High5 Energy Gels are smaller than the gels available from some other brands, but they taste good and slip down easily - and certainly deliver the energy you need on a long hard bike ride.
Each sachet contains 38g of gel. According to the packaging, the main ingredients are maltodextrin (which the body breaks down into glucose), water and simple glucose. There's also some salt and flavouring. This mixture provides 20g of carbohydrate and 80 kcal of energy.
Unlike some other products from High5 (such as the 2:1 Energy Source drink mix /content/review/57304-high5-21-energy-source-drink-mix), and similar stuff from other brands, these gels contain glucose only. There is no fructose.
Do they work? Yes, absolutely. I have used High5 Energy Gels on several long rides, and they definitely provided sufficient energy to keep me bowling along nicely. Most sports scientists agree that athletes can absorb a maximum of around 60g of glucose per hour (give or take a bit, depending on body mass and other factors), and that's illustrated well with these gels: on long sportives, after the first two hours, I find that one High5 Energy Gel, plus some carb-based drink, keeps me fuelled up for half an hour of fairly hard riding.
That 60g-per-hour figure is presumably the reason behind the little message on each sachet that recommends three gels per hour during activity. While this intake might be theoretically possible, I'd hazard a guess that most cyclists (including me) would not rely on these gels alone in a long race, sportive or training ride, but would combine them with other sources of energy such as bars, drinks and 'normal' food.
To be fair, in the 'Racing Faster' booklet that comes with most High5 products, cyclists are recommend to take three sachets per hour only if not taking any other form of carb. If you're drinking a carb-based energy drink, then the number of gels required is reduced. And just in case you're tempted, another little message on each sachet directs against taking more than 40 High5 Energy Gels per day!
The structure and texture of these High5 Energy Gels is light and thin, more like a juice than a gel, and noticeably different from some of the thicker gels available from other brands. This is good because the High5 gel is very easy to swallow, but can be a nuisance when you open a sachet on the go with one hand and your teeth, as the stuff can easily escape from the sachet and spill all over your chin, hands and top-tube.
I've been testing banana flavour, which is pretty tasty; also available is apple, orange, citrus and summer fruits.
These High5 Energy Gels are also available in a 'Plus' version. The main ingredients are the same, with the anonymous 'flavouring' swapped out for 'fruit juice' and the addition of 30mg of caffeine. According to High5, this can "substantially increase the absorption of carbohydrate and fluids. Caffeine also stimulates the body's nervous system, reducing fatigue, making you more alert, increasing your concentration and reducing the effort during sport."
This may sounds too good to be true, but in my experience a little bit of caffeine does wonders at strategic points during a hilly 100-mile sportive, and studies by proper sport scientists have found the same effect. It might be imagination, but the boost from these 'Plus' gels seems to be almost instantaneous as well, such that I can see a big hill half a mile down the road, grab a sachet from my jersey back pocket, neck it, then have the legs to attack like a Schleck when the gradient starts to steepen. Okay, a lot of that increased performance is definitely my imagination but at least part seems thanks to the caffeine-enhanced gel.
The different sport nutrition manufacturers disagree on the most effective amounts of caffeine to take on board when you're cycling. So, as with any energy product, it's good to test various brands during training and see which one works best for you.
The recommended retail price on the High5 website for Energy Gel and Energy Gel Plus is £19.80 for a box of 20, plus £5.75 for postage, working out at around £1.30 per sachet. You can pay a similar price or less at your local bike shop and get cheaper deals at the various on-line stores.
On a crude carbs-per-quid basis there are cheaper options out there from other brands, but the relatively small sachet size and the light texture of High5 Energy Gels might be preferred by riders who find the gels from some other manufacturers too big and thick to take all at once.
Nice-tasting energy gel, easy to consume, delivered in a small sachet and providing good performance benefits.
road.cc test report
Make and model: High5 Energy Gel and Energy Gel Plus - 20 x 38g
Size tested: Banana flavour, 20 x 38g sachets
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The High 5 website says "EnergyGel is a high carbohydrate gel for instant energy. It's easy to dispense, not thick and claggy and it's easy on the stomach. It's highly concentrated, so it's light to carry. It contains real fruit juice and tastes great."
Elsewhere on the website, it says:
"EnergyGel is a high carbohydrate, ultra concentrated 4th generation gel with delicious, light, natural fruit flavours. Each 38gram sachet contains 23 grams of carbohydrate to provide you with instant energy. Easy to open, easy to swallow and easy to digest: EnergyGel is Race proven in the World's toughest competitions providing fast fuel to endurance athletes everywhere."
This all seems fair enough, although I'm not sure what a '4th generation gel' is. And the claim of 23g of carb in each gel disagrees with the packaging which says 20g.
About the 'plus' variety, the High5 website says: "EnergyGel Plus is a high carbohydrate, ultra concentrated 4th generation gel enhanced with Caffeine. Each 38gram sachet contains 23 grams of carbohydrate to provide you with instant energy. Caffeine is added to increase endurance and explosive effort ... Easy to open, easy to swallow and easy to digest: EnergyGel is Race proven in the World's toughest competitions providing fast fuel Caffeine kick."
Again the website and packaging disagree on the amount of carb (23g vs 20g), but the other claims seem fair.
The sachets have indents, making them easy to open on the go. It's easy to accidentally drop the tear-off tab though, which any litter-conscious cyclists (that's all of us, right?) won't like.
These gels definitely provide a boost, which seems pretty instantaneous. As the serving size is relatively small, the energy supply isn't as long-lasting as it is with larger gels from some other brands, but that's to be expected, and might be an advantage for riders who find the big gels too much to take all at once.
Each gel weighs 38g, or which only 20g is carb. Other gels have a higher proportion of carbs.
On a crude carbs-per-quid basis there are cheaper gels available from other brands, but the relatively small sachet size and the light texture of High5 Energy Gels might be preferred by riders who find the gels from some other manufacturers too big and thick to take all at once.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These gels definitely provide a boost, which seems pretty instantaneous. In my experience, the energy supply is then sustained for around 30 minutes, when combined with a few swigs of carb-based energy drink.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Taste, easy to consume, no stomach problems.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The near-liquid consistency means the gel can easily escape from the sachet when re-fuelling on the go.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 51 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, or an old steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,