[[File:Gels.JPG|right|thumb|300px|My supply of gels]]
Energy gels are a useful component of many endurance runners' training and racing. In marathon distance racing, energy gels can make an important difference [[When to eat Energy Gels in the Marathon| if you know how and when to eat them]]. If you want a really simple guide to which gel to take, try this:
* For short runs (<13miles/2hr)
don't worry about gels.* For long runs (>30miles/4hours) you probably need more than gels.
* [[Caffeine]] is your friend, so unless you're running close to bed time, use it.
Gu is a great all round gel, and the Roctane version is slightly better.
* For those suffering from cramps, try eGel (the sour flavor might help.)
* If you want more electrolytes, try PowerBar Gel.
* Hammer gel is a little easier to digest than Gu.
=Which Gel? =
The flowchart below is intended to provide some general guidance around which gel to choose.
# As well as Hammer gel, consider Carb BOOM or SIS Isotonic gels.
# See [[How to eat a Gel]] for details.
Here is an overview of the major ingredients in gels (see [[The Science of Energy Gels| The Science of Energy Gels]] for more details).
[http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=vfuel VFuel Gels] have no [[Fructose]], so it's ideal for those that suffer from [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose_malabsorption fructose malabsorption]. It has a little fat in the form of [[MCT| Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT)]], as well as some Taurine, which I think are good things, but probably the amount is not significant enough to make much of a difference. Note that MCT can cause serious digestive problems, but probably not at these levels. There is a little [[Caffeine]], intended to increase the carbohydrate absorption rather than to improve performance. I found the VFuel very easy on the stomach and a worthy alternative to Hammer Gel. (Note VFuel was previously called Vi Endurance.)
''<br/>Ingredients (Vanilla): [[Maltodextrin]], water, dextrose, VFuel Endurance Formula (MCT Oil, Taurine, Glucuronolactone, ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG), citrulline malate, [[Magnesium]] aspartate, sodium citrate, [[Potassium|potassium]] aspartate), pure vanilla flavor, [[Potassium|potassium]] sorbate, sea salt, [[Caffeine]]''
[[File:Gels-Vooma.JPG|none|thumb|500px|USN Vooma (with a Gu as a size reference)]]
''<br/>Ingredients (Vanilla Caramel): Water, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Sucrose, Acidity regulators (Sodium Citrate E331i; Potassium citrate E332i), Creatine Monohydrate, Ascorbic Acid, L-Carnitine, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)(L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine), Acidulant (Citric Acid), Sodium Chloride, Flavoring, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Glutamic Acid, Thickener (Xanthan Gum).`''
[http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=PowerBar+Gel&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3APowerBar+Gel PowerBar Gel] is noteworthy because of its higher sodium content that may help alleviate [[Hyponatremia]] and [[Cramps]]. I found the flavor stronger than Hammer, Gu or Cliff, but still quite pleasant. The flavors are generally rather more candy like than fruit like. The level of [[Fructose]] is higher than I'd like to see for digestibility. You may need to drink some water near the time you take PowerBar Gel due to the extra electrolytes. PowerBar Gel has a noticeably thinner consistency than most other gels, and is almost a liquid. This makes it far easier to take in cold weather as it does not go so thick, but it also make it trickier to mix with saliva in your mouth. (Note that the chocolate flavor has 1.5g of fat.)
[[File:Gels-Honey-Stinger.JPG|none|thumb|500px|Honey Stinger (with a Gu as a size reference)]]
''<br/>Ingredients (Gold flavor): Honey, Water, [[Potassium]] Citrate, Salt, Natural Flavors, Vitamins & Minerals, Niacinamide (Vit B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vit B5), Pyridoxine, Hydrochloride (Vit B6), Riboflavin (Vit B2), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vit B1), Cyanocobalamin (Vit B12)''
=Zipvit ZV7=ZV7 is a larger gel, and as you can see from the picture below, it's about twice the size of a Gu. I much prefer the smaller size of the Gu (and similar gels) as it gives me the freedom of taking one or two gels as needed. The flavors of ZV7 seem enticing, but in practice I found they did not live up to the promise. The flavors I tried ended up being overly sweet, but the flavoring was a little thin. There's also a lot of sugar in ZV7, which makes it harder to digest than the better Gels. In fact, my estimate is that you'd need to take about a pint (half liter) of water with a packet of ZV7 to make it isotonic.
[[File:Gels-ZVZ7.JPG|none|thumb|500px|Zipvit ZV7 (with a Gu as a size reference)]]
br>Ingredients: Water, Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Glucose Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Chloride.''
The only ingredients in this [http://www.rei.com/product/815338/chocolate-9-energy-gel #9] are Agave and Cocoa, and Agave is predominantly [[Fructose]] (55% [[Fructose]] to 20% glucose). This amount of [[Fructose]] is slow to be absorbed and can be difficult to digest, making it a poor choice for most runners. The Agave makes this gel intensely sweet, which I did not like and the '[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_process_chocolate processed with alkali]' means that most of the antioxidants from the chocolate are destroyed. This is also by far the thickest gel that I've tested so far, being more like a paste than a gel. This gel may be suitable for runners that suffer from a blood sugar drop after taking more conventional gels prior to exercise (see [[The Science of Energy Gels| The Science of Energy Gels]] for more details).
''<br/>Ingredients: organic agave nectar, cocoa processed with alkali''
=Mud Energy Gel=
There are some unusual ingredients in Mud Energy Gel, including rather more protein than any other energy gel. The form of the protein is also a little strange, which is from Collagen, whey protein and brown rice protein. While whey protein is common in sports foods, collagen is rather unusual, and brown rice protein seems an even stranger choice. The gel includes [http://sustamine.com/ Sustamine], a combination two amino acids to form L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine. There are some bold claims for Sustamine, but I couldn't find the research to back it up. The inclusion of Brown Rice syrup can create a bitter aftertaste, as well as possible contamination with [http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/23/147294466/in-rice-how-much-arsenic-is-too-much arsenic]. This gel is also rather large, coming in at about twice the size of a Gu or other gel, but it's only got about 50% more calories, making it too large for runners. Overall, the digestibility of Mud Energy Gel is a little poor, but I found the flavor to be a bigger problem. I realize that flavor is a personal thing, so I tried a sample of Mud on several people and it was met with universal distaste, and some people even thought I was playing a prank on them. The only thing I've found that has a similar flavor has been some "[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salty_liquorice salty licorice]". However, it's been noted that salty licorice is an acquired taste, and that people not familiar with it may find the taste "physically overwhelming and unlikeable." So maybe with more exposure, the flavor becomes better.
This is an unusual gel because it contains [[Beetroot and Running Performance |Beetroot Juice]], which may improve performance. This is a cool idea, especially for longer events where a boost in Nitrate levels might be helpful. However, even though I love the taste of beetroot as a vegetable, I find the taste of the gel to be a little nauseating and I've been unable to consume an entire packet. However, if you can cope with the flavor, then this is well worth considering.
[[File:Gels-ZV7N.JPG|none|thumb|500px|ZV7N (with a Gu as a size reference)]]
br>Ingredients: Water, Beetroot Juice Concentrate, Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor.''
=Other 'energy gels'=
While these products look rather like energy gels, they don't meet my criteria for inclusion but are worth mentioning.
Unlike energy gels, [http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=PocketFuel&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3APocketFuel PocketFuel] is a peanut butter like paste in an energy gel like packet. They are similar a little larger than most other gels (about 1.8oz/52g) but have far more calories (~280) due to their higher fat content.
(Be careful of the nutrition label, which quotes values for a 32 gram serving, even though the packet contains 52g. The label says each packet contains "about 2" servings, but is actually 1.6 servings. ) I would not generally recommend PocketFuel for runs shorter than about 40 miles, but for longer races they make a convenient form of food. Note that for some flavors the ingredients tend to settle and it's worth squishing the packet before your run to mix things up.
[[File:Gels-Pocket-Fuel.JPG|none|thumb|500px|Pocket Fuel (with a Gu as a size reference)]]
''<br/>Ingredients (chocolate haze):Hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, cocoa powder, sunflower oil, organic palm fruit oil, sea salt.''
==PowerBar Performance Energy Blend==
[http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=PowerBar+Performance+Energy+Blend+ PowerBar Performance Energy Blend] (PEB) almost made it into my list of gels. It looks like a large energy gel, with a re-closable a screw top. It's actually about three times the size and weight of a standard gel like Gu, even though it contains less calories (80 Cal). The reason for the low energy density is that it's a mixture of fruit puree and glucose. If you've ever eaten apple puree, you'll know what PEB is like. I found PEB to quite pleasant, but the size and lack of calories means it's impractical to carry enough while running.