Making Your Own Energy Gels

Hi, my name is Adam and I’m a sugar addict. I use it before, during and after running. I don’t get the deep lows that stop others from using it during races, so I consider myself to be fairly lucky. One thing I have noticed though, is that the guy in the running store looks at me a bit funny when I come in all the time for my fix, er I mean another box of gels. He looks at me even more strangely when I go through the racks and add to my pile a whole bunch of anything new. Most people have sensitive stomachs but I’m lucky enough that I can eat almost anything during a run. And I like pretty much all of the commercial gels on the market, except SIS- Science in Sport. Oh, you have them? Take a look on the side where it says ‘no simple sugars’. Are you f/ing kidding me? Where were my simple sugars when I needed them going up the side of Mt Solitary a few months ago, buddy? That mistake cost me at least 15 minutes…… but I digress.

I use Endura (Citrus and Raspberry, the grape tastes like some horrible lolly at the bottom of a cheap Christmas bucket)  but have to be careful of the (8mg) caffeine content. And I especially like the Accel Gel Key Lime with protein (tastes like cheesecake, yum!). However in a long race I’ve been finding that it’s a bit of a pain keeping the rubbish from flying out of your pocket. And if I forget to empty my pockets at checkpoints, the sticky rubbish really builds up. So I decided to make my own.

After much internet research I found a good starting recipe here, they even sell an ebook with recipes. But I wanted to start very simple, and wanted something that does not need cooking. I’m pleased to say after a few false starts, I finally have an easy recipe that works. Here are the ingredients-

The 1970’s called, they want their kitchen back

Available from health food shops or over the internet. This is a multiple chained carbohydrate often added to foods for bulk. It is easily digested and provides a runner with longer lasting energy than a simple sugar, and doesn’t ‘bonk’ so badly. I paid $28 for 2kg from a health food shop, but I’ve found out that this money would have bought me 5kg or more if I’d shopped around.

Yep, table salt. I’m sure some people will insist on using Himalayan rock salt, but this isn’t rocket science folks

That stuff that comes out of a tap

Lime Juice
Originally from a lime, this time it came out of a squeezy bottle in my fridge

There’s a rumour that the worlds bee population is collapsing, you should read up on why this will possibly mean the death of all human life on the planet. Or perhaps you can just go to your cupboard and get out the sweet tasting fruits of the stinging insects labour

Brown Sugar
This is where I link to a Rolling Stones song isn’t it? This is my one concession against simplicity- I could have used any other kind of sugar, however this was available and it does have a decent flavour.

Here we go-

280g maltodextrin
1/4 teaspoon salt
100ml water
50ml lime juice
80ml honey
50g brown sugar

Put all the ‘other’ ingredients into a bowl and slowly add the water, while mixing. The mixture will need to be mixed quite a lot and it doesn’t hurt to leave it for a while and come back to attack those lumps. In general, the less water you add the less thin the result will be, but you’ll have to chase more lumps. This makes the equivalent of 16 gels, and I pour the mixture into Endura flasks (bottom of this page).

The Endura flasks each store about 125ml of mixture. If you have a look at this page you’ll see that the average serving size is about 30-45ml, so I’m going to estimate a serving size of 32ml or 4 servings to a flask.

This gives the following specs for each serve-
Maltodextrin (96% carb, 16.05 kj per 1g)
280/16= 17.5 (x 0.96)= 16.8g of carbohydrate
17.5x 16.05=  280 Kj

Honey (27% carb, 12.72 kj per 1g)
80/16= 5 (x 0.27)= 1.35g of carbohydrate
5x 12.72 = 63.6 Kj

Brown Sugar (98% carb, 16.70 kj per 1g)
50/16 = 3.125 (x 0.98) = 3.0625g of carbohydrate
3.125 x 16.70 = 52.2 kj

1/4 teaspoon = 1g
1/16 = 0.0625 g per serving, and sodium accounts for 39.3% of the weight of NaCl
therefor each serving contains 24.6mg Sodium

assuming brown sugar and honey only contribute simple sugars, we then have-
Serving size = 32ml
simple carbs= 4.41g
complex carbs= 16.8g
Total carbs= 21.21g
Total energy= 396 kj

Comparing to the table again here, we find that both the carbohydrate and the energy available from our mix is roughly the same, gram for gram. Our serving size is a little smaller and our energy properties are correspondingly smaller, but definitely within the range we would expect. Sodium figures vary wildly between brands, we can easily change this but I’d have to say from experience the sodium is ‘adequate’.

Home made gel flasks

One of these flasks is not like the other ones


I store these in the freezer. They don’t actually freeze, but I figure they will last a bit longer in there.

I had an unused flask left out of the fridge accidentally for over 2 weeks and it looked fine, so I’ve stopped worrying about whether it will give me some nasty bug. I’m not sure why- I guess it would have something to do with the natural preservative action of the honey, the PH of the mixture or the fact that I use lime juice with preservatives? Who knows a food technologist?

Flavour Options
You could swap the water for coffee- that would give you a small caffeine boost in each sip. One shot or 100mg of caffeine over 16 gels is 6.25 mg per gel, a little less than you’d get in an Endura. Or potentially make this a bit simpler by ditching the honey, brown sugar, water  and lime juice and substituting for a fruit based cordial. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to re do all the calculations!

Anything else?
Each one of these flasks will help you to run 30-40km, but I usually supplement with something else to break the boredom. I always carry 2 flasks on me, but have one wrapped in a sandwich bag so it can go back in the freezer if not used. I always throw out whatever is left in the used flask at the end of a run. Also, as seen on another site, it’s not recommended to use any protein supplements in these home made gels as they will go off rapidly……

Please let me know if you have success with these ideas, or if you have any new recipes, thanks!