Dual Purpose Fuel: How Running Gels Can Benefit Cyclists on Long Rides

Cyclists often face the challenge of maintaining energy levels during long rides, requiring quick and efficient sources of fuel to sustain their performance. While primarily designed for runners, energy gels have emerged as a popular option for cyclists seeking portable and easily digestible nutrition on the go. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using running gels for cyclists on long rides and how they can help enhance endurance and performance.

Understanding Running Gels

What are running gels?

Running gels are concentrated sources of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and other nutrients designed to provide a quick and convenient source of energy during endurance activities such as running. They typically come in single-serving packets and are consumed orally during exercise.

Key ingredients and benefits

Running gels contain a blend of carbohydrates, such as glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin, which are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to provide immediate energy. They may also contain electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to help maintain hydration and prevent muscle cramps.

Adaptability of Running Gels for Cyclists

Convenient energy source

Running gels offer cyclists a convenient and portable source of energy that can be easily carried and consumed during long rides. Their compact size and single-serving packets make them ideal for stashing in jersey pockets or saddlebags for quick access on the go.

Easy to carry and consume

Unlike solid food or drinks, running gels require no chewing or preparation, allowing cyclists to consume them quickly and easily without interrupting their ride. Their liquid or semi-liquid consistency allows for rapid absorption in the stomach, minimizing the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

Quick absorption and digestion

Running gels are formulated to be easily digestible, even during intense exercise when blood flow to the digestive system may be reduced. This allows for rapid absorption of carbohydrates and other nutrients, providing a near-instant boost in energy levels to fuel your ride.

How Running Gels Benefit Cyclists on Long Rides

Sustained energy levels

One of the primary benefits of running gels for cyclists is their ability to provide a sustained source of energy during long rides. By replenishing carbohydrates and electrolytes, running gels help maintain energy levels and delay the onset of fatigue, allowing cyclists to ride longer and stronger.

Prevention of bonking

Bonking, or hitting the wall, occurs when glycogen stores are depleted, resulting in a sudden drop in energy levels and performance. Running gels can help prevent bonking by providing a continuous supply of carbohydrates to fuel muscles and maintain glycogen levels during prolonged exercise.

Enhanced endurance and performance

By providing a quick and efficient source of fuel, running gels help enhance endurance and performance on the bike. Cyclists can push harder and ride longer without experiencing the fatigue and lethargy associated with glycogen depletion, allowing them to achieve their riding goals more effectively.

Using Running Gels Effectively for Cycling

Timing and frequency of consumption

To maximize the benefits of running gels, cyclists should consume them strategically during their ride. Aim to consume a gel approximately every 45 minutes to 1 hour, or as needed based on the intensity and duration of your ride, to maintain a steady supply of energy.

Hydration considerations

Since running gels are concentrated sources of carbohydrates, it’s essential to consume them with water to aid in digestion and hydration. Be sure to drink water regularly throughout your ride to prevent dehydration and enhance the absorption of nutrients from the gels.

Combining with other nutrition sources

While running gels can provide a quick source of energy, they should be supplemented with other nutrition sources such as water, sports drinks, and solid foods to maintain a balanced diet and meet your overall energy and nutrient needs during long rides.

Choosing the Right Running Gels for Cycling

Flavors and consistency

Running gels come in a variety of flavors and consistencies to suit different tastes and preferences. Experiment with different flavors and textures to find the ones that you enjoy and find easy to consume while riding.

Nutritional content

Consider the nutritional content of running gels when choosing the right ones for your needs. Look for gels that provide a balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and other nutrients to support your energy and hydration requirements during exercise.

Personal preferences and dietary needs

Take into account any dietary preferences or restrictions when selecting running gels. Choose gels that are free from ingredients that you’re allergic to or that don’t agree with your digestive system.


  1. Can I consume running gels on an empty stomach?
    • While running gels are generally well-tolerated on an empty stomach, it’s advisable to consume them with water to aid in digestion and hydration. If you have a sensitive stomach, consider eating a small snack or meal before consuming a running gel.
  2. How many running gels should I consume during a long ride?
    • The number of running gels you should consume depends on factors such as the duration and intensity of your ride, as well as your individual energy needs. Aim to consume a gel approximately every 45 minutes to 1 hour during prolonged exercise to maintain energy levels.
  3. Are running gels suitable for all types of cycling?
    • Running gels can be beneficial for cyclists participating in all types of cycling, from endurance rides to high-intensity interval training. However, it’s essential to experiment with different nutrition strategies and find what works best for your individual needs and preferences.
  4. Do running gels have any side effects?
    • While running gels are generally safe and well-tolerated, some individuals may experience gastrointestinal discomfort or bloating, especially if consumed in large quantities or without adequate hydration. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust your nutrition strategy accordingly to minimize any potential side effects.
  5. Can I mix running gels with water or sports drinks?
    • Yes, running gels can be consumed with water or sports drinks to aid in digestion and hydration. Be sure to drink water regularly throughout your ride to prevent dehydration and enhance the absorption of nutrients from the gels.