Energy gels on a half marathon?


I am trying to beat a PB of 1 hour 40 mins for a half marathon.

Should I try energy gels or not? Have read there's no point if you're running under 2 hours? I am 6 foot 1 and 13 stone.




  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    In my personal oppinion I would say that you don't need them.

    As long as you eat a good diet in the run up to the race you will be fine.
  • I don't think you NEED one.. but nothing wrong with having a boost about 9 miles in.  A bit of Kendal Mint Cake does the job.

  • I personally have one about an hour in and find it helpful towards the end when I might otherwise be flagging.

  • I'm aiming for under 90mins this year (1 hour 36 last year) so I've always been under the impression that gels wouldn't be needed, but I suppose a quick sugar boost couldn't hurt....Jelly Babies will probably do the same job

  • I'd say not. I think you'd lose more time having to take the gel rather than run flat out. If you're suffering from lack of energy toward the end - I think you need to get used to running for longer rather than eat. Unless its baking hot I won't even take on any water.
  • The caffeine zipvit blurb on the back of the packet says to take one 90 minutes before the end of an event (or words like that - the key bit being that they last 90 minutes). 

    I take one before I start but then I'm not too good at eating first thing so it's more of an emergency breakfast solution and comfort blanket. 

    It's mostly about what suits you...

  • I thought gels take 20 mins to get absorbed ? Theres only about 100 calories in a gel anyway - so it would only be able to provide enough energy to run one mile or so - if you were using that exclusively as an energy source - which you won't be.
  • Think that depends on the gel. 199 in a zipvit from 51g of carb. (vs 2 weetabix - 134 / 25.7g of carb).  Can't speak for any others as I don't have them in the cupboard to check.  I'm sure it'd be on their websites though if anyone was interested... We get the zipvits as they are double size/dose compared to most gels that we've tried and we like the taste.

    All down to personal preference and tolerance maybe?

  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    I have a few high 5 isogels which are 92 cals. It says on the packet '3 sachets per hour during activity'. I think I would lose more time fighting to get them open in a race and drinking them, than I am likely to gain from 92 calories. Based on that advice I would need 4 in a HM. Not sure how practical that would be simply in terms of carrying them along!

  • No need for gels at all for that time over a 1/2. I'd defo take in some water though, even if it's not baking hot. Over 90mins of hard work demands a little hydration IMO. 

  • cougie wrote (see)
    I thought gels take 20 mins to get absorbed ? Theres only about 100 calories in a gel anyway - so it would only be able to provide enough energy to run one mile or so - if you were using that exclusively as an energy source - which you won't be.

    It gets complex. The harder you go the less you can absorb. The guide is 100-250 per hour. If the OP is looking at 1:30 HM then they'll be using about 800-900 cals an hour. 


  •  .... and the 100 calories does not all make its way to the working muscles. It is not a 1 to 1 replacement of burnt calories.

    Eat well the day before, have a decent breakfast, and then race. 

    I imagine the biggest effect a gel will have in a HM is to raise the blood glucose level to feed the brain which will "waken you up" if your glucose levels had fallen significantly (the 'boost' people talk about when discussing gels). I can't see it having much effect on the muscles at this distance / time period. I'm not one for using gels in half marathons, but who knows what a bit of brain sugar might do.

    You'll get lots of advice. Trialing things for yourself to see what works for you is always an option 

  • tried an SIS go gel the other day. the consistency tasted like a cross between wall paste and snot with a slight berry taste. They had 67 kcals in them. Is it me or does it seem like you use half the calories opening the thing and squeezing it out? I was really expecting there to be a lot more calories in them.

    Might be better getting some energy drink powder and doubling the amount of powder to water so you don't need to drink so much to get the calories. 

    When I've used up my go gels I'm not buying any more. Very put off by them

  • I prefer shot bloks, like a cross between a jelly baby and a jelly cube, nom nom! And you can just shove one or two into your shorts pockets so nothing to open.

    Don't think you need to take energy gels for a half, although if it provides you with a 'brain boost' or gives you something to look forward to, give it a try.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Why would you want to carry a drink around a half marathon? If you get desperate there should be water in races.
  • i didn't use to use them apart from one or two ina marathon.but been using them more recently even in a 10k race.......might be all in my head but i think the caffiene/sugar boost helps as well as giving me a drink at the same time.....

  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    on  a plus point for high5 gels, the texture is far lighter, almost like an isotonic drink. The sis gels as said above are disgusting.

  • DT15 only if you by the isogels.the normal gels are still stickyimage

  • Millsy1977 wrote (see)
    Why would you want to carry a drink around a half marathon? If you get desperate there should be water in races.

    I've come unstuck twice this year when getting to tables that were understaffed and there was a long queue waiting for water. If you're out for a PB and there's no one with a cup ready to hand to you it may be another 30mins.

    I carry a 500ml bottle in training, usually I'll drink a quarter, the rest goes over my head or down my neck. It's easy enough to do the same in a race. 

    During the winter I may run 15miles with no water.

    Horses for courses. 

  • I tried a high5 gel once (at home before a short run, just to see if it agreed with me) and I couldn't even swallow the whole thing because it was too disgusting. The sis ones aren't nice either, but at least I can manage to eat a whole one. Not that I would bother in a half marathon though.

     Tim - I may have been lucky with race water stations but the only problem I've had is when I accidentally poured a whole cup of water over an unfortunate boy scout. image

    In response to the OP - it depends what you want/are expecting the gel to do. I don't think it'll make you run faster; it might help if you aren't beating your PB because you're flagging and slowing down towards the end. Though as cougie says doing longer runs in training should help with that too.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Tim, what races did you do where you had to queue for water?

    Have never come across that before.
  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    Seren- Apologies, I a relatively fresh faced in the energy gel stakes, my only previous experience having an sis gel thrust in my hand 8 miles into a half, fighting to get it open, then getting it all over my hands and face and then gagging on the texture. I didn't realise there were also normal high5 gels also.

    In that case my advice is, if you want a gel and cannot take the consistency, try the high5 isogel.

    In terms of queuing for a drink, I suppose where you are in the field may be a factor. In most halfs, if you are sub 1.40 then you are relatively high up so less people around. It may be very different in a city half if you are a 2 hour runner though, perhaps??

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    I've never done any big city halfs that's prob why I haven't seen those sort of issues before.
  • I have but I didn't drink any water.

    Queues for the pre-race toilets, on the other hand...

  • Millsy1977 wrote (see)
    Tim, what races did you do where you had to queue for water?
    Have never come across that before.


    First one was Greenway Challenge, two girls trying to fill cups and pasa them out. A bit of a fiasco. That was actually a couple of years ago I think. 

    Second one was Surrey Badger which I wasn't after a PB but was with a friend. At the first table she stopped but I carried on. Took her a while to catch up. At the next one I stopped and she went on. I caught her up with the water. 

    Have also seen a whole table of cups knocked flying. 

    I do 6-10 halfs a year. Usually they're great. 

  • It's been a hot year!

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    True, it had been hot. Although I wouldn't be trying to hammer out a PB in those sort of temperatures.

    I'd rather take a gamble on the water stations actually having some than have to burden myself with carrying stuff all the way round.
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭

    I think its a matter of trial and personal taste as some have alluded to.
    Can't get on with gels, and did try isotonic stuff a few years ago but it seemed more 'security blanket'/placebo rather than any actual use.
    Never ever come across queues for drinks in races, sometimes it gets a bit congested, but nothing more.
    All that said, I don't drink a lot anyway, so unless its a hot day can get by for a couple of hours without a drink, and in winter I can't recall the last time I took a drink with me.

  • I always carry a handle type bottle. Even if I end up not using it, i would sooner have the water and my bottle doesn't weigh very much and is easy to carry.  I find it impossible to drink water out of a cup and run so water from a station I just tip over my head if a hot day. if not a hot day i don't bother with it.

     I only bother with gels if going more than 10 miles. Then i would take one before the start and a second one at about an hour

  • I'm around 2 hour pace, and for any run of that length I like having fuel with me in case I'm flagging.

    I take a variety with me - 1 gel, a few Dextro tablets and half a dozen cola bottles or Sports Beans.

    Sometimes I've returned with everything untouched, while a  couple of times this summer I've returned with an empty pocket.

    Better to have and not need than need and not have.

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