Mini Test: 11 Triathlon Race-Saving Energy Gels

© Simon Lees

Our mini test looks at 11 energy gels that could give you the advantage when training and competing. See how each one performed as well as all the vital stats…

1. My Protein Ener:Gel +Caffeine

70g serving = 25.2g carbs (7.3g sugar), 50mg caffeine £16.99 for 24 

This maltodextrin/fructose gel (with loads of added vitamins) delivered energy well, but the pack is big, quite hard to get into and we couldn’t get on with the medicinal blackcurrant taste.

Overall = 2/5

2. Hammer Gel Rapid Energy Fuel

33g serving = 21g carbs, 25g caffeine £1.55 or £17.95 for 12 

The compact pack opened easily and thick gel went down pretty easily. Pineapple flavour wasn’t too sweet, living up to Hammer’s natural tasting claims, and we didn’t suffer sugar spiking.

Overall = 3/5

3. Torq Gel

45g serving = 28g carbs (9.3g sugars), 89mg caffeine £1.75 or £35 for 20

We got on with this gel, although the Banoffee flavour is pretty full-on and had a strange aftertaste. The 2:1 maltodextrin:fructose formula worked well for us, giving a steady energy release.

Overall = 4/5

4. CNP Hydro Gel Max

60g serving = 22.9g carbs (8.1g sugar), 50mg caffeine from guarana £2.20

All-natural gel made with coconut water and juices, this fluid gel went down easily, which was good as the taste wasn’t great. Good, quick but lasting energy release.

Overall = 3/5

5. High5 EnergyGel Plus

40g serving = 23g carbs (7g sugar), 30mg caffeine 99p 

High5 say carb content is kept relatively low for ease of digestion and we really liked the gentle effect of this gel. It’s nice and runny, the raspberry flavour is quite natural and the pack opens easily.

Overall = 4/5

6. Powergel Hydromax

67ml = 25.5g carbs (7g sugar), 30mg caffeine 99p 

The 67ml serving contains a huge amount of sodium and caffeine. Perforations make it a doodle to open and it drinks down easily, though the cola flavour was bitter. The glucose/fructose mix reached us fast.

Overall = 3/5

7. Clif Shot Energy Gel

34g serving = 24g carbs (12g sugar), 100mg caffeine £35.76 for 24

Double Expresso flavour was dangerously easy to get down. Though this gel is maltodextrin-based, the sugar and big caffeine hit for such a small pack hit hard. We liked the ‘litter leash’ on the pack.

Overall = 3/5

8. Wiggle Caffeine Gel

38g serving = 22.6g (6.6g sugar), 30mg caffeine £12.99 for 20

Tough to get into the pack but easy to get down, the consistency is perfect and taste, while not especially ‘natural’, didn’t offend us. It gave a noticeable but not overpowering boost. These are brilliant value for money too.

Overall = 4/5

9. GU Energy Gel

32g serving = 25g (5g sugar), 40mg caffeine £38.50 for 24

This gel has a lot of ingredients, but GU can point to sound reasons for including them. The Jet Blackberry flavour was surprisingly nice, not too sweet but very thick to take with a dry mouth.

Overall = 3/5

10. Mule Bar Fast Natural Energy Gel

37g serving = 27g (sugar content unknown) £1.60

We liked the sound of the 100mg caffeine Cafe Cortado and 50mg Lemon Zinger but the taste and effect of the former was way too full on: a real energy rush, only for the shortest events. Lemon Zinger was easier to take but at high intensities, still not something we’d choose on taste.

Overall = 2/5

11. USN Vooma Energy Sports Performance Gel

36g serving = 23.8g carbs (7.9g sugar), 30mg caffeine £29.99 for 24 sachets 

We loved the mocha flavour of this, just sweet enough and a great consistency even when cool. We felt an immediate rush of energy with this gel but didn’t experience a crash afterwards.

Overall = 4/5

How we test

It’s always hard to test energy products objectively because so many factors can affect perceived exertion, and actual performance. Suffice to say, every gel on this test contains enough carbohydrate to get you home from a ride that’s turned tough or lift your race performance. And the caffeine in each of them means you’re likely to feel less knackered anyway, and should help you keep a positive mindset.

We tested these gels for the task they’re best suited to: short, sharp training sessions. Food always tastes worse after intense exercise so following our swiftest two-mile loops we downed a gel and then tried to remain active, in an attempt to taste them all when we were at our least receptive. All of the gels were energising and only a couple caused spikes, but some were genuinely very hard to take in terms of taste. We’d definitely recommend trialling before racing.