Fuel Up With The Best Energy Drinks, Gels and Chews (2023)

With more guys trading in gym time for endurance endeavours – we're talking trail runs, marathons and triathlons – energy supplements have never been more popular. But what exactly are they, how do they work, and should you be factoring them into your fitness regime? Here’s everything need to know, plus the best energy drinks, gels and chews on the market, all expert-tested by the MH Lab.

How Can I Quickly Boost My Energy?

If you need a hit of energy to get you through a long, hard workout, your best bet is to grab an energy drink, gel, chew or bar. David Wiener, training and nutrition specialist at fitness app Freeletics, explains why they're necessary: “The body uses carbohydrates (which are stored in the muscles as glycogen) as its preferred fuel source during exercise. It’s around the 90-minute mark that carb stores become depleted, and the body turns to its fat supply to fuel movement instead.”

While burning fat might sound like a good thing, fat stores don’t release as much energy at the same rate, says Wiener. When you’re outta carbs, you’re likely to hit the proverbial wall, and your performance will suffer.

The best energy drinks, gels and chews are made up of easy-to-digest carbs. They’re designed to enter your system and fire you up stat, allowing you to finish your endurance activity pumped full of endorphins.

What Supplements Increase Energy Levels?

Energy products are primarily made up of simple sugar – often a combination of maltodextrin and fructose – for quick absorption. Many also contain electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) to help replace the minerals lost through sweat, and some offer a kick of caffeine.

“Be mindful of caffeine as it doesn’t suit everyone,” warns Wiener. “Some people find it makes them dehydrate faster or need to use the toilet more, which is not what you want if you’re taking on a big race or event.”

Energy Drinks, Gels Or Chews

So, which should you try? Yet again, it boils down to personal preference, but here’s a rough guide:

Energy drinks: Ideal during the summer months for topping up your carbs while hydrating your body on the go. Lugging a bottle around a long course can be a hassle, though.

Energy gels: Popular with runners, the best energy gels slip into your pocket for easy consumption during exercise. They can be a little messy but get easier to use with practice.

Energy chews: Often resembling a gummy sweet, these bad boys can feel gentler and more satisfying to consume for those with sensitive stomachs. That said, if you’re exercising at a high intensity, chewing can be tricky and affect your rhythm.

With both gels and chews, it’s important to drink enough water to help your body digest it properly and ensure you stay hydrated.

How To Use Energy Supplements

Generally, Wiener recommends consuming 1g of carbs per kilo of bodyweight every 60 minutes. So, if you weigh 80kg, aim for 80g of carbs per hour of exercise.

“There is a limit to how many carbohydrates your body can absorb, so I wouldn’t recommend taking more than two gels or two drinks in an hour,” says Wiener. “They’d just end up filling your stomach and you wouldn’t reap any benefits."

Because there’s such a plethora of energy products available, try a few and see how they sit with you. “Once you find something you like, I’d suggest training with it consistently. This will help your body adapt to its usage and lessen the risk of digestive issues at critical moments.”

How We Test

As part of the 2022 Men's Health Sports Nutrition Awards, the MH Lab enlisted a panel – made up of over 200 fitness enthusiasts – to test a range of popular energy drinks, gels and chews for a month

Our dedicated testers reported back on everything from taste and texture to ease of use, nutrition and, crucially, impact on athletic performance.

The high-carb heroes stamped with the Sports Nutrition Awards badge below were our panel’s runaway faves.


Best all-rounder


Aptonia Energy Gel Mix


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Developed by triathletes, these gels provide fast-acting energy to keep you powering on when you want to crash. They’re designed to be taken every 45 minutes to an hour during distance events, providing roughly 90 calories along with 20mg of caffeine for added buzz and B vitamins to combat fatigue and muscle weakness.


Our testers appreciated that they weren’t as sickly sweet as many gels (they tried the cola flavour), adding that the consistency made them easy to knock back in a hurry. They tore open quickly, too, without coating their hands in gloopy gel. There are loads of other flavours to sample: raspberry, salted caramel, lemon, blackcurrant, apple and citrus.


Best for a natural boost


Maurten Gel 100


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Popular with runners the world over, including the likes of Mo Farah and Kenenisa Bekele, this natural gel will drag you over the finish line.

Its innovative formula features just six ingredients – essential water, sugars and minerals, with no unnecessary chemicals – and its ratio of fructose to glucose is optimised for efficient absorption.

Its texture proved thick enough to avoid a mid-race mess, yet instantly dissolvable on the tongue, and our testers without a sweet tooth liked its relatively neutral flavour.


Best energy chews


Veloforte Soft Energy Chew

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These packs of juicy gummy sweets provide a total 42g of quick-acting carbs, which can be rationed out for easily controllable energy top-ups.

They're made with lemon juice, beetroot sugar and coconut water, with Himalayan salt for electrolytes. Our testers liked the lemon flavour, and the fact that one 50g pack of chews delivers 75mg of natural caffeine (the equivalent of one large espresso) from guarana extract.


Best energy drink


Grenade Energy Drink


£20.00 (16% off)

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If only a mighty caffeine hit will do, look to this buzzing energy drink. Powered by coffee beans, guarana and green tea extracts, it flings 155mg of natural caffeine (the same as a double espresso) your way, along with BCAAs to prevent fatigue, electrolytes for sweat loss and B vits to aid recovery. Phew.

Our testers couldn’t get enough of its sweet fruity flavour, which they compared to a tropical coconut cocktail or old school Fruit Salad chew. Their only gripe was the texture – they would have preferred something less fizzy to down mid-session.

It won’t up your carbs like the gels and chews listed here, so reach for a can when you’re flagging in the gym as opposed to on a lengthy run or bike ride.


Best energy bar


SiS Beta Fuel Energy Chew Bar


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(Video) Here’s How You Should Fuel All Your Races And Long Runs

If you prefer solids to gels, consider SiS’s energy chew bar. Boasting a mega 46g of carbs per 60g bar – the highest volume in our round-up – it’ll shoot a mighty burst of energy into any endurance endeavour.

Like the brand’s energy gel, below, it has a 1:0.8 blend of maltodextrin and glucose so your body can process more carbs at a faster rate. “I felt a boost very quickly after eating it,” confirmed one happy tester.

They all enjoyed the zingy lemon taste and melt-in-the-mouth texture but found the wrapper tricky to open on the move. Still, if you find gels hard to stomach, it’s worth a go and also comes in orange.


Best energy gel for electrolytes


OTE Sports Blackcurrant Energy Gel


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OTE’s supps are designed by sports nutritionists and athletes. Its energy gels provide a respectable 20.5g of carbs per 56g serving, along with a healthy dose of electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) to keep you hydrated and supercharge your session.

Our testers likened the natural blackcurrant flavour to Ribena and found the loose gel-like texture easy to chug during high-intensity exercise.

It also earned rave reviews for its dual-delivery packaging – it’s simple to open and offers two different tear points for sipping or gulping. Try the orange, apple, and lemon and lime flavours too.


Best high-carb energy gel


SiS Beta Fuel Gel

(Video) ✅ TOP 5 Best Energy Gels and Chews for Cycling [ 2022 Buying Guide ]


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Endurance fiends, this gel's for you. It packs 40g of carbs per 60ml serving, so you only need to slip a few sachets into your pocket or running belt to reap the energy-boosting rewards.

While most supps provide a 2:1 glucose to fructose ratio, this one has a 1:0.8 blend of maltodextrin and glucose. This, according to SiS, allows your body to absorb more carbs per hour without upsetting your stomach.

Sure enough, our testers noticed a big difference in performance, and no digestive mishaps were reported. They rated the smooth consistency and tangy berry flavour (orange and strawberry and lime are also available).


Best tasting energy drink


Nocco Carbonated Caffeine Drink

Fuel Up With The Best Energy Drinks, Gels and Chews (8)


Like Grenade, Nocco is best described as a carbonated caffeine drink and boy, does it taste great. The Caribbean flavour is pretty much a piña colada, sadly minus the rum and the buckets of sugar (it contains a big fat 0g of the sweet stuff). Instead, expect 180mg of caffeine to fire up your session, along with 3000mg of BCAAs and 50% of your daily vitamin B6 and B12 intake.

Once again, our testers said the fizzy consistency made it difficult to gulp on the go. “I’d prefer to drink this pre-workout to push myself harder during training,” said one. For those looking to avoid caffeine-fuelled jitters, there’s a caffeine-free version too, plus a host of fun flavours to try.

Priyankaa JoshiPriyankaa is our health and fitness writer, specialising in expert-tested reviews and roundups on the latest health and fitness products.


Are energy chews or gels better? ›

Chews have their place over gels. The solid consistency is familiar and more easy to digest, while some find syrupy gels difficult to stomach. Chews are less messy and give the runner the option to pick their serving size, and stash the rest for later, but they also take up more room in your pocket or waist pack.

What is the best during race fuel? ›

The best fuel is a combination of glucose and fructose.

If you're consuming a glucose-only fuel, the amount of energy that enters the bloodstream will be limited. By taking in a mix of glucose and fructose, you take advantage of additional transporters that will move fructose into the bloodstream as well.

Are energy chews good for you? ›

What are the benefits of energy chews? Energy chews provide a quick fuel source that is often more easily digested and better tolerated than other mid-race fuel options. They can help provide carbohydrates that are needed for workouts lasting longer than one hour.

What are the negatives of energy gels? ›

Cons of energy gels

Limited variety of textures. Depending on the amount of water, it can be watery or denser. Such a high concentration of carbohydrates can upset some stomachs, especially when they are not consumed regularly, are consumed without water or at the wrong time.

What athletes use energy gels? ›

All endurance athletes can benefit from energy gels, but the most obvious uses are for those that have to carry and transport their nutrition. Runners in particular are the biggest users of energy gels. During a half of full marathon for example, you need carbohydrates, electrolytes and water.

What is the number 1 energy drink? ›

Top 10 Largest Energy Drink Brands in the World 2020
RankEnergy Drink BrandsRevenue (USD billions)
1Red Bull GmbH6.13
2Monster Beverage3.37
4Eastroc Super Drink350.12
6 more rows
Nov 13, 2022

What is the highest quality energy drink? ›

Here is a look at some of the best energy drinks for health:
  • Monster Energy Zero Sugar. Monster Energy Zero Sugar is one of the most popular energy drinks on the market, and for good reason. ...
  • Red Bull Sugarfree. ...
  • Rockstar Zero Carb. ...
  • Amp Energy Original Sugar Free. ...
  • NOS High Performance Energy Drink.
Sep 18, 2022

What fuel do street outlaws use? ›

Haltech EFI controls the show and the engine runs on E85 fuel, which makes this air-cooled throwback very streetable, even running a bunch of boost.

What is the most fuel for athletes? ›

Carbohydrate-rich foods are the best fuel sources for athletes. Sports nutritionists recommend that about 55 to 65 percent of calories come from carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as starches should make up the majority of carbohydrate fuel.

Which gas gives best performance? ›

Premium gas is a higher octane gasoline that's typically used in high performance engines. A higher-octane rating means the fuel is better balanced and stabilized against spontaneous combustion, which can cause engine knocking and damage to your vehicle.

Is it OK to drink energy drinks everyday? ›

As for most adults, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Healthy adults who choose to drink energy drinks should not exceed one can per day,” the Mayo Clinic's Zeratsky said.

What happens when you drink energy everyday? ›

Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Caffeine also may harm children's still-developing cardiovascular and nervous systems.

What can I use instead of energy gels? ›

Alternatives to energy gels
  • Branded sports drinks. If you can't tolerate or don't like the one provided on the course, you will need to carry your own. ...
  • Homemade sports drink. ...
  • Jellies and chews. ...
  • Chia seed gels. ...
  • Bananas. ...
  • Raisins. ...
  • Almonds and goji berries.
Jun 15, 2017

What does 5 before every 45 mean? ›

When exercising for more than an hour, it's important to refuel along the way. Eat one Energy Gel five-minutes before every 45 minutes along the way. Hydrate with 32 oz of water to help your body process your foods and keep your muscles fueled. 2.

How often should you eat energy gels? ›

Eating Is Training

If your metabolism is slower, then one Energy Gel every 45 minutes works just fine. If you have a faster metabolism, try upping your intake to one Energy Gel every 30 minutes. It's essential to practice and test your nutrition plan to find out what works best for you.

How long do energy gels take to kick in? ›

As a rule of thumb though, try having your first gel at around 20 to 30 minutes into your run and wait a further 20–30 minutes between each one. You'll feel them kick in three-to-15 minutes after eating, depending on how quickly your body absorbs the sugar into your bloodstream.

Are energy gels worth it? ›

Energy gels are worth it because they do work. Carbohydrates (particularly sugar) are an easily absorbable fuel, and energy gels provide precisely that. It's a carbohydrate-rich, gel-like substance conveniently packaged to replenish lost calories, glycogen, and other nutrients during exercise.

When should you start using energy gels? ›

When should I start taking gels? Somewhere between 45-60 minutes, depending on how well you generally react to gels in training. I wrote a full guide on exactly how to practice your pre-race nutrition that may be helpful if it is your first time following a marathon training schedule.

What can I drink to get energy all day? ›

  • Water. Water is the most crucial energizing ingredient on this list. ...
  • Coffee. Coffee is a recognizable energy booster. ...
  • Green tea. Green tea still contains small amounts of caffeine, but it also has compounds that may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. ...
  • Yerba maté

What drinks give you energy but are healthy? ›

Healthy Energy Drinks: Delicious and Nutritious
  • Yerba Mate. Yerba mate is a drink that is fast gaining popularity around the world. ...
  • Green Tea. ...
  • Black Coffee. ...
  • Banana, Peanut Butter, and Protein Smoothie. ...
  • Coconut Water. ...
  • 100% Natural Fruit Juice. ...
  • Dark Chocolate Shake. ...
  • Apple Lemon Ginger Juice.
Jul 16, 2021

What are the unhealthiest energy drinks? ›

The Worst Energy Drinks: Avoid These 5
  • 5-Hour Energy. At 200 mg of caffeine in a bottle of fewer than two ounces, 5-Hour Energy contains significantly more caffeine per ounce than other energy drinks. ...
  • Monster. ...
  • Redbull. ...
  • Bang. ...
  • Rockstar Xdurance.
Aug 21, 2022

What drink has the highest caffeine? ›

At 714.3 mg per fluid ounce, DynaPep has the highest caffeine content per ounce of any beverage on the market.

How many 5-hour energies can I drink in a day? ›

How many bottles of 5-hour ENERGY® can I take per day? We recommend taking no more than two bottles of 5-hour ENERGY® per day. Be sure to space them several hours apart.

What's the best energy drink to wake you up? ›

Redline Extreme also contains electrolytes which make it a great pre-workout drink. Redline Xtreme tops the list of the energy drinks with the most caffeine. Drinking one 8-ounce bottle is the same as drinking three cups of coffee, and Redline will give you a significant energy boost without the inevitable sugar crash.

What's the best energy drink to keep you awake? ›

What's the best energy drink to keep you awake?
  • Monster Zero Ultra. ...
  • Bang Star Blast/Cotton Candy. ...
  • Red Bull Blue Edition. ...
  • NOS Energy. ...
  • Rockstar Energy.

What fuel do pro mods use? ›

Pro Mod cars are allowed to run either a nitrous assisted engine running on unleaded race fuel or a supercharged or turbocharged engine running on methanol.

What octane is alcohol race fuel? ›

Best estimates of the actual octane rating of pure ethanol place it at about 100 octane. This is probably a conservative value but it is one we are comfortable with. If you see octane claims for ethanol in the 112 range, be suspicious that the octane number might be incorrectly based on BOV.

What octane is jet fuel? ›

The octane ratings of AVGAS, a gasoline-based fuel, are usually either 91 or 100 (lean mixture) and 96 or 130 (rich mixture). The octane rating of jet fuel is much lower, around 15 – this is much more like automotive diesel and thus much more resistant to detonating due to sparks or compression.

What fuel does the muscle prefer? ›

Your muscles prefer to use glycogen as fuel when it's available. During prolonged or intensive physical work, you break down glycogen particles.

What do you call the Master fuel for athletes? ›

The Master Fuel. A diet rich in carbohydrates increases both endurance and intermittent high-intensity performance because of the extra store of carbohydrates in the muscles and liver, called glycogen.

What is the best fuel for muscles? ›

Carbohydrates. You burn a lot of carbohydrates — the main fuel for your muscles — when you exercise. In the 20-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery.

What brand gas is best? ›

Chevron. Of America's largest nationwide chains, Chevron scores the highest points in overall customer satisfaction. Its reach spans over 7,800 stores, and while some gas stations offer convenient food marts, one location in North Hollywood goes above and beyond gasoline.

Does 93 gas increase HP? ›

Higher octane fuel will not offer any better fuel mileage, increase engine horsepower, or make the engine start quicker. Higher octane only increases the likelihood that the combustion will be controlled, and your engine will perform as it was designed.

Does premium fuel last longer? ›

Super unleaded petrol has a higher octane number and should burn more efficiently. This means that it should burn less quickly whilst delivering more power, but it probably won't last for a noticeably longer period. If you need to save fuel, you should consider other methods instead of paying more for premium fuel.

What vitamin is good for lack of energy? ›

The 5 Best Vitamins for Energy & Tiredness
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) ...
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) ...
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) ...
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) ...
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Does B12 give you energy right away? ›

People who are concerned about their low level of energy should be advised that unless they already suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, there is no strong evidence to support the notion that taking large doses of vitamin B12 will increase their energy levels.

What gives you energy fast naturally? ›

Get moving.

Exercise is a natural energy booster, because whenever you do it, oxygen-rich blood surges through your body to your heart, muscles, and brain. Regularly squeezing a workout into your day -- even if you can spare only 10 minutes at a time -- will help keep your energy levels at their peak.

Do energy drinks affect your liver? ›

Consumption of excess energy drinks has been linked to several instances of clinically apparent acute liver injury which can be severe and result in fatal or urgent liver transplantation.

What happens when you stop drinking energy drinks? ›

Withdrawal symptoms you may experience with an energy drink addiction include headaches, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a depressed mood ( 6 ). Often, these withdrawal symptoms are related to quitting caffeine, and they may last 2–9 days ( 6 ).

Why coffee is better than energy drinks? ›

Coffee Has No Calories

Aside from the caffeine, energy drinks usually have a ton of sugar, which won't help you in the long run; after the rush wears off, you'll just crash again. Coffee, on the other hand, is better for sustained energy, and you won't have to add to your calorie count for the day when you drink it.

What happens if you drink an energy drink everyday for a year? ›

Excessive or regular consumption of energy drinks can lead to heart arrhythmias, headaches, high blood pressure, and anxiety, Popeck says. In the US, more than 20,000 emergency room visits in 2011 were associated with energy drink use.

What do energy drinks do to your brain? ›

Guarana (a popular additive in energy drinks) is also a natural source of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases activity in your brain and nervous system. It also increases the circulation of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body.

How long do energy drinks last in your system? ›

How Long Do Energy Drinks Stay in Your System? Energy drinks can last anywhere from four to six hours in your system. The exact amount of time will depend on factors such as your age, weight, and activity level. The caffeine in energy drinks is a diuretic, which means it will make you urinate more frequently.

Do energy gels make a difference? ›

Although energy gels aren't a direct replacement as you can't control which muscles the glucose goes to, they do help continue to fuel your run. Energy gels contain about 25g of carbohydrates per gel, in the form of simple sugars, an accessible energy source for your body to process.

Are energy gels good for workout? ›

When taken correctly, energy gels can help your body perform better during exercise. But it's easy to get it wrong. Energy gels should typically be taken during or directly before activity. This is because they work by increasing your blood sugar levels fast.

How quickly do energy gels work? ›

As a rule of thumb though, try having your first gel at around 20 to 30 minutes into your run and wait a further 20–30 minutes between each one. You'll feel them kick in three-to-15 minutes after eating, depending on how quickly your body absorbs the sugar into your bloodstream.

How many gels do I need for a 5 hour marathon? ›

Marathon FAQs

For runs over 60 minutes, you need to bring fuel along with you. We recommend eating one Energy Gel or four Energy Chews every 45 minutes along the way.

How much water should I drink with energy gels? ›

If you're not using an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade Endurance formula or nuun, always drink 4-6 ounces of water when you consume a gel or chew.

Can you take energy gel on an empty stomach? ›

Energy gels are packets of simple sugars in gel form. Simple sugars taken before a workout can help you to workout longer and at a higher intensity then if you exercise on an empty stomach. If you have no problem digesting and metabolizing sugars then energy gels are safe to use.

How many gels do I need for a 4 hour marathon? ›

To get 30-60 grams of carbohydrate an hour from energy gels requires a gel packet every 30 minutes. This would be 8 gels in a four hour marathon, which is much higher than most people consume.

Why do athletes use energy gels? ›

Energy gels provide a quick accessible solution that can be used on the go, providing 22-40g of carbohydrate per gel depending on which type of gel you choose. Consuming these carbohydrates will maintain your blood glucose levels and hopefully prevent fatigue allowing you to ride at your best for longer.

What is the best energy booster before a workout? ›

Here are five great pre-workout foods to help you boost your energy before a workout.
  • Almond Butter.
  • Blueberries.
  • Protein Balls.
  • Greek Yogurt.
  • Oatmeal.
May 23, 2019

What happens if you take an energy gel without water? ›

Without water, energy gels will take longer to digest and enter the blood stream. If you take an energy gel with a sports drink, you run the risk of ingesting too much simple sugar at once.

How many energy gels do I need? ›

One or two energy gels every hour of training / racing can be an effective way of meeting your carbohydrate needs. It depends if you are also taking on energy drinks. If you get 40grams of carbohydrate from a 500ml energy drink, one additional energy gel of 25 grams will take you up to the 70g target.

How many gels do I need for a 3 hour marathon? ›

Go with a bar, a banana or a gel, preferably caffeinated, and some water. Take your first gel about 30 minutes into the race (go for the isotonic kind and, if you like, with caffeine every other time). Always take it with a cup of water. Take an average of 2 gels an hour for the remainder of the race.


1. Beginners' Long Run Fueling Guide
(The Run Experience)
2. How To Make Energy Gels Work For You – Fuel Like A Pro Cyclist
(Global Cycling Network)
4. The BEST Energy Gels For Runners in 2020 | Feat. Maurten, SiS, Gu
(The Running Channel)
5. 9 Nutrition Alternatives For Training & Race Day | Are You Sick Of Energy Gels?
(Global Triathlon Network)
6. ROCTANE Energy Drink Mix | GU Energy Labs
(GU Energy Labs)
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