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Gels, beans, and chews: best fuelling bets for your running

The options for race fuel are plentiful. Here are some we like

Photo: Instagram

If you’re embarking on your first marathon, welcome to the world of gels, beans and chews, which you will need for replenishing glycogen stores on your weekly long runs and during the race itself. A good rule of thumb is to take the first one after 45 minutes to an hour into your run or race, and every 45 minutes to an hour after that, on runs of more than 90 minutes. (And if you can’t stomach eating before your run or don’t have enough time to let food digest, you could take one when you’re about to start, though some people prefer to run on an empty stomach in the morning. It’s a matter of personal preference.)

You should not use these products on easy runs of less than an hour, since you want to be burning fat, not glycogen, over shorter distances.

RELATED: Training tips: Practice fuelling and hydration on the run

We now also have our choice of liquids, sport beans, and chews, in addition to gels, which are still very popular. Some people dislike the sticky fingers that result from opening and squeezing a gel, but some find that beans and chews stick in their teeth. We’ve heard stories of people choking on chews, but some folks find that gels can also go down the wrong way. The key is to experiment with different products and establish a routine that’s dialled-in on race day. 

Ideally you want to take in about 60 g of carbohydrate every hour, but that may be too much for some people’s stomachs. Your body needs glucose, but too much can cause cramps or diarrhea, which is not fun on a long run (and even less fun in a race). Most products contain 20 g to 25 g per serving. The nutrition (especially sugar) content of these products varies widely, as you will see below. 

RELATED: What to eat before your early morning run

We’ve compiled a short list of nutrition products for your long runs and races. Note: Some gel products are available in bulk, so you can fill a small bottle for each run, and this will save you money. (At $2.00 to $3.50 per packet, these babies are not cheap.) 


GU Energy Labs’ VP of research and development, Magda Boulet, was the first woman to cross the finish line at this year’s Marathon des Sables, a seven-day ultramarathon in the Moroccan Sahara–which is a pretty neat claim for the Berkeley, California-based energy nutrition company. 

Magda Boulet at Marathon des Sables. Photo: Instagram

GU comes in a wide variety of flavours. (Our favourites are Salted Caramel and Gingerade.) This product also contains 450 mg of branched-chain amino acids (i.e. protein), something that few other companies have found necessary. GU is vegan, kosher, and gluten-free. GU also makes a chewable product. 

Carbohydrate: 23 g 
Sugar: 6 g 
Sodium: 55 mg
Calories: 100 

GU Roctane is the powerhouse version of this product, for long endurance runs, heavy sweaters, heavier runners It contains 1,425 mg of branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine and isoleucine).

Carbohydrate: 23 g
Sugar: 6 g
Sodium: 125 mg
Caffeine: 35 mg (some have less)
Calories: 100


Born Super Liquid Gel

Developed by a cyclist in Born, Netherlands, this is a great product for those who don’t like the sticky texture of a gel. Comes in citrus fruit flavour and apple. The cherry + caffeine and coffee + caffeine flavours contain 22 g carbohydrate and 30 g caffeine. Born gels are gluten-free.

Carbohydrate: 22 g 
Sugar: 11 g
Salt: 0.07 g 


Endurance Tap Salted Maple Syrup Energy Gel

If you like a little home-grown Canadian nostalgia with your mid-race fuel, this is for you. Containing nothing but Canadian maple syrup, sea salt and ginger, Endurance Tap likes to keep things simple. We like the screw-top opening–less sticky on the fingers. All that’s missing is the pancakes. 

Carbohydrate: 25 g 
Sugar: 23 g
Potassium: 85 mg
Sodium: 50 mg
Calories: 100 


Hammer Nutrition

Like GU, Hammer gels are very popular, come in a variety of flavours, and you can even buy the product in a 26-serving bottle, saving you about half of what you would spend on that many individual packets.

Carbohydrate: 21 g
Sugar: 2 g 
Sodium: 25 mg
Calcium: 7 mg
Potassium: 35 mg
Calories: 90


RELATED: Training tips: Find the right running fuel

Jelly Belly Sport Beans

If you like eating jelly beans, you’ll like these Sport Beans, which come in assorted flavours and each single-serving package contains 15 beans. The product has some vitamins B and C. Helpfully, the package has a zip closure. 

Carbohydrate: 25 g
Sugar: 17 
Sodium: 80 mg
Potassium: 40 mg 
Calories: 100

Skratch Labs Fruit Drops

These are like eating gumdrops–yum. Each single-serving packet contains 10 drops. Not the easiest package to open (or re-close) on the run, but we like the taste. The product is gluten-free, wax-free, and dairy-free.

Carbohydrate: 39 g
Protein: 1 g
Sodium: 160 mg
Sugar: 29 g
Calories: 160








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