Consume 1-2 energy gels/hour for runs 90 minutes or more to maximise performance.

If you’re running longer than 90 minutes, you need to consume carbohydrates to support and maintain your performance. Doing so will prevent you from hitting the wall — a marathon term for sudden fatigue where you feel like you can’t continue.

One of the easiest ways to increase your carbohydrate intake while running is to consume energy gels. These small sachets contain a liquid-type carbohydrate that is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to keep your energy levels steady throughout your run.

If you’ve never heard of energy gels before or thought they were only for Elite athletes, this article is for you. We discuss how energy gels work, how to use them, and more.

What are energy gels?

Energy gels contain quick-releasing carbohydrates used to replenish your glycogen stores. They’re easy to eat on the go, absorb quickly into the blood, and provide you the fuel to go longer without hitting the wall.

You typically won’t need to eat any energy gels for runs less than 90 minutes. Why? This is because you have enough energy (glycogen) to fuel approximately 90 minutes. But if you’re running longer, say a long run or a half or full marathon, then topping up your fuel mid-run will give you a little extra energy boost.

How do energy gels work?

Energy gels are a liquid form of quick absorption carbohydrates, usually 30-60g, to support endurance exercise. Some gels also contain sugar, caffeine, or added electrolytes to further support performance. But what’s included in the gel depends on the brand.

Research suggests endurance athletes should ingest 30-60g of carbohydrates an hour to maintain performance. That’s 1-2 energy gels an hour to support performance and prevent you from hitting the wall.

For runners and other endurance athletes going longer than 2.5 hours at a high intensity, 90g of carbohydrates can be ingested as long as a mixture of glucose and fructose is in the gel, as mentioned in the same study above.

Energy gels work by allowing you to meet your carbohydrate needs while running without eating whole foods. They are also much easier to carry and more convenient than other options, making them popular for runners.

What are the benefits of energy gels for runners?

Energy gels are only one way to fuel your training. There are also energy bars, chews, carbohydrate drink mixes, and whole foods such as bananas or jelly babies — a popular option in the fell and trail running community. 

Although, many runners prefer the convenience of an energy gel — they’re easy to use, packed full of carbohydrates, and a lot easier to carry on a run than a banana.

If you're wondering whether you’d benefit from energy gels as a runner, check out the other benefits below:

Easy to digest

Energy gels are easy to digest, making them popular for endurance runners and other athletes.

The carbohydrates found in energy gels contain simple sugars, which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. This means the fuel enters your system quicker to maintain your energy levels without having to digest something heavy.

More convenient than other foods

Squeezing an energy gel is a lot easier and more convenient than trying to eat while running, unless you plan on stopping.

And even then, you likely don’t want food sloshing around in your stomach. This can cause a stitch. Energy gels are a quick and convenient way to top up your glycogen stores without the heavy and uncomfortable feeling of food moving around your stomach on your next run. 

Replenish glycogen stores easily

A lot of runners are confused about nutrition. They know that they should eat before and after their run but are unaware that they should be eating some kind of carbohydrate during those longer run sessions.

Energy gels help replenish your glycogen stores easily and are much easier to eat than real foods. 

When should you use energy gels?

You should start using energy gels if running for 90 minutes or longer, ingesting 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour.

For example, if your long run lasts 2 hours, then you would benefit from 2 energy gels — that’s an extra 60g of carbohydrates to fuel your performance.

If you’re training for a half marathon or a full marathon, it’s a good idea to practice your race day nutrition — this is something many runners leave until the last minute. 

Instead, practising your nutrition and taking energy gels on your long runs allows you to train your digestive system. Your body knows what to expect.

Of course, you don’t have to use energy gels if you don’t want to. Some runners prefer a non-liquid alternative, such as BAR50. It sits easier on the stomach for them — but what you eat is entirely up to you.

But regardless of the carbohydrate type you choose, fueling those longer runs will yield performance and recovery benefits. So start eating during those longer training sessions!

What are the different types of energy gels?

Not all energy gels are the same. There are different types of gels to support your performance needs.

For example, classic energy gels are ideal for endurance exercise lasting 90 minutes or more. There are also isotonic energy gels, which contain the correct electrolyte/water balance to aid in maximum hydration. Electrolyte gels are also a thing — but they need to be consumed with water if not isotonic. And finally, there are caffeine gels for a little mid-run pick-me-up, such as the GEL30 Caffeine Dual-Carb Energy Gel, which contains 30g of carbohydrates and 150mg of caffeine for maximum energy and focus.

Most energy gels contain between 20-30g of quick-releasing carbohydrates. Runners should consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour for runs lasting 90 minutes or more. That’s 2 energy gels an hour.

For most runners, the classic energy gel works well. If you’re running in particularly hot or humid conditions, an isotonic gel might be preferred. If not, add electrolytes to your water to support maximum hydration and prevent cramping.

How to get started with energy gels for runners 

It’s easier than ever to get started with energy gels as a runner. We recommend trying your first gels on your long runs lasting anywhere from 75-90 (or longer) minutes or longer. 

You won’t need to take energy gels for runs that last less than 1 hour, as your body should contain more than enough glycogen to support your performance.

If you’re training for a half or a full marathon, it’s even more important to practise your energy gel consumption during your long run as a nutrition dry-run. Doing so also trains your stomach to prevent any nasty surprises.


Do energy gels upset your stomach?

Some people may get an upset stomach from taking energy gels. Oftentimes, this is because they have not taken it with water or because the gel contains too much fructose or caffeine. 

How do you carry energy gels while running?

You can carry your energy gels in the back pocket of your shorts, in a belt or hydration vest, or you can get creative and pin them to the waistband of your shorts.

Do you need energy gels for 10k?

You will likely not need energy gels for 10k unless you think it will take you longer than 90 minutes or more.