Dietician and sport nutritionist, I created a comparative chart about quality and cost of 25 energy gels of the market. You just have to make you choice.
Following the updates of my sports drinks in 2017 and on the same basis as the energy bars and the recovery drinks, I decided to analyse a key product: the energy gel. Indeed, it is very used for runners (especially marathon), triathlon and trail (a little less because the access to a water bag is more frequent).
IMPORTANT FACT: exactly as the energy bars comparison, I adapted the desired quantities because an energy gel does not equal a drink (in average, regarding carbohydrates, 2 gels = 1 jar if==of sports drink. However, regarding vitamins and minerals, it varies depending on the brands). You’ll see that despite this quantity adaptation, only 4 gels have the average pure quality (Gel Energy BCAA2 of Fenioux Multisport® with 14/20, Liquid Energy BCAA of Sponser®, Ultra Gel 700 of Aptonia® and Roctane energy gel of GU® with 11/20) !!!
You also have to take into account the capacity that goes from 25g (several gels) up to 70g for Sponser®, even if at the end, it does not really matter with the price per kilogram!
Comparison principle and notation system
What make this comparison a succes are the following points, showing its neutrality:
The entire comparison is realised via obligatory information given by the brand about their drink’s nutritional values, which implies no cheating. I analyse what they’re composed with and do not rely on the taste (which is very personal), or any potential public or commercial relations that I’m sometimes asked for (like “I give you an annual endowment and you only say good things about our brand”). I am always sceptical when I read some brand reviews from bloggers that really look like the texts I’m asked to write as an endowment counterpart.
It is important to note that since the allegations regulation, brands cannot communicate (chich does not stop most of them of doing it!) about an ingredient whose Nutritional Reference Value (NRV) are under 15%! As a consequence, a lot of brands give their nutritional information relating to 100g of their product and not to 1 gel. With 100g comparative basis, the information look like they fit in the regulation. Smart! But i’m careful with that trick.
Quality note: From nutritional analysis, I take off 3 points as soon as an important ingredient is missing or in too small quantities (under 50% of hourly needs): carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamin, antioxidants (C, E vitamins or Zinc), BCAAs. 1,5 point is taken off if the ingredient is under dosed to + 50% of hourly needs.
Price note: For each drink, I indicate the price per kilogram to which I apply a scale note.
You can find a PDF chart to download with all the results and also, on this page, a per ingredient chart and a very interesting per drink/ brand.
My rant is based on the lack of transparency of some brands about ther nutritional analysis:
Honestly, quality is not here. 4 brands have more than 10/20, the average note is 5,7/20! To those who use only gels on their races, you have to be aware that you get almost not minerals nor vitamins. Nothing’s better than the sports drink. Some brands, even with a harder scale of notation, manage to get 14/20. When doing a marathon, use a 250mL flask or a 500mL jar of an sports drink, it’s essential.
Overstim’s® Antioxydant Gel
With such a name, there need to be at least one well dosed antioxidant (C or E vitamin, or zinc), but not for this France leader brand. No C vitamins, E vitamin under dosed at 4% of NRV, zinc at 6% of NRV! In other words, some gels do not have the label “antioxidant” but are better dosed than them!
How is it possible to name its gel BCAA, alleging about it, without mentioning them in the nutritional analysis? Know that despite the lack of BCAA in the nutritional analysis,, this gel is the first regarding quality! I find it odd to not mention it, especially after I found out that it has more than 0,5g of BCAA per tube, which would add 3 points to its note. Why not saying it?
STC® Nutrition, Mulebar®, MX3®, Nutrisens Sport® and Autentic Nutrition®
General rant concerning brands selling their product with incredible allegations (it makes me think about Coluche’s famous funny sketches :D):
- STC Nutrition® names its gel “No cramp” with a nice allegation “improve muscular resistance”. Any proof about that?
- Mulebar® says that their salt cristals indirectly fight against cramps,
- MX3 explains that antioxidants fight against “the cells oxidations, at the origin of muscular perturbations and cramps ” !!??
- Nutrisens Sport® talks about boosting effect
- Authentic Nutrition promises us that its gel do not provoke any reactive hypoglycaemia.
While reading PowerBar recommendations about the use of their gel, I read “Use up to 90g of carbohydrates per hour during the effort, adapted to intensity and timing”. It’s very dangerous to communicate this way with its customer. The cautious thing to do is to advise on the basis of minimum quantities. However, we understand easily that this kind of communication is done as a commercial approach, as most of the brands do.
- Find the more present brands over the Internet => I counted 35 drinks
- Have a simple and efficient comparison point for the web surfers => 1 gel
- Pop the important ingredients out and their basis weight, and find the missing ingredients
- Create a price per kilogram in order to compare the real cost of the gel
- Note regarding a criteria that I created (and explained) the quality of the gel and its price in order to get a global note. This one can be modified if your basis criteria either price or quality.
Here are the compared brands (by alphabetical order) : Aptonia® – Apurna® – Authentic Nutrition® – Eafit® – Eric Favre® – Etixx® – Fenioux Multisport® – GU® – High 5® – Inkospor® – Isostar® – Mulebar® – MX3® – Nutrisens Sport® – Overstim’s® – PowerBar® – Punch Power® – SIS® – Sponser® – Squeezy® – STC® – +Watt® – Wiggle®.
Results of the 2017 comparison of energy gels
The ranking is done as a function of the best quality/price note regarding the nutritional analysis established between 18th of February 2017 and the 5th of March 2017. If you have more concern about quality, my chart can be helpful to chose with 3 brands having above 10/20.
Advised ingredients and comparison resume
- Carbohydrates: I advise a minimum of 20g per gel. The panel comes from 14g (Over Blast® BCAA of STC Nutrition®) to 53g (Liquid Energy of Sponser®). 25 gels are well dosed in carbohydrates, 8 are close (between 1,5 and 19,9g) and 2 have less than 17,5g. Average of the panel : 21,1g.
- Sodium : I advise a minimum of 50 per gel (versus 300mg for drinks!). 9 gels are correctly dosed, 9 gels have between 25mg and 50mg, 6 have less than 25mg and 11 have nothing at all! Average of the panel : 52,6mg (the 2 that have more than 200mg drive the average up).
- Potassium : I advise minimum 50mg per gel (versus 300mg for drinks!). 4 gels are well dosed (Gel Energy BCAA 2 of Fenioux® and the 2 Sponser gels), 1 gel has between 25 and 50g (Energy Gel de GU®), 2 have less than 25g and the rest (28 gels) don’t have any. Average of the panel : 16,8mg.
- Magnesium : The European law alleges at 56mg which I agree with. Weirdly, only 3 gels are well dosed (A Magnésium of Fenioux®, Finisher of Eafit® and Over Blast® No Cramp of STC® Nutrition), 1 has less than the advised 50% and 31 gels do not have any. Average of the panel : 46,7 mg.
- B vitamin: I advise the presence of at least 2 B vitamins. 13 gels have them, 8 have only one and the rest (14) do not have any.
- Antioxidants: It is about C vitamins (minimum 12mg), E vitamins (1,8mg) or zinc (2,5mg). Those data are coming from the European law. 13 gels have them, 2 have more than the recommended 50% and 20 have none. Average of the panel : 18,3mg of C vitamin.
- BCAAs: I advise 500mg per gel. 4 gels are correctly dosed Over Blast® of STC® Nutrition, Liqui Energy BCAA of Sponser®, BCAA Ride Gel of + Watt® and Roctane energy gel of GU®. Note that the BCAA gel of Fenioux indicates no quantity. The Energy Gel of GU® is close, the other 30 gels have none or vera little BCAAs!
- Average price is 74,07€ per kg versus 36,53€/kg for sports drinks). For information, my homemade energy gel recipe gives you an energy gel costing 0,40€.
Here is the complete ranking from the best quality/price ratio to the worst. You can find in the PDF chart below all the details, per ingredients.
You can search your drink by typing it in the browser below:
|Gel Energy BCAA 2
|Good gel, carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, B vitamins and antioxidants are well dosed. No magnesium, nor BCAA (there are actually some in the gel but it is not mentioned in the nutritional analysis, too bad for the brand!). Price per kilogram under average.||14.5||14||15|
|Liquid Energy BCAA
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, sodium, potassium and BCAA. No magnesium, B vitamin and antioxidants. Interesting pric per kilogram.||14||11||17|
|Ultra Gel 700
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, sodium, B vitamins, antioxidants. Too light with BCAA and no potassium nor magnesium. Very affordable price per kg. Be careful, it review is about the 700 and not the 500 or 300, less qualitative!||14||11||17|
|Correctly dosed with carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. No magnesium, antioxidants, B vitamins and BCAA. Price per kg is cheap which explains its rank.||12.5||8||17.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, very close concerning sodium and that’s it. No potassium, magnesium, antioxidant, B vitamin and BCAA. It is the cheapest product which explains its position.||11.7.5||3.5||20|
|Ultra Gel 300
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, not enough with B vitamins, too low with sodium and the rest in inexistent (potassium, magnesium, antioxidant and BCAA). Price per kg is very cheap, explaining its ranking.||11.75||3.5||20|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, a little light with sodium, everything else is missing (potassium, magnesium, B vitamin, antioxidant and BCAA). Price per kg interesting, explaining the position.||11.25||3.5||19|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, a little light with sodium, everything else is missing (potassium, magnesium, B vitamin, antioxidant and BCAA). Price under average.||11.25||3.5||19|
|BCAA Rade Gel +
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and BCAA and nothing else (sodium, antioxidant, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium). Cheap price per kg.||11||5||17|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, too light with sodium, the rest is missing (potassium, magnesium, B vitamin, antioxidant, BCAA). Cheap price per kg, explaining its rank.||11||2||20|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and antioxidants, there is one B vitamin missing and the rest in absent (sodium, magnesium, potassium and BCAA). Price per kg under average.||10.75||6.5||15|
|Well dosed with magnesium, B vitamin and antioxidant. Little light with sodium, rest is missing (sodium, potassium, BCAA). Expensive price per kg.||10.5||9.5||11.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and sodium, the rest is missing (magnesium, potassium, BCAA, B vitamins and antioxidants). Price under average.||10.5||5||16|
|Quality gel. Well dosed with carbohydrates, magnesium, B vitamins and antioxidants. There is too much sodium missing and no potassium nor BCAA. Average price.||10.25||11||9.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and sodium, a little light with BCAA, too light with potassium, the rest is missing (magnesium, B vitamins, antioxidants). Price close to average.||9.75||8||11.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, 1 vitamin is missing, the rest is absent (sodium, magnesium, potassium, antioxidant and BCAA). Price per kg pretty low, explaining the place of the brand.||9.75||3.5||16|
|Isotonic Energy gel
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, sodium and antioxidants. No B vitamins, magnesium, potassium nor BCAA. Price relatively cheap.||9.5||8||11|
|Star Gel +
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and that’s it (the worst gel of the panel!)! There are no sodium, antioxidant, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and BCAAs. Its price per kg being low, explaining its rank.||9.5||2||17|
|Over Blast no cramp
|Beside the abusive allegation “no cramp), it is a gel that has active ingredients but often badly dosed. Well dosed with magnesium, a little light with carbohydrates, sodium, B vitamins and antioxidants. Price close to average.||9.25||8||10.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, there is one B vitamin missing. Too light with sodium and potassium. No magnesium, antioxidants and BCAA. Pretty affordable product.||9.25||3.5||15|
|Gel energie antioxydant
|Well dosed with B vitamins and antioxidants, a little light with carbohydrates, no sodium, potassium, magnesium nor BCAA. Price slightly under average.||9||6.5||11.5|
|Roctane Energy gel
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, sodium, potassium and BCAA. No other ingredient (B vitamin, antioxidant and magnesium). Expensive price per kg (100€/kg) which lowers the rank.||8||11||5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, B vitamins, antioxidants. little light with sodium. No potassium, magnesium nor BCAA. Expensive price per kg.||8||9.5||6.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, B vitamins, antioxidants. Too light with BCAA. No sodium, magnesium nor potassium. Expensive price per kg.||7.75||8||7.5|
|Over Blast BCAA LD ultra
|Well dosed with B vitamins, BCAA, antioxidants but too light with carbohydrates (14 versus advised 20g). No sodium, magnesium nor potassium. Expensive price per kg.||7.75||6.5||9|
|Averagely dosed with antioxidants (thanks marketing!), well dosed with carbohydrates, B vitamins. Too light with sodium, magnesium. No potassium nor BCAA. Price per kg above average (81,48€/kg).||7.5||6.5||8.5|
|Gel énergétique Apple Strudel
|Well dosed with carbohydrates. A little light with sodium, the rest is missing (magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, antixodiants and BCAA). Price under average.||7.5||3.5||11.5|
|Well dosed with B vitamins. Light with carbohydrates (18 versus advised 20g), the rest is missing (sodium, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and BCAA). Price per kg close to average.||7.25||3.5||11|
|Well dosed with antioxidants, light with carbohydrates (18,8 versus advised 20g). One B vitamin is missing. No sodium, magnesium, potassium not BCAA. Pretty high price per kg ( 83,33€/kg).||6.75||5||8.5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates, a little light with sodium, the rest is all missing (magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, antioxidants and BCAA). Price per kg pretty high.||6.75||3.5||10|
|MX gel antioxydant
|Well dosed with sodium and antioxidants, a little light with sodium. Misses one B vitamin. No magnesium, potassium not BCAA. Price per kg pretty high (100€/kg).||6.5||8||5|
|Well dosed with carbohydrates and B vitamins. One B vitmain is missing and everything else is inexistent (sodium, potassium, magnesium, antioxidant and BCAA). Expensive price per kg.||6||3.5||8.5|
|Only gel of the panel having absolutely no right dosage. Light with carbohydrates and sodium, there is one B vitamin missing. No potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and BCAA. Expensive price/kg (83,33€/kg)!||6||3.5||8.5|
|Coup de fouet
|Well dosed with B vitamins, a little light with carbohydrates and antioxidants. Too low with sodium (6,8mg versus advised 50mg). No potassium, magnesium nor BCAA. Expensive price per kg (95,20€/kg)!||5.5||5||6|
|Well dosed with B vitamins, antioxidants. Too light with carbohydrates (15,4 versus advised 20g), sodium No potassium, magnesium and BCAA. Price per kg pretty high (92€).||5||3.5||6.5|
Packagings are coming from the brands associated websites.
|RESULTS OF THE COMPARATIVE CHARTS OF ENERGY GEL 2017|
Classification by notes
|PODIUM QUALITÉ/PRIX||PODIUM QUALITÉ||PODIUM PRIX|
Here is my comparison of energy GELS. It is appreciated as it’s independent, based on the nutritional analysis which is legally mandatory.
I hope I did help you in your energy gel choice.
Know that every sportsman needs to choose the drink that better fits him/her!