Are all gels created equal?

The elites gravitate toward this brand.

Most runners find their training and race-day fuel through trial and error, sticking with whichever one makes them feel and perform their best. But a trend among the pros suggests one product might be better than the rest.

Elites like Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, and Desiree Linden all nourish their bodies with products from a small Swedish company called Maurten. And no, they aren’t partnered with the brand. Maurten gels and powder deliver their carbs via a unique hydrogel technology, which the brand claims minimizes GI distress.
Maurten’s hydrogel technology is its most intriguing characteristic, says Katie Kissane, RD, a sports nutritionist and owner of NoCo Sports Nutrition and Fitness in Fort Collins, Colorado. Unlike traditional gels, “it’s insoluble in water, and the theory is that the carbs aren’t released until they get to the small intestine,” she explains.

That’s good for two reasons: First, your body absorbs more carbs in the small intestine compared to the stomach. Second, GI distress often happens when there’s too much sugar in the stomach, not other parts of the GI tract.

Still, there’s little research on hydrogels and in every other way, Maurten products are pretty similar to others in terms of ingredients.
“It’s important for athletes to try different products, but try not to get caught up on the hype,” Kissane says. She suggests testing several brands (like GU, CLIF, Honey Stinger, VFuel, and Huma Gel) and using the one that gives you lasting energy and minimal GI discomfort.