Good nutrition goes stride for stride with running your best. But when it comes to sports fuel, the menu can be overwhelming—and the selection keeps ballooning. To help you zero in on some of the best new on-the-go options, we tested more than 50 products from nearly as many brands, plus considered up to four different flavors for each. (Special thanks to the women of Triathlete and Competitor magazines for helping us chow down!)
All of the winners were released within the last year and some are just making their way into stores nationwide this month. We’re also dishing up bonus info on some of the biggest trends we’re seeing in sports nutrition. Now it’s just a matter of finding a match for your taste buds and reaping the benefits on the run.
These were the winners of our Fuel Up Awards in the Gels category:
Gu Energy Gel Cucumber Mint
Takeaway: Gu is a tried-and-true go-to for many runners, so you can rely on dependable energy. Each 100-calorie packet has carbs for energy, sodium for electrolyte balance and amino acids to reduce mental fatigue and muscle damage—plus 20mg of caffeine for a little extra boost.
Taste: Sometimes we need a break from sweet, fruity flavors, and this new fresh take on gel is a palate pleaser. It’s a delicate balance of mint and cukes.
Timing: Take one packet 5 minutes beforehand and every 45 minutes (along with hydration) during long runs.
Huma Chia Energy Gel Plus Strawberry Lemonade
Takeaway: Huma originally came out with gels that are a combo of real fruit and chia seeds. Now the second generation of gels offers added electrolytes from sea salt and coconut water.
Taste: This is surprisingly sweet and tart like real strawberry lemonade. The ground chia seeds give the gel a little texture, and there is 25mg of caffeine.
Timing: Down one packet 15 minutes before a run and then every 30–45 minutes with water.
PowerBar Simple Fruit Energy Food Apple Mixed Berry
Takeaway: This 30-year-old brand continually comes up with new products other than bars, and this “gel” delivers a welcome dose of real fruit.
Taste: This is basically a kind of jam/smoothie in a gel-sized packet, or you could think of it as flavored applesauce.
Timing: The 100-calorie packet will give you a final boost pre-race as well as fuel long miles.
Trend Alert: Get Real
More and more companies are shying away from fuel that’s laden with crazy-sounding chemicals. Clif Bar came out with real-food packets (with bases like sweet potato and tomato) last year that are a cross between a gel and one of those smoothie pouches that toddlers love. This year Clif Organic Energy Food Oatmeal ($2.99, clifbar.com) gives you the added option of squeezing it into a bowl and nuking it for a warm, pre-race breakfast.