potato, put it in a water bottle, and add water. By the time of the race, the potato will turn to goo and be able to be consumed through the bottle. The consistency is actually similar to Maurten. The taste is awful but sits well in the stomach. It turns out that potatoes are made of Fructose, Sucrose, and Glucose.
Coach Adam Sczech is an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and VFS Master Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners, and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, as well as numerous Olympic and Sprint races.