When to Take Energy Gels - Complete 2024 Guide

When it comes to energy gels, there’s a lot of choice out there. It can be confusing to guess what kind is best for you, but we’ve done the explaining to help you make sense of the category!

We all have different preferences in sports nutrition but starting with your sport and training demands can help you understand what kind of nutrition you might prefer. HIGH5 have three different types of Energy Gel, so we’re sure to have one that works for you.

When to Take Energy Gels Summary

Energy gels are a popular choice for athletes seeking a quick and convenient energy boost during endurance sports. Here's a guide to understanding how energy gels work and how to use them effectively, especially on race day:

  • What Are Energy Gels: Energy gels provide a compact burst of carbohydrate energy, ideal for endurance sports where our muscles' glycogen stores can only last for about 90 minutes. They're designed to be easy to consume on the move, making them a favourite among runners and cyclists alike.
  • Choosing the Right Gel: For running, isotonic gels like HIGH5's Energy Gel Aqua are preferred because they don't require additional water intake, making them convenient for athletes who prefer not to carry extra fluids. Cyclists might opt for traditional energy gels, which fit easily into a jersey pocket.
  • When to Take Energy Gels: Consuming energy gels depends on your activity's duration and intensity. Generally, it's best to take an energy gel 60-90 minutes into your workout to replenish energy stores before they deplete. For longer activities, you might need up to three gels per hour, balancing with other energy products like drinks or bars.
  • Benefits of Caffeine and Electrolytes: Caffeinated gels can offer an extra endurance boost and improve concentration, while gels with electrolytes help replenish essential minerals lost through sweat. HIGH5 provides options for both, catering to different needs and preferences.
  • Using Energy Gels Effectively: To maximise benefits, pair energy gels with a carbohydrate-rich meal before your event and maintain hydration with sports drinks. This ensures your glycogen stores are topped up, and you're well-hydrated, supporting optimal performance and muscle recovery.

Energy gels are a practical solution for maintaining energy levels during endurance activities, helping athletes maintain their race pace and achieve their best performance on race day. Remember, it's important to trial any nutrition strategy during training to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort and ensure the best race day experience.

What are energy gels?

People who exercise need to take on energy during training as our muscles can only store enough for around 90 minutes of sport – and the most convenient and easiest way to do this is usually an Energy Gel.

Energy Gels are small and convenient bursts of carbohydrate energy in, unsurprisingly, a gel format! There are a range of textures on the market, but they’re certainly the most popular form of taking on energy in endurance sport. This is because they’re sometimes easier to take during movement than a bar and smaller than carrying a drink with you – although many athletes will use a combination of nutrition to top up their energy levels to the optimum amount.

What energy gel is best for running?

Thinner, lighter consistency energy gels (such as Energy Gel Aqua) are best for running, as you don’t need to take on extra fluids after taking them. This can be more convenient for runners who don’t want to carry a bottle with them, especially if you’re running shorter distances. We also offer an Energy Gel with Electrolytes which helps with energy but also replenishes the minerals you've lost through sweat. 

What energy gel is best for cycling?

Traditional energy gels are great for cycling – our Energy Gel will fit perfectly in your jersey pocket. As cyclists usually carry bottles with them on their bike, consistency isn’t as important as running where you might not have fluids with you.

When to Take Energy gels for Performance?

Energy Gels give you an instant energy boost, and when you take an energy gel is dependent on your sport or training needs. If you are doing a longer workout, then you should take energy gels regularly, up to three per hour. Less if you’re also taking other energy products, like an energy drink or bar. In general it’s best to take one around 60-90 minutes into your workout. This is because our muscles can only store enough carbohydrate energy for around 90 minutes of exercise, but depending on your body or when you last ate, this might be less. You can also benefit from taking an energy gel before a shorter training session for an added boost.

Read our nutrition guides for more information specific to your sport.

How do you take an energy gel?

Simply tear off the top of the sachet and drink the gel! If you’re new to energy gels, you don’t need to take it all at once. Sip and take it in stages if you’re getting used to taking energy gels. Some thicker energy gels might require you to take on extra fluids after, but this is personal preference. Remember to take your wrappers home with you and avoid littering – you can even wash them out and return them to us to be recycled!

Can you mix energy gels with water?

You can mix energy gels with water – however we would recommend using a powder Energy Drink if you’d prefer to take your energy on via a drink.

But which kind is best for you?

Energy Gel

Our original Energy Gel is formulated with natural fruit juice for a light and refreshing taste, and is a smooth, light consistency – no lumps to be found here!

It packs a punch with 23g of fast-acting carbohydrate energy per 40g gel, which goes straight to your muscles during exercise. Its smaller pack size means that it’s easier to carry, whether you’re tucking it into a gel belt or a jersey pocket, and it’s easy to open and swallow on the go.

Unlike other gels in our range, Energy Gel has a slightly thicker consistency, meaning you might need to take on additional fluids at the same time. For this reason, it’s often preferred by cyclists who will be carrying a bottle on their bike.

Energy Gel Aqua

Energy Gel Aqua is formulated with natural fruit juice just like our original Energy Gel, but with added water for a thin, extremely light consistency – just like a sports drink. This makes it a great option for beginners to gels!

Because of its consistency, it’s a favourite of runners as you don’t need to take on extra fluids afterwards. You can also opt for an Energy Gel with Electrolytes if you want to ensure you're replenishing the minerals lost through sweat but don't want to carry a hydration drink. 

It offers the same 23g of fast-acting carbohydrate energy as Energy Gel, but in a bigger, 66g pack. It’s still easy to carry or slip into a jersey pocket but is slightly heavier and bulkier due to the added water content!

Energy Gel with Slow Release Carbs

From our Slow Release Energy Range, Energy Gel with Slow Release Carbs is perfect to help you sustain energy levels during exercise. It’s formulated with a multi-carbohydrate source – both fast-release carbohydrates and slow-release isomaltulose – meaning it supplies a longer-lasting energy boost.

Energy Gel with Slow Release Carbs is the same consistency and size as Energy Gel Aqua, making it perfect for those who don’t want to carry extra fluids with them.

Our Slow Release Energy Range also contains our most advanced electrolyte complex – Ocean Minerals. This provides you with an invigorating hit of magnesium and over 70 minerals and trace elements, to balance your electrolytes during sport.

The slowly digested carbohydrates used in the range make it perfect for use at the beginning of a training session or race, when the intensity is lower. This helps you avoid ‘hitting the wall’ from using fast release energy products before the more intense part of the race later.

Want to know more? Read about slow release vs fast release energy here.


If you need an extra boost, both our Energy Gel and Energy Gel Aqua come in caffeine variants. Caffeine helps improve endurance performance, so if you’re looking for an added edge, we have options from 30mg to 100mg.

When taking part in tough sports events, caffeine contributes to an increase in endurance performance and capacity. That means you can go further than before! It also helps to increase concentration and reaction time.


If you're looking for an energy gel that provides energy but also has electrolytes that can replenish the minerals lost in sweat then we offer Energy Gel Electrolyte for those who want energy and electrolytes in one. 

 👉 Shop now and get 25% off* all gels when you use code ENERGYGEL at checkout.

*Not valid in conjunction with other coupon codes or offers.

Energy Gel FAQs

How long do energy gels take to kick in?

Energy gels typically start working within 5 to 15 minutes after consumption, as the body quickly processes carbohydrates, directing them into the bloodstream. The speed can vary depending on the type of gel; isotonic gels may be absorbed faster due to their formulation that closely matches the body's fluid balance.

When should I have an energy gel?

Generally speaking, you should consume an energy gel 60 to 90 minutes into your activity to maintain optimal energy levels. This timing helps sustain blood glucose levels and supports continuous energy supply to active muscles.

When should I take gels during a half marathon?

During a half marathon, it's advisable to take energy gels at regular intervals, starting from 45-60 minutes into the race and then every 45 minutes to an hour thereafter. This ensures a steady supply of energy and helps maintain your marathon pace.

Do you take energy gels before a run?

Taking an energy gel before a run can provide a quick energy boost, especially for shorter, high-intensity runs or if it's been a while since your last meal. However, for longer runs, it's more important to focus on consuming gels during the activity to replenish glycogen stores.

What are the negatives of energy gels?

The main negatives include potential gastrointestinal distress due to digesting carbohydrates under physical stress, and the risk of too much simple sugar intake, which can lead to energy spikes and crashes. It's important to trial different brands during training runs to see what works best for you.

Do I need gels for a 10k?

For most people, energy gels are not necessary for a 10k run, as the body relies on glycogen stored in muscles. However, if you're pushing for a personal best and need an extra energy boost, an isotonic gel or a small sports drink might be beneficial.

Are energy gels worth it?

Yes, energy gels are worth it for longer distances like half marathons or full marathons where the primary fuel source, glycogen, gets depleted. They provide energy quickly to active muscles and often contain essential electrolytes that support hydration.

Do you have to drink water with energy gels?

With traditional energy gels, it's recommended to drink water to aid in digesting carbohydrates and facilitate absorption. However, isotonic gels are designed to be taken without water, as they already contain fluids in a balance that's easy for the body to absorb. Always check the instructions on the gel packet and ensure you're also using energy drinks or water to stay hydrated.

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