GELS: best/tastiest/most economic

by bikeboy76   April 20, 2014  

So last year I tacked some long events for the first time, 50m and 100miles and learned that keeping yourself fuelled is essential. I can go out for a training ride for a couple of hours but you don't notice of you are loosing energy, you are just comparing to last time. But on a sportive I quickly started to go backwards. Some late stops for free gels on the London 100 gave me a real boost; and although I won't be ditching real food I plan to include a few in my back pocket.

So here is the thing; they are quite expensive individually at Sainsburys chemist counter. I know I can probably buy in bulk from one of the usual websites but I would like some recommendations first. Who makes the best gels? Energy wise or flavour wise. Where can I find the most economic (not just the cheapest but good brands at a good unit price.)

Cola/Watermelon/Mojito, any you love, or spit out?

36 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Flap Jacks contain about a 5th of the daily calories an inactive person needs, they handily contain different types of sugars and carbs so they are not just a quick fix but slow release as well

They are also only 50p in Aldi.

posted by MKultra [197 posts]
20th April 2014 - 18:13

like this
Like (3)

Torq rhubarb and custard! Mmmmmm!!! Not cheap from the shops but then we get them at a very favourable price. Can't beat real food though, as a few have said, it's cheaper and more gentle on the digestive system! However gels are an easy and handy addition to any ride.

posted by fullers1979 [33 posts]
20th April 2014 - 18:24

like this
Like (5)

+1 for High5. Think the mixed berry ones are ok, all gels are pretty sickly stuff. Good for that last hill when you are starting to fade.

And take the empty wrappers home with you.

posted by drmatthewhardy [299 posts]
20th April 2014 - 18:48

like this
Like (4)

High5 getting all the votes then, thanks.

Flapjacks are good but the best 'homemade' ones you can buy are Sainsburys Granola squares, lots for fruits and seeds in them.
http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/sainsburys-granola-slices-...

Between the S and the LOW

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1191 posts]
20th April 2014 - 20:20

like this
Like (3)

I've seen more favourable reviews for Torq than any other brand, often by people who have tried others and find it's the only brand they can stomach. You won't find Torq cheap anywhere, but that's deliberate - Matt is selling a premium product and refuses to undermine his brand. There are testers at some stores so you can try the flavours.

OTE were reviewed on road.cc, they sound nice enough.

I've read too many user reviews of Zipvit gels that compare the texture with, er, a bodyfluid I'd rather not swallow, so I can't say I'd be rushing to try them either Sick

I won't touch SIS, they are purveyors of artificial sweeteners Angry

But TBH unless you're racing flat-out I think it's unnecessary, an expensive way to get some sugar. A recent discussion on gels:
http://road.cc/content/forum/115139-how-long-climb-should-you-take-gel

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1917 posts]
20th April 2014 - 22:45

like this
Like (3)

Okay,okay, so I gave got down to 62p each for 25 High5 Isogels on Wiggle. Everyone is bigging up High5 here, but to Iso or not to Iso? All SIS stuff says it is Isotonic, or just regular 'Energy Gel' as High5 proclaim.

Much credence in isotonic stuff?

Between the S and the LOW

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1191 posts]
21st April 2014 - 1:14

like this
Like (2)

Can't stomach any gels, luckily for me I'm a demon for fig rolls and they're only 50p for a sainsburys pack.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
21st April 2014 - 8:08

like this
Like (3)

About the only ones I like are the Kinetica Cola ones. No one else I've ever met uses them, but they're pretty ok. Can't stand the High5 ones, and the Torq taste like arse on a hot day.

posted by bashthebox [625 posts]
21st April 2014 - 8:17

like this
Like (4)

Simon E wrote:
I won't touch SIS, they are purveyors of artificial sweeteners Angry

Agree on this. I've narrowed down SIS gels to be the cause of my post-exercise headaches. More than one gel over the day, and that's me for the evening.

Anyone else had similar experience?

neildmoss's picture

posted by neildmoss [179 posts]
21st April 2014 - 10:15

like this
Like (3)

I picked up a couple of espresso flavoured gels at a bike show last year, very nice they were but I'm a coffee lover anyway. I think they are Zipvit, they weren't a sickly as some gels I've had before and actually tasted like the flavour they were supposed to be.

posted by Jonathan Knight [15 posts]
21st April 2014 - 12:31

like this
Like (2)

best thing is certainly to try them out, but wiggle et al offer far better value than sainsbury's counter....

I am a big fan of the Torq range, they are thick enough without being too thick, and the flavours are quirky and fun - and genuinely pleasant!

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [322 posts]
21st April 2014 - 12:48

like this
Like (3)

Jonathan Knight wrote:
I picked up a couple of espresso flavoured gels at a bike show last year, very nice they were but I'm a coffee lover anyway. I think they are Zipvit, they weren't a sickly as some gels I've had before and actually tasted like the flavour they were supposed to be.

They might have been these

http://www.mulebar.com/collections/energy-gels/products/cafe-cortado

I'd rather have real food than a gel, but I would make an exception for one of these - not cheap though. When I've used them it's been as a get-me-home treat for the last couple of hours of a big ride.

The other product I've used that I really liked the taste of was the 33Shake Original Chia Vanilla Energy Gel… which is even pricier. Very tasty but more like a sort of vanilla porridge than a gel. David Else who reviewed it wasn't as impressed as I was. I'm not sure I'd pay £1.99 - maybe for a special ride.

http://road.cc/content/review/107907-33shake-original-vanilla-chai-energ...

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
21st April 2014 - 12:54

like this
Like (4)

-1 for High5! They're cheap but don't work for me at all. Personally I hold Torq stuff right at the top of the tree.

posted by ajmarshal1 [266 posts]
21st April 2014 - 15:09

like this
Like (3)

Torq are excellent & actually taste as OK. However, price wise, they are too expensive for me considering they do the same job as High5.

No, honestly, I don't give a sh*t.

S13SFC's picture

posted by S13SFC [61 posts]
21st April 2014 - 16:11

like this
Like (3)

I usually buy the High 5 Race day including bottle when its on offer - £3 sometimes. That gets you 10 gels, some recovery stuff, salt tabs, energy powder, bottle etc. I've tried loads. The best are CNP Elite Hydro Max Gel's but they are so expensive I rarely ever get them. Next best are High 5. Torq are more like pudding and make me feel sticky they are that surgery. The worst was something given to me in Belgium - it was like drinking Vics vaporub.

I tend to buy flapjacks, marathons and a few nectarines and bananas as well as the odd gel. You can really feel fruit like oranges and apples working on a hard ride. I'm surprised more people don't have them

posted by dunnoh [168 posts]
21st April 2014 - 16:48

like this
Like (3)

Get your favourite, most palatable bag of jelly/gum sweets from Aldi. Pretty much identical energy & protein contents and ingredients to many gels. Much, *much* cheaper. Aldi's dominion brand sell 230 g odd for 70p to a £. Massive saving!

The vast majority of these sports gel/drink products are a triumph of marketing: selling staple goods at quite massive markups by slapping "Energy!", "Sport!", etc. on fancy packaging (in small sizes).

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
21st April 2014 - 16:50

like this
Like (3)

Gels are a very personal thing and they do vary. Slightly.

Hi5 - 38g of gel, 23g carbohydrate, 93 kcal per gel (not got one here so got that from amazon)

These figures from the packets:

Torq Banoffe - 45g gel, 28g carbohydrate, 112 kcal.

SIS blackcurrant 60 ml gel, 22g carbohydrate, 87 kcal.
SIS Lemon & lime 60 ml gel, 19g carbohydrate, 76 kcal.
SIS orange 60 ml gel, 22g carbohydrate, 86 kcal.
SIS cola 60 ml gel, 21g carbohydrate, 85 kcal. Plus caffeine.

Torq is the only gel I have to hand that lists potassium in the contents (11.5 mg), that might help if you suffer from cramp.

I've yet to find a brand I couldn't swallow but I find some flavours hard going (peach, really?).

As said above, Torq are rarely on offer anywhere, SIS usually have internet offers straight from SIS and can be found 3 for 2 in supermarkets.

It's been a quiet day, IGMC on the way out.

posted by Bagpuss [101 posts]
21st April 2014 - 17:24

like this
Like (2)

The jelly gum route works for me too - Haribo cola bottles a particular favourite.

However, it's all gelatin and I have since discovered how that's made on an industrial scale. Revolting - not even been tempted since.

I hope I never learn how sausages are made.

neildmoss's picture

posted by neildmoss [179 posts]
21st April 2014 - 20:08

like this
Like (4)

S13SFC wrote:
Torq are excellent & actually taste as OK. However, price wise, they are too expensive for me considering they do the same job as High5.

Ha ha, Iove it! It's like saying you prefer a nice glass of wine, but when you go out you just neck a few pints of Wife Beater as it still gets you p!ssed.
Wink

+1 to Paul J. A friend races long TTs on jelly babies and she ain't slow.

But JBs, Obree's jam sandwich or whatever is too cheap and ordinary, they don't work for real athletes. These people need gels.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1917 posts]
21st April 2014 - 23:14

like this
Like (2)

If you use two drink bottles on longer rides, consider using an energy drink in one and electrolyte in the other. Start switching to more of the energy option from about half way - IMO, a regular intake of energy this way is more effective than gels. For me, half a malt load, a couple of Nature Valley cereal bars, and this drink combo is if good for 100ish mile rides.

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [143 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 0:25

like this
Like (1)

Simon E wrote:
S13SFC wrote:
Torq are excellent & actually taste as OK. However, price wise, they are too expensive for me considering they do the same job as High5.

Ha ha, Iove it! It's like saying you prefer a nice glass of wine, but when you go out you just neck a few pints of Wife Beater as it still gets you p!ssed.
Wink

+1 to Paul J. A friend races long TTs on jelly babies and she ain't slow.

But JBs, Obree's jam sandwich or whatever is too cheap and ordinary, they don't work for real athletes. These people need gels.

If price wasn't an issue then everyone would be riding £8k bikes & be clad in Assos or Rapha. Simply put some of us may have champagne tastes but only beer money.

Personally I take hot cross buns with jam on them at this time of year, a couple of bananas and jelly babies but I always have gels with me as a "just in case" and will take them if I feel I need to

No, honestly, I don't give a sh*t.

S13SFC's picture

posted by S13SFC [61 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 9:39

like this
Like (2)

Torq are OK taste-wise, I usually use the High 5 caffeine + ones though as that's what's easily available when I'm in town on my lunch break and they seem to work for me.

Performance-wise far too many variables for me to be able to say I've definitively found one type to be better than the other. I suspect a lot of it is all in the head. I rarely use them at all actually, only on sportives etc. as a sort of special go-juice to perk me up a bit near the end, and then I'll rarely have more than one unless I really start to flag badly. I've usually got one in my saddle pack though.

posted by Chuck [358 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 13:36

like this
Like (1)

As I am diabetic I find that energy gels (and bars) at least give me a very measured consumption of carbs/sugars that I probably wouldn't be able to quntify so easily from homemade equivalents.
Saying that I supplement my Torq gels (rhubarb and custard beat any other makes for taste!) with Jelly Babies and those little caramel shortbread squares

posted by SPAM Naval [134 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 14:54

like this
Like (2)

S13SFC wrote:
If price wasn't an issue then everyone would be riding £8k bikes & be clad in Assos or Rapha. Simply put some of us may have champagne tastes but only beer money.

I wouldn't spend beer money on energy gels. But if gels tasted like champagne... nah, I'd still prefer beer.

SPAM Naval wrote:
As I am diabetic I find that energy gels (and bars) at least give me a very measured consumption of carbs/sugars that I probably wouldn't be able to quntify so easily from homemade equivalents.

I don't think a diabetic needs energy gels more than anyone else. All foods have nutritional info on the packet, whether it's JBs, Mars bars or energy bars. A gel is really only semi-liquid sugar; sweets do the same job.

None of us wants to think they've been seduced by marketing, we describe it as "needs" or "requirements". With gels you're just paying a hefty premium for convenience, so why not admit it?

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1917 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 15:36

like this
Like (3)

I prefer Zipvit gels. I love the blackcurrent flavour and get on well with the consistency, which some may describe as gooey. And at 51g of carbs per gel, you get a significant and relatively long lasting boost. During long rides, I will use a combination of water, High 5 Energy Source 4:1 drink, real food (fig rolls, bananas, etc) and gel(s). I find a gel really comes into its own when taken about one hour before I'm due to finish a long ride, giving me a noticeable boost for that last stretch.

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [201 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 10:32

like this
Like (1)

Those who prefer flapjack should try the GCN Power Bar recipe.
I made some just to try and love them, so handed them round to running/cycling friends and they were blown away by the taste too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMJEIiWV3VQ

posted by stuartp [53 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 18:02

like this
Like (3)

stuartp wrote:
Those who prefer flapjack should try the GCN Power Bar recipe.
I made some just to try and love them, so handed them round to running/cycling friends and they were blown away by the taste too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMJEIiWV3VQ


I thought they looked tasty too, but I'm too lazy, anyone know which supermarkets sell packets of flapjack for reasonable outlay? Sis gels do nothing for me, I always pick up high 5, 2 4 1 at Chain Reaction I saw yesterday

Specialized Allez 2009, Campagnolo Centaur 10, Campagnolo Shamal Wheels. 8.3kg

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [195 posts]
24th April 2014 - 7:09

like this
Like (0)

Miles253 wrote:
I thought they looked tasty too, but I'm too lazy, anyone know which supermarkets sell packets of flapjack for reasonable outlay? Sis gels do nothing for me, I always pick up high 5, 2 4 1 at Chain Reaction I saw yesterday

My recommendation again is Sainsburys Granola squares, lots for fruits and seeds in them.
http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/sainsburys-granola-slices-...

Unfortunately home baking is a very middle class preoccupation. If you look at the list of ingredients in that vid there is a commission on each item and lots left over each time [I once baked a cake, it cost £12 and was okay, I could have bought the same for £1.50.] There is no way it is more economic to make your own at home. If you have the time and money go for it, but for a lot of people the cost and chance of burning the lot isn't worth it (lazyness no excuse though.)

Between the S and the LOW

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1191 posts]
24th April 2014 - 10:34

like this
Like (2)

A lot of people suggesting flapjacks from supermarkets which are packed full of fat.

Violence is not the answer, but it will do until we find out what is.

posted by TheHound [48 posts]
24th April 2014 - 12:50

like this
Like (2)

I am sure working class people bake as well, so you might be OK Day Dreaming

As stated, bought flapjack can be full of fat, if you make your own at least you know what has gone into it. You can add or subtract ingredients to suit your own taste, I add a lot more fruit than the original recipe but its a good place to start.
Once you have the ingredients you just make them when you have a spare 15 minutes or so.
I am not a cook by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can make this stuff.

posted by stuartp [53 posts]
25th April 2014 - 16:36

like this
Like (0)