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The Official Blog of SwimOutlet.com!
  • Jul

    TOP ENERGY GELS COMPARED: THE EXPERT REVIEW

    by Loretta Race, Swim Writer & Masters Swimmer

     

    As a Masters swimmer and mom with a full-time job, who also tries to balance in a budding CrossFit obsession, I’m always on the lookout for easy and effective ways to fuel up on the go. 

    Energy gels can be a valuable way to boost energy and fuel workouts when out and about. Most gels are quickly absorbed to provide easily-digestible energy for your body, whereas fat and fiber in traditional foods take longer to digest and can sometimes lead to bloating and cramps.

    I tried five of SwimOutlet.com’s latest energy gel products to give you a “flavor” of what’s available out there and compare them to each other. Everyone’s taste buds and wants are different when it comes to fueling up but hopefully this helps when reviewing what’s out there that meets your needs.

     
    GU Energy Gel (24 pack - $36)

    I was familiar with this particular product from my running days, as GU Energy Gel packs are frequently included in road race goodie bags. I was able to try out flavors such as strawberry banana and tri-berry, both of which I found satisfying, but extremely sweet-tasting. For athletes with a more decadent flavor palette, GU also makes flavors such as Caramel Macchiato and Chocolate Peanut Butter.

    With any energy gels, the goal is simply to fuel your next workout, which the GU accomplishes by maintaining one’s glucose level for 45 minutes. According to the company, the maltodextrin, which makes up 70-80% of the carbohydrate blend (depending on flavor), allows muscles to enjoy a steady stream of energy instead of one gigantic sugar rush and a corresponding crash.

    One gel was enough to keep me going into CrossFit after swimming and not make me feel weighed down or ‘full’ in any way. 

    Most of the GU Energy Gel flavors carry 100 calories for the 32g package, which is a typical little squeezable tube with a tear-off top to funnel right into your mouth. Some also include caffeine for when athletes need an extra kick for their workouts. The package is very easy to keep in running shorts pockets, right there on the pool deck or in your car to swig down on your way to your workout.

    Gu Energy Gel also boasts 450mg of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), which is aimed in reducing muscle fatigue. The sugar content is relatively modest compared to other gels, with the strawberry banana, for instance, having 23g carbs, but just 7g of sugar.

     
    Clif Shot Energy Gel (24 pack - $30)

    The Clif Shot Energy Gel is meant to be taken during exercise, as opposed to before, giving your body a fast-acting source of carbs to keep your strength and endurance up during the workout. 

    I kept the 34g packet on the side of the pool and found it easy to slip out, down the packet and hop back in with no real workout interruption. The Razz flavor was tart and invigorating, but made me a tad thirsty, so I chased it with a quick swig of water.

    In terms of ingredients, the average 12g of sugar in the GU brand was more than I personally was comfortable with for such a small source of fuel. As such, on another occasion at CrossFit I only ingested half the packet mid-way through my workout and saved the rest in a plastic bag for the following day. The ½ packet was enough to give me a little boost that water alone wouldn’t provide.

    The package is designed with a ‘litter leash’, which enables the top of the tube to be ripped, but not entirely untethered from the package to reduce waste, if you’re eating this while running on a trail or road. I like that added touch.

    This product comes in fruity-flavored varieties, as well as richer types to the tune of Mocha and Double Espresso, both of which contain caffeine.

     

    Huma Chia Energy Gel (24 pack - $54)

    I’m personally not a fan of chia seeds in everyday food recipes, so I was pleasantly surprised by these Huma Chia Energy Gels. The seeds are in powdered form within the gel, so their presence was almost undetectable. The flavor I loved the most was strawberry, whose ingredients include fruit puree, reminding me of a freshly- made jam. 

    The gel was smooth and easy to gulp down in the car on the go and the aftertaste was entirely tolerable in that I didn’t feel the need to wash it down immediately like some other brands. 

    The formula boasts a 2:1 glucose to fructose ratio, which is aimed at long-lasting performance. I was able to feel strong and fueled throughout my workout with nothing of note in digestion. 

    With these Huma Gels, I also wound up eating just ½ a packet after noting the sugar and carb content, which consists of around 13g and 22g, respectively. This is just based on personal preference, as I try to keep my re-fuel between swimming and CrossFit at 10g of carbs or less.

    These are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, for those with any dietary preferences in that area. As a bonus ingredient, the Huma offers around 400mg of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health but you’ll definitely pay of that added ingredients. A 24-pack is almost double the price and the most expensive of this group.

     

    If you enjoy sweet-tasting treats, then this honey-based gel is for you and Honey Stinger makes a point to highlight that its organic. I tried out the Acai-Pomegranate flavor and the honey taste was still strong against those berries. 

    The gel itself is quite sticky, which was a little tricky when eating this on the go. A little gel got on my hands when opening the packet and even that little bit necessitated my having to wash them to not transfer the stickiness everywhere else. I also found the formula to be a thicker consistency than I would like. 

    A couple of the Honey Stinger flavors contain caffeine, which is a good option, while they all carry around 100 calories per 32g packet. The carb count nears 23g with 13g sugar, to be expected with a strong honey base.

    This product is meant to be enjoyed mid-workout, but I ingested it in between swimming and CrossFit and found it to be enough to tide me over. 

    A special feature of Honey Singer is that the gels boast USDA certified organic and gluten-free ingredients, while also being soy free and nut free.

     

    Science in Sport GO Isotonic Energy Gel (30 pack - $50)

    I was thrilled when I picked up the Science in Sport GO Isotonic Energy Gel packet to find that the product contained just .6g of sugar. Also, the first ingredient listed is water, which explains why this gel went down so easy and had a more liquidy texture than some of the other gels on the market. 

    Per the company, the isotonic formula allows the gel to empty from the stomach quickly, as no fluid needs to be drawn into your stomach to dilute the gel. So it definitely stands out from most of the others in this review. Also, the box comes in a 30-pack, slightly bigger but also costs more than the rest.

    One packet contains 2 oz of gel, which means the 22g of quick-absorbing carbs was brought down to 11g when I ingested just ½ a serving of the SIS Go Gel. The lemon-lime flavor was pleasantly mild and even slightly thirst-quenching in itself. The brand does offer other variations like apple, mango and even chocolate. Some variations also contain caffeine.

    SIS recommends consuming one gel halfway through repeated high intensity exercise, so I ingested a packet mid-way through my swim workout and felt energized through the end. Definitely a good option for those that find most gels to sweet and sticky.

     

     

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