Find out when to take energy gels during a half marathon and how many you need with this helpful guide.
Energy gels should be a huge part of your marathon nutrition program because they help to keep your carb levels consistent, and they’ll boost your energy levels so that you can finish the race strong.
If you’re a first-time runner and are wondering when you should take these delicious pick-me-ups, then you’re not alone. Some long-distance runners advise you to take your first gel after 40 minutes into the run to keep energy levels high. From then on, take a gel every 20, 30, or 60 minutes. You can also take two gels 15 minutes prior to the race, depending on how you feel.
How Many Energy Gels For a Half Marathon
Most gels are about 100 to 150 calories with 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates depending on the brand, so you might have to take more than one depending on how long your race is. Most brands recommend taking 45 to 60-minute intervals between energy gels.
So, you can take one right before the gun goes off and then 45 minutes to 60 minutes thereafter.
Some runners advise taking one gel every 5 or 6 miles, which means that for a half marathon, you’ll need to take about two to three gels with you.
The last thing you should do is wait until you feel like death before you take one because it takes time for energy gels to digest and really get into your system. Our explainer on how do runners use gels might be helpful.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Energy Gels
It’s advisable to start using energy gels during your training instead of waiting until race day to try them. That’s because there are a ton of different flavors and brands to choose from. Some have caffeine, chocolate, salt, etc.
So, while a flavor might seem ideal at first, it could end up tasting absolutely awful once you try it. Ideally, you want to practice with different energy gels beforehand and see what works for you.
Consider using an energy gel that has electrolytes as an ingredient. That’s because you’ll lose a lot of salt as you sweat, which you’ll need to replenish back into your system. You can also try a gel with caffeine for an extra kick. However, best try this in training before a half-marathon in case you have a reaction.
Some energy gels can have as much as 180mg of salt, which might seem like a lot, but as part of a balanced energy gel formula, it might be just what your body needs for those later stages of your half-marathon race.
If you’re training for a specific marathon or race that is handing out energy gels, find out the brand in advance to avoid stomach issues. Then, you can use that during your training so that your stomach can get used to it. Of course, you can always carry your gels in a race, but it’s not a bad idea to practice with what they’ll be giving out beforehand.
Energy gels don’t go bad that often so you can save money by buying in bulk. Our preferred choice of gels for a half marathon is Maurten. In this Maurten Energy gel review, we explain why they are easy to consume.
You might also be interested in our explainer on is a 30-minute 5K good.