There is no doubting that energy gels are a convenient, compact and easy to carry fuelling option to use during Ironman racing and long training sessions. But, with a huge range of options now available, choosing the right gel to meet your individual needs can feel like a sticky mess. To help cut through the confusion, here are a few key points to consider when it comes to choosing an energy gel.

Carbohydrate amount

There is currently no standard amount of carbohydrate that must be included in an energy gel and a single sachet can have anything ranging from ~20-30g of carbohydrate.

When it comes to fine tuning your race day fuelling plan, guestimates aren’t good enough. Knowing exactly how much carbohydrate is in your gel is essential – particularly if you are using gels in combination with other fuelling options such as energy bars and/or sports drinks.

All Ironman energy gels contain 30g of carbohydrate per sachet making it easy to do the maths to ensure you hit hour hourly fuelling targets. 

Carbohydrate type

Energy gels are essentially a concentrated form of carbohydrate but different gels include different blends of carbohydrate and it’s important to understand which ingredients are in your gel choice, as this will impact your fuelling plans.

Energy gels containing a single carbohydrate source (e.g. maltodextrin or glucose) are a useful choice for fuelling targets up to 60g per hour. However, if you are targeting a higher amount of carbohydrate (e.g. up to 90g per hour) then it is essential to choose a gel that contains a blend of different carbohydrates, particularly fructose.

The reason for this is that the transporters in our gut are maxed out at 60g per hour when using a single carbohydrate source such as maltodextrin, and consuming higher amounts than this will lead to stomach upset and unwanted dashes to the nearest toilet! Using a gel with a combination of maltodextrin plus fructose allows the gut to use two (rather than one) transporters meaning that you can consume up to 90g of carbohydrate per hour, without the risk of gut issues. 

The Ironman energy gel range includes both single source (Lemon Lime and X-press-O flavours) and dual source carbohydrates (Berry Blast and Blood Orange flavours) so you’ll know there is always an option available to match your fuelling needs.

Sodium content

Similar to carbohydrate, the sodium content of energy gels can be wide ranging – and, to add further confusion, in some cases, can even vary between different flavours of the same brand.

It is well established that sodium in a key electrolyte, so knowing the sodium content of your energy gel is key to avoid under or over hydrating during long distance training and Ironman racing.

All Ironman energy gels contain a standard 40mg of sodium per sachet to make it simple when it comes to calculating your specific race sodium and hydration plan.


Anyone who has downed a flat cola drink during a race, or stopped for a mid-training coffee break will attest to the benefits of caffeine on endurance performance. However, while some fluids can be a useful source of caffeine, the exact quantity of caffeine per serve can vary widely.

To add further complication, we know that each individual responds best to a specific amount of caffeine and that too much or too little can have detrimental effects on performance.

Ironman X-press-O energy gels contain a standard 70mg of caffeine per sachet ensuring that you know exactly how much caffeine you are consuming – maximsing your performance and reducing the chances of negative side effects of over-consumption. 

- Contribution by Ali Patterson, Advanced Sports Dietitian -


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