Gels - What, When & Why?

Gels - What, When & Why?

First things first. What is a sports gel? Simply a compact source of carbohydrate (carbs) allowing us access to fast energy while on the go. Interestingly this energy isn’t limited to working muscles but also feeds the brain (ideal for those mind over matter challenges race day can throw at us). Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of using gels. 


  • Why we use gels. To get energy quickly, during exercise. Gels have simple carbs in the form of maltodextrin, which is absorbed quickly and used as muscle fuel. Be aware some gels have different mixes and forms of carbs and/or additives.
  • When to use a gel. During exercise. Anytime you need to fuel muscles while exercising a gel is an option. These situations are generally endurance exercise over 90 minutes or shorter duration high-intensity exercise. Most gels contain around 25g of carbohydrate which for the majority of us equates to approx. one third to one-half of our carb needs per hour.
  • Test in training. Many save gels for race day, this is a massive gamble and breaks the golden rule of practising race day nutrition in training. While it is fine to mix up your fuel sources use your long sessions to practice with gels. This includes varying flavours, timings, quantities and inclusion of caffeinated gels.
  • Start ahead of the field. Gels are commonly used 5-10 minutes before the start gun sounds to elevate blood sugar levels and spare stored muscle fuel.
  • Spread the load. Our bodies can only absorb so much carbohydrate at once so figure out how many you plan to use and spread them out (and other carbohydrate sources) evenly over each hour.
  • Follow with fluid. Follow your gel with approx. 200ml of fluid to help move it through your stomach nice and fast to prevent discomfort. This can be water or sports drink (PURE Fluid Energy Gels are designed to use alone or alongside the PURE Hydration/Endurance ranges).
  • Hydrate. Gels are predominantly a carb source. Although these are usually taken with fluid you still need to hydrate especially during endurance events over 90 minutes.
  • On-the-go caffeine. As much as we would all love a wee latte break during our race gels provide a fast and practical way to get some caffeine into your nutrition plan. This tends to be required towards the business end of the race so be sure to consume 30-45 mins before you need it or spread it out over the course of the day. It may be handy to note one PURE Fluid Energy Gel (Raspberry + caffeine) contains 30mg of caffeine. That is approx. one-third of an espresso. So the good news is on race day you can swap your latte for caffeinated gels! : )


SnapShot: PURE Fluid Energy Gels 

Formulation: Made from real ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours. They are light in consistency and not sickly sweet, making them easier to consume while exercising and racing. Gluten free, dairy free and vegan friendly. 


  • Maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a short chain carbohydrate that is made up of glucose molecules.  Compared to other sugars (such as fructose), many people find this base to be gentler on the stomach.
  • Natural fruit & fruit juices. The fruit flavourings reduce the harsh chemicals that come with artificial or flavouring, while giving the gels a very appealing & light taste which won't leave a nasty aftertaste.
  • Sodium. This helps replace sodium lost through sweating and aids in the absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Filtered Water.  The addition of water to this gel range makes the consistency extremely light (not thick & sticky) and very easy to consume while exercising.

Carbohydrate content: 25-26g.

Carbohydrate type: Maltodextrin.

Flavours: Orange, Apple and Cinnamon, Mango, Raspberry with caffeine, Lemon Lime, Lemon Lime with caffeine. 


Author: Marewa Sutherland

Marewa Sutherland is a qualified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist (BAppSc, University of Otago) and co-founder of PURE Sports Nutrition. Marewa is available for personalised Nutrition consultations in person or via Skype.