If you’ve been a part of the running and cycling community for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard of energy gels. Many athletes use these gels for a quick energy boost while running or cycling, particularly long-distance. Store-bought energy gels for training and racing are available almost anywhere, but if you want to try out a homemade version of these gels, check out these easy DIY recipes anyone can make at home!
What are energy gels?
Energy gels can help you get the most out of your cycling or long-distance runs by providing reliable energy to fuel your workouts. They’re carbohydrate-rich gels made from sugar (usually maltodextrin and fructose).1
Energy gels come in small packets that typically contain about 1 to 1.5 ounces of gel. They’re very easy to carry and consume while you cycle or run, and your body digests them quickly since they don’t contain any other nutrients like protein or fiber.
Why should I use homemade energy gels?
They can help keep you moving: Although you don’t have to use energy gels, many cyclists, runners, and other endurance athletes do. That’s because they’re very effective! When you workout for more than an hour, you’ll burn through your body’s stored carbohydrates (known as glycogen) and need more fuel to keep going. Energy gels provide an additional boost of energy that prevents complete glycogen depletion and can improve your athletic performance during long training sessions.
They’re more effective than sports drinks: Other foods and drinks also contain carbohydrates and can help you maintain your energy while you workout, but they may not work as well. For instance, the most recent studies show you need about 30 to 60 grams of carbs every hour you exercise.2 While the average 8-ounce sports drink only contains about 14 grams of carbs, an energy gel is likely to provide 23 to 27 grams of carbs, which will be much more beneficial to your body.
They’re easy and cheap to make: Another great reason to use energy gels if you’re an endurance athlete is that they’re easy to prepare on your own at home and consume while you workout. If you don’t have time to make them at home, you can also use store-bought gels that will work just as well, but planning ahead and making them at home will save you quite a bit of money!
They’re made of natural ingredients you can pronounce: Store-bought energy gels are made with preservatives, processed sugars, and other ingredients you probably can’t pronounce. The main perk of making your own energy gels at home is that they contain only natural ingredients that you can pronounce, so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. You can also tweak the recipes to suit your taste buds better!
Whether you workout indoors with Vingo on your bike trainer or treadmill, homemade energy gels are a great companion that will help boost your energy and endurance.
5 easy DIY energy gel recipes for cyclists and runners
1. Road Bike Rider’s honey, agave syrup, Nutella, and peanut butter energy gel
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon Nutella
- 1 teaspoon peanut butter
- 1.5 tablespoons water (or coffee, if you prefer a coffee flavor)
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix them well with a whisk. Add a pinch of salt (optional) for sodium. The result will have the consistency of an energy “syrup” more than a “gel,” but that’s normal.
2. Runner’s World’s apple pie energy gel
- 5 dried apple rings, chopped
- ⅔ cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
Blend dried apples and hot water with a blender. Let them sit for 30 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until they’re smooth. Let the mixture cool, and then transfer it into an energy gel flask or container of your choice.
3. Food 52’s energy gel
- 4 dried, pitted dates
- ½ cup maple syrup or honey
- Grated zest from 1 lemon and 1 lime
- Juice from 1 lemon or 1 lime
- A pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until it’s smooth. Stir in the chia seeds.
4. One Green Planet’s vegan and gluten-free homemade energy gels
- 1 pound frozen fruit of your choice
- 1 cup pitted dates (about 22 dates)
- 1 cup sweet rice flour
Put the frozen fruit and dates into a saucepan. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 20 to 22 minutes stirring every few minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and blend it all until it’s smooth. Allow it to cool before gradually stirring in the sweet rice flour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line an 8×8 glass pan with parchment paper. Put the fruit blend into the glass pan and smooth it out. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. About halfway through the cooking time, you’ll need to gently score the top layer of the mixture with a knife before returning it to the oven, so it cooks evenly.
Once the gels are done cooking, take them out of the oven, let them cool, and then put them in the refrigerator until they’re chilled. Cut them into small cubes and coat them with a thin layer of sweet rice flour so the gels won’t stick together. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
5. Coach Debbie Runs Medjool Date Energy Gels with Strawberries and Chia
- 3 ounces Medjool Dates (about 6 dates), pitted
- 3 or 4 fresh strawberries
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons water
Cut the strawberries and dates into small pieces and put them into a blender or food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend them all together until smooth. Put the mixture into the containers of your choice and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
Tip: If you don’t already have a container for your homemade energy gels, consider purchasing one of these refillable pouches to transport and consume your energy gels on the go easily.
Energy gel precautions
Since energy gels also contain a lot of sugar, they can sometimes cause an upset stomach. Because of this, it’s a good idea to take small sips of water as you consume them.
If you plan to consume energy gels on a race day, it’s also important to use them while you’re training. Doing so will give your body time to get used to digesting them while you’re running or cycling. Otherwise, you might risk experiencing digestional upset after taking them for the first time, which may impact your race performance.
And finally, It’s important to note that we are not doctors, nutritional experts, or sports nutrition specialists. So if you want an energy gel that is specially formulated for a specific exercise activity or tailored to your individual needs, you’ll need to work with a specialist who can help you achieve that.
Key Takeaways:Homemade energy gels are an affordable and healthy way to boost your energy on long runs or bike rides. Making them yourself is easier than you might think. Just try one of these DIY recipes! If you have concerns about nutrition or energy gels that are tailored to your specific needs, it’s best to speak with your doctor or a sports nutrition expert.
- Bone, M. A. J. T. (2020, October 15). Energy Gels: How They Can Help You Fuel a Long Workout. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/energy-gels-how-they-can-help-you-fuel-a-long-workout/
- Jeukendrup, A. (2014, May). A Step Towards Personalized Sports Nutrition: Carbohydrate Intake During Exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(S1), 25–33. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0148-z
- RBR Editors. (2022, August 15). 5 Easy DIY Energy Gel Recipes. Road Bike Rider Cycling Site. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.roadbikerider.com/homemade-energy-gel-recipes/
- Kadey, M. M. S. (2021, November 2). Yes, You Can Make Your Own Electrolyte Drinks (and Gels!). Runner’s World. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a31207410/homemade-electrolyte-drinks-energy-gels/
- Laperruque, E. (2018, October 29). The On-the-Go Snack That Powered Me Through a Marathon. Food52. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://food52.com/blog/23264-homemade-energy-gel-marathon-race-snack-training
- Homemade Energy Gels [Vegan, Gluten-Free]. (2017, October 5). One Green Planet. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/homemade-energy-gels/
- Woodruff, D. (2021, December 1). Medjool Date Energy Gels with Strawberries and Chia! Coach Debbie Runs. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://coachdebbieruns.com/medjool-date-energy-gels/