Which energy gel is best for me, my sport and ambitions?

As the sports nutrition industry is saturated with countless gel products – all with their own “scientific concoctions” that come with a long list of promises, it’s almost impossible to decipher which will actually get the job done. In addition, trying to figure out which best suits your individual needs is yet another level of complication.

But no worries…we’re here to simplify it for you!

1. Keep it simple: How much energy per energy gel?

As the ultimate purpose of an energy gel is to give you energy, be sure to compare their energies on an equal scale. Don’t simply compare gels according to the “per 100 grams” column, but also according to package size. If a gel weighs only 30 grams, for example, it cannot be directly compared to a 60-gram gel by simply using the “per 100 grams” chart.  

Important: grams of carbohydrates per serving

  • The ideal gel should contain between 30 – 35grams of carbohydrates. Fewer than this and your body will not be optimally supported. More than 40 grams and it will be a strain on your stomach.
  • The ideal energy gel always contains more than 50 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams.

2. Carbohydrate ratio

Not only is the total volume of energy important, but its composition also plays a major role. Endurance athletes will get the most out of a 2:1 ratio of fructose to glucose as they are taken up in phases for steady energy.

2:1 ratio fructose – glucose

Your body can absorb a maximum of 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Anything more is simply not absorbed. BUT…to bypass this rule and supply the body with 30% more energy per hour, fructose and glucose can be mixed in the proper ratio of 2-to-1. As both of these are absorbed differently in your gut, it allows you to absorb these two substances simultaneously without limiting the other. What you’ll feel is that optimal effect of energy absorption for a high level of continuous energy.

Multi-stage extension

By adding a third, longer-lasting energy to the mix, you’ll get a longer lasting energy supply.  

First to be used by your body are the “simple sugars” of fructose and glucose. Once these sources are expended in about 20 minutes, energy intake stops – along with your effort…unless you add maltodextrin to the mix! Maltodextrin is longer-lasting energy that will keep you going up to 45 minutes after ingestion. For endurance athletes like cyclists, this is an absolute must.

3. Digestibility

What good is an energy gel with lots of energy in the right proportions if you can’t digest it well.
Hence these 2 tips:

  • Take gels with a neutral pH: These gels guarantee the best digestion because they have no added acids and flavorings. The Neapharma gels are perfect for this purpose.
  • Train your gut: Just like your body can’t run 180 km without training, your stomach can’t handle just anything thrown into it. Your stomach and intestines will strongly object if you try and consume more than 65 grams of calories per hour. Therefore, start training to consciously take in more than 65 grams so that you can easily cope with big challenges.

4. Added ingredients

We are big believers that an energy gel should give you lots of fast, easily digestible energy. Nothing more. Nothing less. With this said, most additional ingredients that don’t directly give you energy are added strictly for marketing purposes. They do nothing for boosting performance or your health. There are some, though, that actually prove useful:

  • Salt or sodium: when you sweat, you lose salt. This needs to be replenished to keep performing and to prevent dehydration. In addition to an isotonic drink, it is useful for a gel to have at least 0.5 grams of salt per 100 grams.
  • Vitamin C or manganese: Vitamin C has traditionally been used to transport carbohydrates more quickly throughout your body for faster absorption – meaning quicker access to energy. More recent gel formulations have switched over to manganese for this purpose as it has a better effect.
  • Caffeine: gels with caffeine provide an extra boost: you feel an extra shot of energy, alertness and freshness within 15 minutes after ingestion. The caffeine effects will be at peak level in your bloodstream in about one hour after you take it. While the effects of caffeine can last for a few hours, after the one-hour mark it will start to wear off. This is why it is often suggested to take it in the last phase of your long workout or competition, when you need that extra boost most. To avoid stomach issues, it is best to look for caffeine energy gels with a neutral pH.

5. Caffeine Gels: The Most Common Sports Nutrition Mistake

A big and often made mistake is to use caffeine gels as a standard gel. But that’s actually not smart at all. Caffeine gels will give a good feeling at the time of intake, but afterwards provide a dip that you cannot absorb, unless with a 2nd caffeine gel.

Once you use a caffeine gel, it makes no sense to take a normal gel afterwards for the same effort.

  • You can boost yourself up to twice per effort with a caffeine gel.
  • The first boost will always give the best effect.
  • Try caffeine gels with a neutral pH to avoid stomach upset.