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Energy supplements are available in various product forms, such as an energy gel, an energy chew and an energy bar. Energy supplements are designed to promote and sustain energy, providing you with essential nutrients that are lost during physical activity such as hiking, running, biking and skiing.

Energy supplements in the form of gels, chews and bars contain a mix of carbohydrates (sugars), electrolytes (salts) and water to help improve your performance during sports by maintaining blood sugar and replacing any salts lost from sweat.

Energy Supplements

Energy gels

Energy gels, also known as endurance gels, sports gels, nutritional gels, and carbohydrate gels. Are ideal supplements for fuel on the go to provide energy in endurance sports such as running, triathlon and biking. Easy to digest and absorb, energy gels provide a boost/hit of energy from a form of concentrated sugars which can help prevent fatigue and increase performance. Gu Energy Gels and Hammer Energy Gels come in small servings of single packets, perfect to stuff in your pocket or Camelbak. They can be held in 1 hand with an easy tear off opening and consumed in a few gulps. The consistency is similar to that of honey and so you may prefer to take a drink of water alongside it.

Look for maltodextrin or glucose with some fructose in the ingredients of an energy gel as this will maximise absorption of the gel.

Energy chews

Energy chews are small bite sized, jelly consistency like chews. They can come as bite size pieces in a packet such as GU Chomps or as a chew bar, such as Clif Shot Bloks, where you can tear of the pieces. Energy chews come in small packets containing approx. 6 chews, the packs, like the gel tubes, are easy to carry in your pocket to provide energy throughout your sporting participation. Energy chews have no hydration advantage and so fluid is necessary to take alongside them to ensure you stay hydrated. Great for long duration activities such as hiking, biking and tramping. Energy chews can be consumed throughout the day to provide energy.

Energy bars

Energy bars contain cereals that provide a source of food energy, ideal when you don't have time for a meal. Energy bars, such as Clif Energy Bars, represent a muesli bar or cookie however they are made of simpler sugars that are easily absorbed and digested to provide a hit of energy but with a bit more substance making you feel fuller and admonishing hunger. Depending of the type of Energy bar, absorption is slower and can sometimes cause stomach cramps if time is not allowed for digestion, therefore they are ideal for low intensity exercise such as tramping, to allow time for chewing and digestion. They can also work for skiing and snowboarding, for a chairlift snack.


Look for a combination of simple sugars on the packaging. For training and low intensity you may consider oat or cereal based so that it is more substantial and takes away the hunger.

Which is for you?

With various options available it can be hard to decide which energy supplement you should be taking or if any. This depends on the type of activity and how strenuous it is on your body, the duration of activity and the convenience of carrying and consuming the product.

Energy bars are a great food supplement helping to fight the feel of hunger as well as providing energy. If you are able to take a break then energy bars are an ideal re-fuel, consider that bars can be hard to consume whilst racing in high intensity activities like running and triathlon. However they are great for skiing, hiking, tramping, adventure racing and sailing where more time can be allowed for consumption and absorption.

If you are unable to take a break within your activity then energy gels are the ideal supplement for you- ideal for marathons, bike races and triathlons they can be easily carried, quickly consumed and absorbed for an energy hit. Energy gels provide a quick re-fuel of energy and take up very little space to carry.

Energy chews, such as GU Chomps and Clif Shot Bloks are also very convenient to carry and can be taken a few at a time over several hours providing longer lasting, quick energy boosts (consider chewing for absorption over swallowing gel for absorption and which you are able to consume on the go at ease).

Generally it is fine to combine energy bars, gels and drinks as long as you drink plenty of water to prevent any stomach cramps and to keep you properly hydrated.

Nutritional Contents

Most energy supplements are relatively low in fat and calories. When reading the nutritional contents and ingredients look for carbohydrates, these provide the main energy source, the higher the intensity and duration the more carbohydrates you want. Protein aids in recovery, helping to rebuild tissue. The more vitamins and minerals the better, the body lose vitamins and minerals through exercise (energy bars contain the most vitamins and minerals).

Also look for electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium along with amino acid blends (often only added in energy gels). These ingredients are essential to sustain muscle function by in metabolizing carbohydrates and aid hydration.

Listed ingredients:

  • Sodium: sodium chloride, citrate, selenite, molybdate, benzoate and/or bicarbonate).
  • Potassium: monopotassium phosphate, potassium citrate, L-lactate, dipotassium phosphate and/or potassium iodide.
  • Amino Acid Blends: Leucine, valine and isoleucine

Caffeine can be added to energy supplements for a greater energy “hit” in the form of ingredients such as caffeine and guarana. You will find that most chocolate and mocha flavoured supplements contain up to 7% guaranine , just like caffeine (a cup of coffee contains 2%).

Still confused?

Test them out and see what suits you, the texture, taste and convenience. Energy supplements will provide you with the extra boost you need, just find out what suits you best. Always carry hydration.


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