Are you an ultra runner looking for the best fuel to keep you going during those long runs? Look no further! We’ve compiled a list of the best energy gels, bars and snacks to help you stay energised during your next ultra marathon. From tasty natural snacks to convenient gels, there’s something here for every runner’s needs. So get ready to lace up your shoes, load up on some fuel and hit the trail running!
Table of Contents: Energy Gels & Bars
In a previous article, we looked hydration fuelling mix for ultra runners and how this powder can be added to your hydration – allowing you to intake energy while you drink. However, you can’t survive on hydration fuel during a long endurance effort; you’ll need other energy sources. That is why we will now look at energy gels, bars and snacks.
Best Energy Gels For Ultra Running
These small packets of concentrated carbs are designed to boost runners when needed. Many come in flavours like orange, berry or vanilla and pack a lot of punch in a small package – perfect for your longer runs! Some are even boosted with caffeine or include a shot of coffee for that extra kick.
SiS Go Isotonic Energy Gels
SiS Go Energy Gels are a popular choices for ultra running, TRI and cycling. Both come in packs of 20 and contain a good balance of carbohydrates and flavours. They’re also easy on the stomach, making them great for runners suffering from digestive issues during exercise. I would suggest buying the variety pack visit above. Doing so gives you the best value-for-money option and allows you to test different flavours. You might find that your body also craves different flavours throughout an ultra event. So whilst you might enjoy orange at the start, toward the end, you might crave apple for blackcurrant.
Veloforte Energy Gels
Veloforte gels have been scientifically formulated to provide a sustained energy release, making them perfect for long-distance events or hard workouts. They contain natural ingredients, including dates and figs, which provide carbohydrates and fructose to give you the energy you need without relying on artificial sweeteners. They are also packed with natural vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes to keep you going longer.
Originally developed for cyclists but now hugely popular with ultra runners and triathletes. Whilst they are more expensive than some of the other products featured in this guide, they are also made with much higher quality ingredients, making them one of the best energy gels. Veloforte Energy Gels come in convenient single-serve sachets, making them lightweight and easy to transport. I suggest buying the 24-sachet mixed flavour pack to try all the flavours and see which one you prefer. Want to know more? Then head over to our complete Veloforte review, which includes a breakdown and detailed reviews on each product.
Gu Energy Gels
Created for daily training and competition, GU Energy Gel packs a powerful punch of carbohydrates, essential amino acids, sodium and other performance-oriented nutrients. The combination provides an instant energy boost and efficient fuel absorption in a light and convenient package. Just one gel contains 100 calories, 21g of carbohydrates, electrolytes to help maintain hydration levels, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
SiS Beta Fuel Dual Source Energy Gels
SiS Beta Fuel Dual has a 1: 0.8 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose, which increases the percentage of ingested carbohydrate oxidized (AKA efficiency) from 62% to 74% when compared with a ratio of 2: 1 of other brands. This can help you maintain energy levels for longer during an ultra as your body relies on carbohydrate stores to fuel it. Depending on the distance, you should consume 1-3 gels every hour to reach an 80g-120g target intake. In some cases, such as in cold weather, it may be necessary to consume more. They are easy to tear open and consume. Remember to pop the packaging in your pocket.
GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gels
GU Roctane Energy Gels are created for long-duration and high-intensity activities, such as long-distance running or ultra marathons. They contain added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and citrulline malate, which can help reduce muscle fatigue and improve mental alertness. These are not just energy gels for running. Ideal for all sports, such as cycling, triathlon and team sports. Some flavours in the box (3 or 4) also contain caffeine.
HIGH5 Energy Gel Quick Release
HIGH5 Energy Gels contain 22g of carbohydrates per sachet from maltodextrin and fructose. Also, an option available which includes electrolytes. HIGH5’s gels are made without caffeine or artificial sweeteners. They don’t require water with them and come in a pliable pouch to reduce mess and make them easy to consume on the run. Available in various flavours and with a caffeine boost, these gels are affordable for ultra runners.
Kendal Mint Co Energy Gels
These are another great option for ultra runners taking on a long challenge. The natural ingredients make them easy to digest and provide quick energy. They are vegan and don’t contain any added sugar, artificial sweeteners or caffeine. Each sachet contains a mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and salt to help you stay hydrated in the long run. These gels also have Vitamin B, which will help your body convert the carbs into energy.
Best Energy Bars For Ultra Running
If you’re in search of something a bit more substantial than a gel but still want to avoid reaching for a full meal, energy bars make an excellent choice. Today’s energy bars come in delicious flavours like peanut butter and jelly or dark chocolate brownie. Perfect for snacking mid-run or as a substitute for breakfast, many energy bars are packed with vitamins and minerals to help fuel your next training session.
TREK High Protein Energy Bars
TREK bars are the perfect snack for ultra runners. These scrumptious bars are made from natural fruit and nut ingredients, with no added sugar or artificial preservatives. They contain 9-10 grams of protein and 28-29 grams of carbohydrates per bar, which helps to keep you fuller for longer. Great when you don’t have time to stop and eat during an ultra event but need something more substantial than a gel.
SIS Go Energy Bar
These bars are full of natural ingredients. They contain real fruits, nuts and cereal to fuel an endurance activity when you don’t have the time for a proper meal. An SIS Go Bar contains 25g of carbohydrates, 5g of protein and over 100mg of electrolytes. Delicious flavours like peanut butter, banana, or chocolate fudge make them particularly enjoyable during your ultra event.
Nakd Fruit & Nut Bars
Nakd Fruit & Nut Bars are easy to eat, and this variety pack is perfect for ultra running. Unlike some other energy bars, Nakd is moist rather than crunchy, making them easy to eat. Each bar is made from 100% natural ingredients, with dates and raisins for sweetness, nuts for protein and a sprinkle of cocoa. They are vegan-friendly and free from added sugar, making them an excellent runner choice.
KIND Nut Bars
KIND bars are whole nuts snacks with 60% nuts that will give you the energy to keep you going for longer, making them perfect for fueling long-distance activities. The bars come in delicious flavours too so you won’t be disappointed. Plus, they are free from GMOs and gluten, so they’re perfect for everyone.
Veloforte Mixed Energy Bars
These delicious energy bars are handmade in Italy using traditional ingredients to fuel long-distance activities. Veloforte energy bars contain a mix of nuts, dates, honey and other natural ingredients to provide sustained energy. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals to help keep your energy levels up during an ultra race.
SiS Go Energy Bakes
These delicious energy bakes are another yummy option for ultra runners that are easy to eat. They contain a mix of natural ingredients, including dates, oats and cranberries, to provide sustained energy to fuel your run. Each bake contains 30g of carbohydrates and 10g of fructose and boosts performance in a delicious baked bar with a gooey fruit-filled centre. The soft centre of these bakes makes them so easy to eat because you don’t have to worry about them being too chewy.
Ultra Running Fuelling
Energy is essential for all types of running, but it’s crucial for ultra running. Ultra-distance runs demand the highest level of physical and mental performance from runners – so fuel up before you hit the trail! With this guide, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect energy gels, bars and snacks to help take your ultra running to the next level.
The Science Behind Energy Gels
The primary purpose of energy gels is to provide an easily digestible carbohydrate source for athletes during their long-duration activities. During these more extended events, the body begins to run out of its stored glycogen, and therefore energy gels are designed to replenish this depleted energy source quickly and effectively. Studies have shown that energy gels can help both physiological and psychological performance.
Most energy gels contain maltodextrin and fructose as their primary carbohydrate sources. Maltodextrin is a complex carb that provides a more sustained release of carbs than simple sugars and helps regulate blood sugar levels while running. Fructose is a simple sugar that is easy to digest and helps get glucose into your muscles faster. Some energy gels also provide essential electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which help replace lost minerals during exercise.
Energy Gels, Bars & Snacks: Eat Little But Often
When it comes to fueling for ultra running, the key is to eat little but often. Doing so means ensuring you’re getting the right amount of energy from your gels, bars and snacks throughout your run – so don’t forget to keep a few stashed in your pack or pockets! Regular fuel intake and sipping sports drinks while you run can also help you maintain optimum performance and stay energised until the finish line.
Take Advantage Of Aid Station Food
If you’re running an ultra marathon with aid stations, take advantage of the food they provide. This can include everything from sandwiches and bars to chips, gels and sports drinks. Aim to eat something small every 30–45 minutes during your run – this will help keep your energy levels up and prevent any bonking!
What Is Bonking?
Bonking, also known as hitting the wall, is a term used to describe what happens when your body runs out of glycogen and can no longer sustain itself with energy. The Bonking phase typically occurs after several hours of intense physical activity or on longer runs when you need more fuel. To avoid this dreaded situation, ensure you regularly eat during your run and take sufficient energy from gels, bars and snacks.
Best Forms Of Energy For Ultra Running
Different forms of energy fuel our bodies in different ways, so it’s essential to identify the best energy foods for your needs when preparing for an ultra run. Complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy are great for runs lasting several hours or more as they will keep you fueled for longer. If you are running your first ultramarathon, then make your gels, bars and snacks with you on training runs. This will allow you to learn what works best for you and what your body can handle after 4 or 5 hours of physical exercise. You should train with your fuel, just like you would with other gear like race running socks, trail running poles and hydration running packs.
High-GI foods can also be beneficial during shorter races, as these provide a quick boost of energy absorbed quickly by the body. What about protein? Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, so include some protein in your diet before, during and after a race. Will a little bit of fat help too? Yes, “good fats” like avocado and nuts also provide essential nutrients and fatty acids for optimal running performance.
Final Thoughts & Summary
No matter what kind of ultra running you’re doing, having a good supply of energy gels, bars, and snacks on hand is essential! Doing so helps you keep pushing along the trail and gives you that extra energy to keep moving. Fueling is a must, not an optional extra, for most ultra events. Think of it as an investment in your performance and ensure you are prepared with the proper fuel to help you reach your goal.
Try experimenting with different brands, energy sources and textures and find out what is best for you. If you are participating in an ultra event, remember to check with the organisers what food and drink are available at the aid stations. Being used to eating various sources of energy will help you plan your refuelling strategy and ensure you are well-prepared for the challenge ahead.