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How to make your own Energy Gels

Updated: May 2, 2023

When exercising at a high intensity your body needs an easily digestible fuel source – carbohydrates. Even well fat-adapted athletes will still get a high proportion of their energy from carbohydrates during high intensity training. Runners, cyclists and other cardio-focused athletes use energy gels as an easily accessible source of carbohydrate fuel for their training and races. In other words, “carbs are legal dope”.

Energy gels come in the form of a viscous liquid with the base ingredients varying from maltodextrin, glucose, honey, maple syrup and other sugary fluid substances. Commercial energy gels are also loaded with other performance enhancing additives such as:

  1. BCAAs – branched chain amino acids, which reduce muscle soreness, fatigue, and muscle break-down

  2. Caffeine – enhanced alertness and endurance

  3. Electrolytes – to replace salts loss in sweat, and to encourage more fluid intake

There are many brands of energy gels available, for example GU Energy has a wide range of different types of gels. These come in single-serve sachets about 35ml each, and sometimes in large multi-serve jugs to refill a small gel bottle. GU also offers GU chews (small chewy energy blocks), GU brew (electrolyte tablets), GU Roctane drink mix (energy + electrolytes), and a protein recovery drink mix. It’s important to have a variety of options for fuel.

Do energy gels have a role for the alpine climber? A lot of time spent alpine climbing is within the low-intensity zone. Here fats play a larger role and solid foods can be eaten for more sustained energy levels. However, faster ascents on more straightforward terrain, such as long, steep snowfields or rapid simul climbing sections involve a high cardiovascular effort and occur in a heart-rate zone where energy gels would be the perfect fuel source for the intensity. The alpine climber also spends many hours training through the week running, hiking and cycling to build aerobic capacity, so a convenient fuel source for this kind of regular training is needed so you can get the most from each session, and recover quicker.

The main barrier to regular use is cost, with each 100 calorie serving costing NZ$3-6, this quickly adds up. So commercial products, while very well engineered and conveniently packaged, end up being saved for high performance activity like a race or important climb.

The good news is it is not difficult to make your own energy gels. All of the ingredients are available online at MyProtein or other supplements stores.

Here is a base recipe:

  1. Juice of 2 large lemons + water to make up total of 1.5 cups fluid

  2. 3 cups Maltodextrin (450g)

  3. 1 cup Dextrose (Glucose) (150g)

  4. 1 tsp Vitamin C powder (5g)

  5. 2 tsp BCAA powder (10g)

  6. 600mg caffeine powder (grind up caffeine tablets to fine powder, or open up liquid capsules, if powdered caffeine is not available)

  7. 1 tsp table salt

  8. Place the fluid in a blender then add each of the powdered ingredients

  9. Blend until smooth

  10. Transfer to a saucepan and heat on a low heat for 15 minutes to dissolve ingredients.

  11. Transfer to a bottle/container and store in the fridge

Use a 250ml soft flask bottle to carry as much gel as you need for your training or activity.

This produces approximately 24x 30g servings, costs about $5 in ingredients, which works out on $0.20 per gel. That’s around 20 times cheaper than a commercial gel! The advantages of a commercial gel over home-made gels are convenience, both in time to produce and the packaging, accurate dosage of nutrients and variety of tasty flavours.

Other ingredients that can be added are fructose instead of glucose, magnesium powder, Beta alanine, Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, coconut oil, chia seeds (omega-3 fatty acids).

Taste is an important consideration if you are going to be consuming a lot of gel. The flavour can be varied by using different fruit juices as the liquid component, it can also be boiled down to the required amount of fluid to enhance the flavour. I find lemon juice produces a pleasant and mild flavour, and the citric acid assists with the gelling process. Using two-thirds maltodextrin to one third glucose means the gels are not too sweet. Experiment with your own flavours and let us know in the comments what you come up.

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aims nachname
aims nachname
Aug 22, 2023

Great recipe! I've found an App which calculates individual recipes called "Racefuel - digital nutrition coach. Very helpful to create liquid energy gel. The links to the app are also on the website: https://racefuel.de and https://racepace.org

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Unknown member
Mar 20, 2023

how could i combine honey into the recipe? still for it to hold its form, and for it not to be too sweet?


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