Power up with these tasty mid-run energy boosters.
Energy gels have improved since the first varieties were introduced in the mid-1990s. Initially made mostly from maltodextrin, high-fructose corn syrup and other quick-burning sugars, many modern gels are made from low-glycemic, high molecular-weight carbohydrate formulas made from agave, honey, fig paste and brown rice syrup. Not only have those types of carbs been proven to offer a slower release of glucose into the blood, but also typically result in less GI stress, too, says Krista Austin, Ph.D, a sports nutritionist and exercise physiologist who has consulted with numerous U.S. Olympic runners and triathletes. (Note, some modern maltodextrin formulations have more optimal blends of glucose and fructose than others.)
Still, the bottom line for most runners is taste and palatability. Here is an array of modern gels that offer long-burning nutrition, natural ingredients and yummy, lip-smacking flavor.
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gel
Honey Stinger has been making energy snacks for years, but it recently unveiled a new line of electrolyte-rich organic gels in vanilla, fruit smoothie and acai pomegranate flavors.
100 calories, 23g carbs, 13g sugars, 50mg sodium, 50mg potassium
Vega Sport Endurance Gel
Part of what is billed as the first plant-based sports performance nutrition system, these gels are made of organic date paste, rice dextrins sorghum and grape juice, and fortified with an electrolyte blend. Available in orange zest and raspberry, each has a touch of coconut oil for an extra boost of non-carb energy.
100 calories, 22g carbs, 17g sugars, 60mg sodium, 730mg potassium, 0.5g protein
Ignite Naturals Reload Energy Gel
Made from fig paste and organic juice concentrates, this all-natural gel is gluten- and lactose-free and chock full of antioxidants and minerals while surprisingly low in sodium. It is available in raspberry pomegranate, wildberry and blueberry-blackberry flavors.
100 calories, 25g carbs, 22g sugars, 5mg sodium, 260mg potassium, 1g protein
Made from organic agave and breakfast cocoa, taking a hit of Chocolate #9 is like squeezing decadent chocolate frosting into your mouth during the middle of a run. But unlike sugary frosting, it goes down much smoother and the effects last much longer without any peaks and valleys.
70 calories, 15g carbs, 13g sugars, 75mg sodium, 1g protein
This piece appears in the September 2012 issue of Competitor magazine.