4 Alternatives to Gels For Hard Riding Fuel

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
Share it:
4 Alternatives to Gels For Hard Riding Fuel

When you’re riding your bike hard, it gets difficult to eat. All that heavy breathing and attacking makes getting food out of your pocket, into your mouth and digested challenging. While many athletes use gels for high-intensity efforts, many others don’t like the taste or texture of gels. Athletes who find a whole gel hard to swallow or those who would like a more natural or DIY solution are in luck. Here, we put together a few alternatives:



An obvious choice is to consider sugar in another form. Many companies make gummies, beans, blocks and other bite-sized, candy-like forms.

These have the advantage of letting you spread your consumption over a longer period rather than consuming a whole gel. Some endurance disciplines allow riders to place these ‘candies’ in bags positioned on the bar or top tube, which makes grabbing a bite quick and easy.



While this solution is still gel, it involves using a plastic flask that holds 4+ gels and has a top similar to a water bottle that opens and closes. This solution offers less mess, less litter and the ability to spread your consumption out as you like. You can also water down the gel if you find the consistency too thick. The best part of the gel-flask method is it is much easier to pull out of your pocket and ‘drink’ the gel with one hand as you ride.



Sports drink mix is another option many athletes use as the intensity gets high and the opportunity to pull a single gel out of your pocket gets more challenging. Just dilute it in your water bottle and hydrate along the way. It’s best to have two water bottles in this case and keep one as just water.

If you want to save money on mix or have more control on your ingredients you can make a sports drink with a shake of salt, water and some fruit juice (3–4:1 juice to water). While not ‘whole foods,’ another DIY solution is purchasing bulk maltodextrin, a common sugar in commercial drinks, and making your own mix, which is often done by athletes who do not like sugary tastes but want the ease of mix.



Some athletes use a food processor to blend dried fruit or make a baby food-like ‘gel’ of blueberries, bananas and other carb-rich foods. A gel flask can be repurposed for these solutions.

If you want to limit your processed foods, easy solutions are bananas, dates, dried fruit, baby food, nut butter bars and fruit/nut bars. Just be wary of digestion, sufficient calories and practicality of carrying some of these foods.

If your rides have lower-intensity moments, then solid food that tastes great can provide a huge boost of energy and happiness. A classic ride food “Feed Zone” author Allen Lim popularized is rice bars. Other things to make: macaroons, banana loaf, cookies and fruit/nut energy bars for these long days.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MapMyRun desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest running advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.

You’re taking control of your fitness and wellness journey, so take control of your data, too. Learn more about your rights and options. Or click here to opt-out of certain cookies.