Finding the best energy chews for marathon running can be overwhelming but we all know relying on our natural energy to get us through our marathon or half marathon is not going to cut it.
In fact, research shows that any run exceeding 60 minutes should include some form of supplemental nutrition to provide ongoing fuel and replace lost nutrients.
(Runs under an hour derive energy from the carbohydrates stored in our muscles eliminating the necessity of supplements.)
While pretty much all of us are familiar with energy drinks and bars to supply these components, also worthy of consideration for marathon runners are energy chews and gels.
These two easy, fast and powerful fuels will provide that extra boost when you need it the most.
How to know which ones are the best for optimal performance?
Get started by checking out the list below of three of the top chews and gels on the market.
Just make sure to experiment with a few types and amounts while training to find the optimal ones that will work for you come race day.
Also keep in mind that it is best to take any form of energy supplement well before needed - as in: before things get out of control.
First though, a brief explanation of the benefits of the essential ingredients found in most packages of the best energy chews and gels for marathoners and half marathoners.
The best energy chews for marathon running contain vital ingredients for successful marathon and long run refueling.
The cluster of carbohydrates and electrolytes contained in each package replenishes the key components lost during long distance running.
Combined with water, dehydration is prevented and endurance maintained.
Definitely necessary for that next race, right?
Energy drinks are actually more effective for refueling during long runs and races as liquids are able to be absorbed by the body faster than solids.
However combining energy chews with water is still a very effective way to refuel as a long distance runner.
Energy chews are also a great way to simply mix up the fuel that you are intaking especially if you like gummies in general (raising my hand here!).
Energy chews and gels are not absolutely essential for running marathons, half marathons or even long distance runs.
However it is essential for you to refuel your carbohydrate stores during long distance runs of over an hour in length.
The very best way to refuel your carb stores quickly and effectively is through energy drinks.
Energy chews and gels are also great option especially if you prefer fuel that has a bit more substance to it although they aren't absorbed by the body as quickly as liquids.
Just be sure to find and use the best energy chews for marathon training as they are not all created equal!
Related from The Mother Runners: Energy Gels For Runners - The 6 Best Running Gels
You really only need to take energy chews (or gels or energy drinks for that matter) any time that you will be running longer than one hour.
If you will be running for longer than an hour then you will want to bring supplemental energy along with you and begin intaking energy early on in your run.
Ideally, you will want to consume roughly 30-60 grams of carbohydrates for every hour that you run.
Since most energy chews contain between 20 and 40 grams of carbohydrates in each you will likely need between one and two chews per hour of running.
Most gels contain right around 20 grams of carbohydrates and therefore you will need at least 1.5 gels up to 3 gels per hour of running.
The range of how many you need is very dependent on your body type, gender, running fitness and race goals!
The Eat Like a Marathoner Nutrition Course contains calculators that can tell you exactly how many carbohydrates you need during your runs (and ultimately the marathon) which will tell you how many chews (or gels/energy drink) you need based off of your body, your running fitness and your race goals.
It personalizes your marathon nutrition to you!
Alright, let's talk about what you should look for in the best energy chews for marathon runners!
These ingredients should be in your running gels as well!
Carbohydrates: The number one source of energy. Carbohydrates keep your energy level high. 30 - 60 grams per hour is recommended.
Like most things in life, more is not better as stomach issues can result if you exceed more than 60 grams/hour.
Electrolytes: Necessary for maintenance of water balance during exercise. Lost through sweat.
The electrolytes you should look for in the best energy chews and gels for marathoners are:
Amino Acids: Beneficial for optimal performance and recovery (reduces soreness).
Also aids in maintaining stamina.
Caffeine: Provides mental clarity and acts as a mild stimulant while masking pain and fatigue.
Masks pain? Yes, please!
Protein: Keeps muscle damage to a minimum.
Not really necessary to have much protein during a run but very small amounts can be beneficial.
Fat: Makes the chew or gel more palatable.
Those who prefer eating their energy rather than slurping down a drink or gel will gravitate toward energy chews.
The yummy gummy small bite sizes are perfect for being able to customize to your needs.
The following top three energy chews will get you started in your experimentation to find what works best for you.
These plus performance Honey Stinger energy chews are more potent than the Honey Stinger original chews by providing you with more electrolytes lost during sweating and more caffeine for that mental clarity and extra boost.
-And with 95% organic ingredients!
To tweak for the optimal amount for your needs, supplement with the original chews for those longer duration runs.
Carbs: 37grams (Plan on 1 or 2 per hour.)
Protein: 1 gram
These Gatorade energy chews include 25% daily value of the B6 vitamins. -Great for generating energy by efficiently breaking down the carbs.
It is recommended that you eat all six chews in a package before your long run and then periodically as needed.
Carbs: 24grams (Plan on 2 to 3 servings per hour.)
Sodium: 70mg (Depending on flavor)
The highly popular Clif Bloks Chews come in multiple fun flavors to mix things up.
Try the Margarita with Salt, the Cran-Razz, the Tropical Punch, the Ginger Ale, the Salted Watermelon flavors (among a few others) or for more “typical” flavors, the Black Cherry, Orange or Strawberry flavors.
No lack of variety with these chews.
Carbs: 24 grams (Plan on 2 to 3 servings per hour.)
Sodium: 50 -100mg (Depending on flavor)
Calcium: 0 - 3mg
Caffeine: 0 - 50 mg
Energy Gels are a gooey, somewhat thick substance for those who prefer to gulp down their energy but don’t want the fullness typically experienced with an energy drink.
Washing down with water is usually recommended depending on the particular brand taken.
Energy gels and energy chews for marathon running are pretty similar in terms of absorption of energy.
Energy chews generally contain more carbohydrates per chew versus carbohydrates per gel packet. This can make them easier and quicker to consume.
The main difference will come down to texture and personal preference.
Do you prefer something you can chew that is a bit more solid? You will probably enjoy a running chew.
If you like a more syrupy texture that doesn't require chewing then you will most likely enjoy a gel over a chew.
I recommend testing one or two gels and one or two energy chews for marathon training and see what you like!
Let's answer this question right now with the following list of the top 3 gels for marathon and half marathon runners!
For those wanting a dairy free, gluten free and vegan friendly gel that uses natural ingredients, try the Huma Plus Chia Energy Gel.
This gel is made with finely milled chia seeds to keep your energy at its peak. The chia seeds are the primary ingredient that provide the optimal amount of amino acids essential to runners.
Note that these Plus Chia energy gels have 2x more natural electrolytes than the original Chia energy gels - aiding in the prevention of cramping and muscle fatigue.
Carbs: 21-23 grams (Plan on 2 to 3 servings per hour.)
Protein: 1 gram
Fat: 0 - .5 mg
Calcium: 25 - 30mg
Amino Acids: Includes 9 amino acids
Don’t confuse the GU Roctane energy gels (GU’s premium energy gel) with the original GU energy gels.
Compared to the original GU energy gels, the GU Roctane energy gels have two to three times as much sodium (electrolytes) (depending on the flavor) and three times as many branched-chain amino acids (great for overall performance and optimal recovery).
These are beneficial for runs over 10 miles and/or 90 minutes - so perfect for your half-marathon or full marathon.
Carbs: 19-21 grams (Plan on 2 to 3 servings per hour.)
Fat: 0 - 1.5 mg
Amino Acids: 1425mg
These Clif Shot energy gels are attractive in that you can fine tune your caffeine level for your best mental clarity.
They are also one of the most affordable - a big plus when watching your budget.
Carbs: 21-25 grams (Plan on 2 to 3 servings per hour.)
Fat: 0 - 1.5 mg
So whether you’re chewing or gelling during your half marathon or full marathon, if you are consuming adequate amounts of the above fuels they will deliver the energy, mental clarity and overall stamina to perform your best.
Oh - and for great gear to carry your energy stuff check out this list. Happy running!
BTW: Here are 9 other ways to increase your vivacity if you’re in an energy slump.
I'll send you my free 24 Hour Timeline Checklist of Things You Should Do After a Long Run when you sign up!