Energy Gels: The Good, The Bad And The Really Bad

Photo: Projectzv.com

Photo: Projectzv.com

The sun is shining and training full force for marathon and triathlon season has begun. My first full marathon of the season is coming up in June and last weekend I went for my first long run. It was great—I got a tan, ran great and I had the best energy gel I have ever tasted. As endurance athletes, we know we have to fuel up for long training sessions and there are endless options out there on how to get that fuel, but some are definitely better than others.

For most of my training I stick with energy gels. They are convenient and easy to tote along in the little pockets of my shorts, but man, do they come in an array of flavors from tolerable to bad to really bad. The flavor goes up in intolerable levels the longer I run as it warms up in my pocket. But, I suffer through and eat it anyway. Because laid out on the pavement from passing out sounds just a little bit worse.

Two weeks ago I bandited the LA Marathon expo. Not the race–I wasn’t about to bandit a race with the worst marathon conditions LA has ever seen–just the expo. I wanted to check out all the free stuff and watch all the smiling people who had no idea what kind of hell they would endure the next day. Just as I was about to head back to the car with more Lara Bars than I know what to do with, a man from the Zipvit booth called me over to give me a sample of their energy gel. Uh, no thanks, I’ve got plenty of my own packets of barf-flavored jelly. After some hassling I ended up taking it and I am glad I did.

I tried out the sample of blackcurrant ZV7 Zipvit gel around mile nine of my long run on Sunday and considered eating the package if it would have tasted like the yummy gooeyness inside it. It wasn’t super goopy like some of the other brands and it tasted like candy. Zipvit claims that it is a lighter consistency and you don’t have to eat it with water and I would agree. Who knows if I was so out of it by that point with the sun shining full force on me or if I actually enjoyed the gel for its actual flavor and goopyness, but I’m hoping it’s the latter. I’m going to have to find out where to pick up some more of those little things because I have a whole ton of long runs ahead of me that I’ll need fueling for.

Now, I should be fair. The other energy gels aren’t that bad. They just aren’t really that good. Gu makes a jet blackberry flavor that is pretty good and I have heard good things about vanilla and chocolate because they taste like frosting. I have also heard Clif Shots and Hammer Gels are tasty, but haven’t tried them myself. Apart from gels, I also like Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans (all the flavors rock!), and Honey Stinger Chews–the pomegranate flavored are my favorite. Having to chew while racing can sometimes be tricky and last time I chomped on some I got a terrible side stitch.

Try them all out. Find what tastes best and works best for you. And come race day, you’re going to be the best fueled racer out there.

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Linzay Logan is the copy editor for Competitor Magazine and cares about punctuation probably a little too much. She particularly loves to avoid commas as well as add exclamation points whenever she can get away with it! She also loves to run marathons and half-marathons—probably a little too much. Don’t let her small size fool you; she’ll still try to outrun you anytime. Even though chances are she probably can’t.

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