What are the best gels for sensitive stomachs? Most runners know that “what you eat” is one of the most tricky parts of running. Eating becomes even more critical for longer distances when fueling while running.
What are energy gels? Energy gels replenish depleted carbohydrate stores while working out. Most energy gels contain about 25 grams of carbohydrates per gel. These carbs come in the form of simple sugar. Typically one energy gel gives you enough carbohydrates to last between 30 and 45 minutes.
Are energy gels bad for you? Absolutely not, and if you are running longer distances, you need to find nutrition that you can take during the run.
Do energy gels work? Yes, but you aren’t going to run a fast (for you) marathon without taking in some form of energy. But energy gels don’t have to be a “gel.” Many people find success in beans, blocks, chews, or even waffles.
Like running shoes, every person is different, and we all have different needs. For most runners, it will take time and trying a lot of different gels to figure out which is the best gel for your sensitive stomach. Studies show about 90% of long-distance runners have experienced some GI distress during a run or race.
You don’t have to let that control you! Before figuring out what the best gel for sensitive stomachs is, you have to figure out why your stomach is being sensitive:
- Does it happen only when you run? Only when you race?
- Are you nervous?
- Are you eating enough before the race? Are you drinking enough?
How to Consume Energy Gels:
Most energy gels require water. If you also drink an electrolyte beverage, you might put too much sugar into your system with both a gel and an electrolyte beverage. Truthfully, many people’s sensitive stomachs are because they overload their stomachs with too much sugar. To make sure you are using your energy gel correctly, you must: take it with plenty of water at water stations along your marathon, only take it as many times as stated on the packaging, and practice taking varying brands pre-race.
How to Find Gels that Work For Your Sensitive Stomach:
Figure out exactly which types of sugars work for you. The common belief is most gels contain fructose, but many contain natural ingredients that feel more like a meal than a gel. Many energy gels are made from honey, peanut butter, or tapioca.
You can read my review about GU Energy Gels here.
Gu basically created the energy gel, and they have so many different types of gels out now. However, they are one of the thickest and have one of the highest carbohydrates. Gu is a good start if you are new to running and looking for the gel that started it all. Personally, I’m a fan of Gu. You will most likely need to take it with water as most people can not tolerate both a gel and electrolyte mix like Gatorade.
Spring Gels are actually made from all-natural ingredients and designed for easy absorption. They are made with a low glycemic index foods, complex carbohydrates, natural MCT oils, and wholefood proteins. Plus, Spring Gels have finely tuned acidity and osmotically active nutrients that improve absorption and reduce GI distress. This makes Spring Gels one of the best gels for sensitive stomachs.
You can read my full review here.
Huma Gels are 100% natural; each gel is made from real fruit puree and chia seeds. The chia seeds provide the ideal daily amount of Essential Amino Acids. The fiber content holds liquid carbohydrates during digestion to reduce sugar spikes. Instead, they give a steady release of energy and make for one of the best gels for sensitive stomachs.
They are also Gluten-Free, Dairy-free, and Vegan-Friendly. The consistency is slightly different than other gels, so it will take some time to get used to.
You can read more review of Muir Energy Gels here. Muir Energy Gels use 3-6 ingredients derived from nature, not in a lab. All components are natural, including fruit, salt, or cacao. There is nothing weird. Finally, what makes Muir Energy Gels unique is they are broken up into fast-burning gels and slow-burning gels. Not many endurance nutrition is broken up like that. Which now, thinking about it is strange. Ultra races require different fueling strategies than marathons. Some of their fuels are converted into energy faster than others, but they are all made from natural ingredients, making them one of the best gels for sensitive stomachs.
You can read my review with Maurten Gels here.
Unlike many fuels on the market, Maurten has no added flavor. It’s slightly sweetened, but you won’t taste something like chocolate or fruity. Maurten Energy also uses natural ingredients, so there are no extra colors or preservatives. The gel itself is thicker but is designed to be taken with an electrolyte mix if you prefer.
Instead of using carbohydrates, Maurten uses “hydrogel technology,” which reduces the risk of GI problems and removes all unnecessary ingredients. This makes Maurten Gels a great choice of gel for sensitive stomachs.
Maybe You Need Something Other than a Gel:
There are plenty of other options that aren’t gels that will provide you with energy on the go.
- Liquid Energy: Finding a high calorie drink mix be a great option for those with sensitive stomachs. Many brands make options such as Skratch, Ucan, Maurten, Gatorade, and really almost every brand. The benefits of liquids and powders is you can mix them to be as strong as you would like or dilute them as much as you need.
- Bloks: Bloks can also be less forgiving on the stomach. A problem with Bloks is it might be hard to “chew” while running at high speeds.
So Which Gel is the Best For Sensitive Stomachs?
Obviously it will take some experimenting with what works for you. I suggest first narrowing down why your stomach is sensitive. Is it sensitive during other activities or just running? Are you nervous about the race? Then try gels with water only. That way you’re able to see how your body responds to gels and don’t have to worry about an electrolyte mix also playing a role.
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Questions for you:
What is your favorite gel for a sensitive stomach?
How do you fuel your races?