We put the latest energy gels to the test
1 CNP Elite HydroMax Gel
The initial taste explosion of this pineapple gel from CNP made us worry that several would be intolerable rather than tropical, but this Team Sky and British Cycling-developed isotonic mix clears the palette quickly so that isn’t an issue. There’s no sudden final furlong jolt to the carb mix but it works well to support sustained effort without needing extra washing down. However, even with a few vitamins thrown into the recipe it’s still very expensive.
PowerBar’s isotonic gel runs a 2:1 maltodextrin:fructose mix for versatile fuelling whether you’ve missed breakfast to make a dawn swim or for steady slurping on a longer ride/run. The fast-tearing pack saves struggling and it’s wet enough not to need swilling down with a drink. The 50mg of caffeine will keep you perky. The very synthetic, acidic taste pushed the limits of palatable for several testers though.
3 SiS GO Isotonic Gel
The original isotonic gel means no desperate water swigging after you’ve swallowed and it’s vegan-compliant too. It’s a bugger to open fully enough to get full flow so breaking out the gel flask might be a good idea. Calorie payload is low for its size too. The mostly maltodextrin mix means a very smooth and progressive energy delivery though, so the SiS gel works well at all intensities. Taste is gentle enough for long events too and it’s really well priced.
4 MuleBar Kicks Fast Natural Energy Gel
MuleBar’s hook-topped gel is compact, easy to open and packs an impressive amount of energy into each packet. It’s fully organic too. Natural flavours are appealing at lower intensities but the mix of 40 per cent fruit juice concentrate and brown rice syrup hits your system with a proper wallop. That makes trialling before a big event essential as the strength of taste and sugar levels can be extremely sickly in hot and hard conditions.
5 Zipvit ZV7 Energy Gel
While its pack size suggests an isotonic gel, the sticky shampoo consistency signals the splurge of a jumbo portion of ‘needs water with’ goo. As a result Zipvit‘s offering packs double the 2:1 maltodextrin/sugar load of most similar priced gels, which is great for value. The sugary taste and fast energy delivery means it needs treating with respect even at low intensities. The mess of half-eaten gels makes it better for flask use not back-pocket action.
6 USN Vooma Energy
USN specialise in power sports and their gel has some interesting ingredients including amino acids, L-carnitine and creatine, making it more of a mini supplement meal than a quick energy fix. The maltodextrin/dextrose/sucrose mix gives a steady energy delivery that’ll surge into your bloodstream rather than spike. However, many of our testers found the strong synthetic taste too much to finish one gel, let alone several.
7 High5 IsoGel
As you might guess from the size, High5’s Isogel is an isotonic mix that you can bosh without reaching for your bottle immediately afterwards. It’s not the easiest gel to get open on the go, but the mix of maltodextrin and glucose delivers energy gently enough not to spike or crash obviously. The 15 per cent fruit juice recipe tastes usefully neutral, with no stickiness after swallowing, although it can cause heartburn after you’ve had a few. At a quid a go, it’s a bargain too.
8 Maxifuel Viper Boost
Both Maxifuel’s Viper Boost and Active Gel are isotonic mixes, which makes them good for long or hot events where accurate hydration is an issue. Despite a definitely synthetic initial taste, they registered low on the aftertaste and nausea radar even when we were flogging ourselves through the final furlong. The Quadcarb mix of starch and sugars starts working fast without jolting too badly. The Boost gel packs a serious 100mg caffeine dose so use wisely.
As the smallest packet here, but costing a pound more than most, this pouch from one of the original gel producers has some explaining to do. It certainly packs a lot of calories into a small gulp in a glucose/fructose mix for versatile useability. It’s mildly caffeinated (35mg) and laced with amino acids too, but the dark chocolate enriched cake-mix texture takes almost as much swallowing as the price. Standard GU Energy Gel is a more reasonable £1.55.
10 TORQ Gel
TORQ’s all-natural rhubarb and custard was THE favourite flavour of our test team, making this gel of the few we genuinely look forward to. The pack opens easily and while it leaves your mouth sticky, you’re not going to choke if you don’t drink within seconds. The 2:1 maltodextrin/fructose energy delivery is fast enough to catch a sudden fade but won’t unbalance you on steady runs. While the pack is small, calorie count is high, so the price is reasonable.
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