Aisling Coppinger, ultra runner, and of runworx.ie, talks us through her favourite gels.
Gels are a gooey sugary substance in handy packaging, designed to give you a blast of energy during exercise.
Manufacturers usually recommend taking one before exercise (don’t do it!) and then every 20 minutes or so during your session. This is probably too much. Thicker gels need to be taken with water and you need to practise with them during training; grabbing one for the first time during a race can induce vomiting. It’s better to train hard and rely on them less but if you must here are the main contenders.
Power Bar: The godfather of gels. It has been around a long time and over the years, Power Bar has improved the viscosity of the product to make it easier on the stomach. It is thicker than toothpaste, strong, sweet and powerful. I start to feel an effect from these in about 25 minutes. It will give you a turbo boost but must be taken with water. It is very unforgiving if you haven’t practised with it and ingested lots of liquid. It comes in several flavours, including two with caffeine.
Honey Stinger Gels: This has a similar viscosity to Power Bar and again you will need water. It is thought to be the healthier alternative to the traditional super sugary gels, with the ingredients reading as honey, water, potassium citrate, salt and a selection of vitamins and minerals. I get a great kick from these and again they work in about 20 minutes.
High 5 Energy Gel: This is a great starter gel. It is not quite the thickness of the previous two, and is a lot easier on the stomach and more forgiving if you haven’t taken on enough water. You won’t feel the same turbo rockets but the effect is still great. Flavours include apple, orange, citrus, summer fruits, and there are caffeine ones, too. I usually keep the caffeine ones for the later stages of a race when dehydration is less of an issue.
High 5 Iso Gel: This is my favourite training tool. I call it my “little bag of water” although there’s more to it than that. The emphasis with this gel is hydration, so on a hot day when you’re sweating and losing salts it is just the job. I will use it even on a short run where I simply want to remain hydrated and don’t need an energy boost. It is the same consistency as water (no slimy goo) so it’s easy on the stomach and mild in flavour. There is a caffeine version, too. You may not get the giant bolt of energy from this but on a hot day it is the one to go for.