The Best Energy Chews, Gels, and Bars for Running, According to a Dietitian

Spring Energy Gels has whole food ingredients that provide sustained energy

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Energy gels, chews, and bars are designed to provide energy during long durations of endurance exercise. These products typically contain a mix of carbohydrate sources—whether from natural sources like fruit and honey or from added simple sugars like fructose and glucose—that are known to enhance performance and reduce time to exhaustion. Some products also contain electrolytes that can help replenish losses through sweat, but these must be consumed in combination with fluids to prevent dehydration while running for prolonged periods. 

“If you’re running longer than 60 to 90 minutes, you will benefit from fueling on a run. How much and what you choose to fuel with becomes individualized based on your gender, size, effort level, length of run, and personal preferences,” says Kristy Baumann, RDN, LD, who works with runners. Most people need between 30 to 60 grams (120 to 240 calories) of carbohydrates per hour for runs up to 2.5 hours. Ultra-endurance athletes may need even more—up to 90 grams (or 360 calories) per hour. If you are eating enough carbohydrates in your regular diet, you won't need to use energy chews, gels, or bars for runs shorter than 60 minutes, since your muscles store enough carbohydrates to fuel you.

When selecting our top list, our dietitian (who is also an avid runner!) considered flavor, ingredients, and nutrition profile, including carbohydrate and electrolyte content. The best product is the one your digestive system can tolerate and one that gives you the energy you need, so try out different products during your training (never try something new on race day!) to find what works best for you.

Verywell Fit Approved Energy Chews, Gels, and Bars for Running

  • Best Overall: Spring Energy Gel is our top pick because of its unique blend of whole food ingredients that provide sustained energy.
  • Best Bar: If you are looking for an energy bar, try Picky Bars Real Food Energy Bars, developed by professional runners and a triathlete.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Are Energy Gels, Chews, and Bars Beneficial?

Energy gels, chews, and bars are designed specifically for endurance athletes and have been shown to improve performance. In addition, they are conveniently packaged for the run. While most long-distance runners can benefit from energy gels or chews, they are especially beneficial for the following people:

  • Endurance runners. If you’re running for more than 60 to 90 minutes, you’ll need to consume quickly digested carbohydrates during your run since your muscles can only store enough energy for about an hour (or slightly more) of exercise. 
  • People who have trouble eating real food on the run. While food sources of carbohydrates like raisins, dates, potatoes, or even gummy candy have been shown to support performance in similar ways to energy gels, some people may have trouble chewing or digesting them while running. It can also be challenging to eat enough food to get the 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrates needed to properly fuel your run, especially for those that need the higher end of that. Gels, chews, and bars offer a concentrated source of carbohydrates.
  • Runners at risk for low blood sugar. If you are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or take insulin, diabetes medications, or other medications to manage blood sugar, energy gels may be helpful to avoid big drops in blood sugar that can be dangerous. That said, it’s important to create a plan with a healthcare provider before using energy gels on the run. Also, if you're prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), it may be beneficial to consume pre-workout carbohydrates closer to 15 minutes before exercise.

Who May Not Benefit from Energy Gels, Chews, and Bars?

Whether you’re training for an endurance race or just enjoy longer runs, you’ll likely need to consume some carbohydrates on the run from food, sports products, drinks, or a combination. However, engineered sports products like gels, bars, and chews aren’t always necessary and may not work for certain people.

  • People running for less than 60 minutes. As long as you’re consuming enough carbohydrates in your diet, it’s not necessary to consume carbohydrates on shorter runs. Your muscles can store enough energy to support at least 60 minutes of endurance exercise.
  • People with digestive problems. Some people may not tolerate gels, chews, or bars, especially those who have underlying digestive disorders. That said, consuming carbohydrates on longer runs not only improves performance but can help you avoid bonking (or hitting the wall), so it’s worth trying a different product if the first one (or few) you try doesn't sit well with you. There’s a significant variation in osmolality (or how much water gels attract, which is linked to gastrointestinal distress) between different brands of gels, making some better tolerated than others. “Also, your stomach is a muscle, and it can be trained to digest food while running, just like you train your body and legs to run 26.2 miles,” says Baumann.
  • People who prefer carbohydrates in food. Because whole food carbohydrates can provide the energy you need, it’s not necessary to use engineered sports products on the run. 

Best Overall: Spring Energy Gel, Canaberry

4.7
Spring Energy Canaberry

Courtesy of The Feed

Pros
  • Made from real food

  • Includes mix of carbs to support sustained energy

  • Vegan

Cons
  • May not contain enough sodium for longer runs

Who else recommends it? Runner's World also picked Spring Energy Gel.

Spring Energy Gel tops our list because of its great taste and quality ingredients, providing both slow and quick releasing energy. The unique combination of ingredients, including basmati rice, strawberries, bananas, maple syrup, and coconut water, provides a mix of both simple and complex carbs. This combo offers more steady energy instead of the big spike and crash often experienced in other gels with only simple carbs.

The use of real food ingredients may also contribute to the fact that most runners experience little-to-no gastrointestinal upset from these, which is a big win in the endurance running community. Like most gels, they don’t contain much sodium, so if you’re a sweaty runner, out for a really long run, or running in warmer weather, pair with an electrolyte drink to ensure you’re getting enough. During long runs, it is recommended to consume 300 to 600 milligrams of sodium per hour.

Overall, Spring Energy gels are a convenient way to fuel with quality ingredients and limited (if any) side effects.

Serving size: 1 gel pack (46 grams) | Calories: 100 | Carbohydrates: 17 grams | Sodium: 60 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: No

Best Budget: GU Energy Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel

GU Energy Gels

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Over 25 flavors

  • Provides quick energy

  • Maltodextrin may be better for digestion

Cons
  • Thicker consistency may be difficult to swallow for some

A long-time leader in the energy gel market, GU energy gels offer quick energy at an affordable price in a variety of flavors. Chocolate Outrage is a favorite among many runners for its chocolate frosting-like flavor and small dose of caffeine (for those looking for a boost). But with over 25 flavors (many without caffeine), there’s an option for any palate.

Maltodextrin and fructose provide the carbohydrates in these gels, offering a very fast-acting source of energy to endurance athletes. Maltodextrin is a processed sugar with a high glycemic index, commonly used in energy products for its quick energy release and lower osmolarity, which may reduce the instances of GI intolerance like diarrhea. However, a 2019 study done on mice suggests that a high intake of maltodextrin can cause an increased risk for intestinal inflammation. Further research is needed to confirm this in humans.

For many runners, GU energy gels offer a convenient, tasty, budget-friendly energy source on the run that is specifically engineered for athletes.

Serving size: 1 gel pack (32 grams) | Calories: 100 | Carbohydrates: 21 grams | Sodium: 50 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: No

Best Flavored Gel: Honey Stinger Energy Gel

Honey Stinger Gold Energy Gel

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Simple ingredient list

  • NSF-certified gluten-free

  • Honey may provide consistent energy release

Cons
  • Not suitable for vegans

Don’t be fooled by the simple packaging, ingredient list, or lack of all the extras. Honey Stinger Gold has everything you need—and nothing more. Made from just honey, water, electrolytes, and a few B-vitamins (which support energy production), this is a tasty gel that is a favorite among many long-distance runners.

Honey is known to have a slightly lower glycemic index than some other sources of sugar, which may help with its ability to provide more consistent energy for some athletes and reduce time to fatigue during endurance exercise.

Users describe it as “just the right amount of sweetness,” a major feat for the gel market, which is dominated by excessively sweet products that can be hard to tolerate when consuming multiple servings on longer runs.

Serving size: 1 gel pack (32 grams) | Calories: 100 | Carbohydrates: 21 grams | Sodium: 50 milligrams | Vegan: No | Organic: Some flavors

Best Bar: Picky Bars Real Food Energy Bars

Picky Bars Real Food Energy Bars

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Designed by professional athletes

  • Made with real food

  • Certified gluten-free

Cons
  • May be hard to consume while running

  • May not be good for sensitive stomachs

Professional triathlete Jesse Thomas and USA 5K champion Lauren Fleshman developed Picky bars to solve a gap in the sports nutrition market—a real food bar that contained balanced nutrition for endurance athletes. Enter: Picky Bars. They’re made from a mix of nuts, dates, currents, tapioca syrup, brown rice, cinnamon, and salt; plus, they contain an adequate amount of carbohydrates (25 grams) per bar.

Beyond the stellar ingredient list, these bars are more compact than many energy bars and aren’t too sticky or crumbly, making them a practical mid-workout option.

The fat and protein content of these bars helps them to digest more slowly than gels, which leads to a slower energy release—and potentially, the need to consume less on the run. However, that can come with an unwanted side effect for some runners with sensitive stomachs. As with any new fuel, make sure to test these out during training rather than trying them for the first time on race day.

All flavors are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and most are vegan. These bars do contain nuts.

Serving size: 1 bar | Calories: 180-190 | Carbohydrates: 24-25 grams | Sodium: 35-100 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: No

Best Whole Foods Option: Joolies Organic Pitted Medjool Dates

Joolies Organic Pitted Medjool Dates

Amazon

Pros
  • Real food option

  • Easy to chew

  • Allergy-friendly

Cons
  • Don't contain sodium

  • Expensive

Medjool dates are nature's perfect little energy bite. Just two dates contain 30 grams of carbs, making them a compact and easy food to take on the run. Go for fresh dates like Joolies since they’re softer and easier to chew (a necessity mid-run!).

While dates do contain a small amount of potassium, they are sodium-free, so you’ll either want to pair them with an electrolyte drink or sprinkle them with some salt. Alternatively, try stuffing them with a teaspoon of salted peanut butter for a delicious treat with slightly longer-lasting energy (if your stomach can handle it).

Serving size: 2 dates | Calories: 110 | Carbohydrates: 30 grams | Sodium: 0 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: Yes

Best Tasting: Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews

Energy chews

Amazon

Pros
  • Gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free

  • Can tailor dose to your needs

  • More sodium than most gels

Cons
  • May be difficult for some to consume while running

An energy chew that tastes like sour candy? Yes, please! Skratch Labs energy chews are made from simple ingredients, including cane sugar and tapioca syrup, and some flavors even contain 50 milligrams of caffeine from green tea extract.

They provide 18 grams of carbs per five chews, so they’re lower in carbohydrates per chew. This makes it easy to tailor your energy intake to your individual needs without the mess of trying to save part of a gel. However, when compared with other options, it may be more work to eat enough of these to fuel your workout. We love that they contain about twice the amount of sodium (an essential electrolyte) per serving than most gels, making them a great all-around option to support your training.

All flavors are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

Serving size: 5 chews (25 grams) | Calories: 70 | Carbohydrates: 18 grams | Sodium: 90 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: No

Best Chew: Clif Bar CLIF BLOKS Salted Watermelon Energy Chews

Clif Bar CLIF BLOKS Salted Watermelon Energy Chews

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • High sodium content

  • Certified organic

  • Convenient

Cons
  • May be difficult to consume while running

These little watermelon-flavored chews are packed with carbs and electrolytes, providing everything you need on a long run in one tasty bite. Packed in a small sleeve, they conveniently fit in your run pack or pocket, making them a seriously convenient option. Users praise them for their great flavor and higher sodium content, which allows many runners to stick to these and water.

These chews are made with a mixture of tapioca syrup, cane sugar, and maltodextrin, providing a variety of sugar sources that are absorbed at different rates. This combo offers both quick and longer-lasting energy to endurance runners—the best of both worlds!

Serving size: 3 bloks | Calories: 90 | Carbohydrates: 24 grams | Sodium: 100 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: Yes

Best Organic: Honey Stinger Organic Waffle, Honey

Honey Stinger Organic Waffle, Honey

Amazon

Pros
  • Great flavor

  • Better tolerated by some runners

Cons
  • Not vegan or allergy-friendly

Two thin waffles sandwiching a layer of honey—what’s not to love? For those looking for more of a snack-like option mid-workout, these waffles are for you. They contain a good amount of carbs (21 grams) from a variety of sugar sources with varying absorption rates.

Some runners who can’t tolerate gels report better luck with these waffles, though they do contain some fat, which can be a downside for others looking for faster absorption (all the more reason to test your fuel during training!).

Serving size: 1 waffle (30 grams) | Calories: 150 | Carbohydrates: 19 grams | Sodium: 55 milligrams | Vegan: No | Organic: Yes

Best Unflavored Gel: Maurten Gel 100

Maurten Gel 100

Courtesy of The Feed

Pros
  • Well-tolerated by many runners

  • Can be taken without water

  • High sodium

Cons
  • Expensive

Maurten’s gels stand out in the sports gel industry for their unflavored option, which is great for runners who want the convenience of a little energy packet, but find flavored gels to be too sweet or artificial tasting. They are more liquid-form than other gels, which may be a slightly more appealing texture that is easier for some to swallow.

“Many runners love Maurten [gel] because it has a light flavor, is easy on the stomach, and can be taken without water,” says Baumann. Made from a mix of fructose and glucose combined with water and electrolytes—referred to by Maurten as a hydrogel—this product may be less taxing on the stomach and better tolerated by those that typically suffer from GI distress. This combination of sugars also has been shown in research to increase time to exhaustion and improve timed trials.

For those who need a little jolt on the run, Maurten also has a caffeinated line with 100 milligrams of caffeine, about as much as one cup of coffee.

Serving size: 1 gel (40 grams) | Calories: 100 | Carbohydrates: 25 grams | Sodium: 85 milligrams | Vegan: Yes | Organic: No

Final Verdict

For a convenient, real-food source of energy that tastes great and is generally well-tolerated, try Spring Energy Gel in Canaberry. This energy gel offers great taste, steady energy without the crash, and a combo of both simple and complex carbs that won't upset your stomach.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look For in Energy Gels, Chews, and Bars for Running

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third-party certifications we can trust are ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Very few energy gels and chews are third-party tested. It’s uncommon for energy gels and chews to be contaminated with concerning substances, but it still is best to choose reputable brands that offer as much transparency as possible about their production methods.

Form

Energy supplements for running come in a variety of forms, including gels, chews, liquids, cookies, and bars. The best choice is the one you can consume easily and that your body tolerates.

Ingredients and Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates should be the primary—if not the only—macronutrient providing calories in your product. That's the energy source your body needs mid-run. Check for a mix of different carbohydrate sources, as research shows better performance when carbohydrate sources are combined. "Gels and/or chews that contain a mix of carbohydrate sources (most sports supplements provide this) help to ensure tolerance and aid in maximum absorption while exercising,” says Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN.

Electrolytes

Most sports gels/chews also contain electrolytes, though many do not provide enough to support high sweat rates while running long distances or in the heat. While all electrolytes—including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium—play a role in muscle contraction, sodium is the primary electrolyte lost through sweat during exercise. If you’re relying on your gel or chew to provide electrolytes, look for options with more sodium (around 100 milligrams per serving). Otherwise, you may need to add a sports drink or electrolyte supplement to your nutrition plan.

Fat

Fat is generally a nutrient to limit during running as it slows digestion and can cause some GI discomfort when exercising. However, if you are looking for a slower and longer-lasting energy release, you may want to pick an option with some fat.

Protein

Similar to fat, protein should be limited during workouts as it is slower to digest. Focus on replenishing with a protein and carbohydrate-rich snack post-workout.

Other Additives

"Take into consideration that many sports gels/chews also contain additional ingredients like caffeine or amino acids which may or may not be appropriate for your individual needs," says Knott. Some products provide branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), which small studies suggest may slightly reduce the rate of perceived exertion (how hard you feel like you’re working), but more research is needed on the benefits of supplemental BCAAs for runners.

Studies have shown that caffeine can improve endurance. Consuming 3-9 milligrams per kilogram of body weight 60 minutes before your workout may enhance performance. “Caffeine can boost performance and mental alertness, but it can also cause stomach problems. Find an energy gel with a caffeine content that works best for you,” says Baumann.

In general, other ingredients that don’t provide either carbohydrates or sodium are unnecessary and may be better avoided.

Energy Gel, Chews, and Bar Dosage

The amount of energy you will need to consume will depend on your gender, fitness level, how long you’re running, and what you ate before your run. If you’re running for longer than 60 to 90 minutes, aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, starting at 30 to 45 minutes into your run (so your body has a little time to digest and access the energy before it’s depleted). For runs longer than 2.5 hours, you may need even more—up to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. For best absorption and to reduce gastrointestinal side effects, it’s recommended to consume smaller doses consistently—about every 15 to 30 minutes—rather than trying to take it all at once.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no defined upper limit to energy gels, but consuming too much, especially at once,  can lead to gastrointestinal upset. The amount you can tolerate will vary by person and product. It's best to test out fuel during training runs and slowly add more until you find the optimal amount for you. If you’re unsure how much is right for you or are having difficulty with your fueling, work with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When do I need to refuel during a workout, and how much should I consume?

    “Start fueling early. You’ll want to start taking in fuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes and possibly even sooner. The goal is to consume 30 to 90 grams of carbs per hour to maximize your energy output. When running for less than 2.5 hours, 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour is sufficient. If running longer than 2.5 hours, you will benefit from even more carbohydrates,” says Baumann.

  • I have a sensitive stomach. Can I still use gels, chews, and bars while running?

    Yes, even those with a sensitive stomach should still consume quickly absorbing (aka easily digested) carbohydrates during runs longer than 60 to 90 minutes. Finding the right option often takes some trial and error, which is why you should test it out during training runs. Research also shows that the gut is highly adaptable, meaning you can train it to accept fuel on the run. So, even if something doesn’t work for you the first time, you may be able to train your gut slowly to accept it. 
    Choose options with a mixture of carbohydrate sources and test out different sources, flavors, and forms. The good news is that there are a number of different options and even if one gel doesn’t work for you, another brand might—or a different product like a chew, dates, or a bar. 
    Those with a sensitive stomach may want to avoid products with fat and fiber as they can slow digestion too much during physical activity. Caffeine can send some people running to the bathroom, too, so caffeine-free options may be a better choice.

  • How do I choose between an energy gel, chew, or bar?

    Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and what you tolerate best. “Some runners find it difficult to chew and run at the same time. Others cannot tolerate the taste or texture of gels. Choose products with textures and flavors you like, that sit well in your stomach, help meet your carbohydrate needs, and logistically you can carry and open during [training and] a race,” says Baumann. For longer runs and races, you may even want to use a mix of different fueling products so that you don’t get too tired of one source.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a registered dietitian, Sarah Anzlovar is constantly reviewing the latest sports nutrition research and keeping tabs on new products on the market. She counsels many active people, from first-time marathoners to ultra-endurance athletes, in her private practice and helps them choose the best fuel for before, during, and after workouts to improve performance and recovery. As a runner, triathlete, and indoor cycling instructor, Sarah has personally tested many of these products and uses them during her training.

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.

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