Gels are great—they have the perfect ratio of electrolytes and carbohydrates formulated to help keep you pedaling at your best. They’re convenient, too, since they can be stored in your jersey pocket and taken in one mouthful while riding.
But despite the many benefits of gels, after the second or third one, they can be tough to swallow. Whether it’s the consistency or it’s your gut’s reaction to them, sometimes the last thing you want on the bike is another gel.
We’re not saying avoid gels altogether—they’re always great to have on hand and can really save your energy levels on a ride when in a pinch (the wrapper can also be used to boot a tire). Instead, we’re saying there are tons of other options out there that will help keep you from hitting the wall—and are appetizing too.
We listed a few of our favorite gel alternatives for cyclists, from real foods like bananas and raisins, to liquid sports nutrition and chews.
What are some of your favorite gel alternatives when on the bike? Let us know in the comments, below!
A banana is essentially the original gel. It’s has its own built-in wrapper that’s biodegradable and has everything you need nutrition-wise to keep energy levels topped off. Each banana has around 14 grams of easily digestible simple sugars, over 400 mg of potassium to prevent cramping and 3 grams of fiber to settle your gut through hard efforts.
These little nuggets may not look the most attractive when compared to brightly colored sports nutrition products, but raisins are a surprisingly effective alternative for gels when on the bike. The average 1-ounce box of raisins has 90 calories, 22 grams of carbs (20 grams of sugar) and 212 mg of potassium. Better yet, you can buy them just about anywhere, and the recyclable box fits in a jersey pocket or top-tube bag.
Appropriately called “chews,” these energy-packed gel alternatives are like gummy bears for endurance sports. They’re softer and easier to chew than other gummy candies (and don’t stick to your teeth), and they’re perfect for a little boost when energy levels dip. Chews vary between brands, but common varieties are made with a mix of carbohydrate sources like glucose, maltose and sucrose that are easy to digest.
While they’re more popular in European countries, the stroopwafel is slowly becoming a fan favorite in the United States throughout the past few years. You still can’t find these at a gas station mini mart, but they’re easy to order online or pick up at your local bike shop. A carb-packed stroopwafel is essentially a thin layer of honey sandwiched between two thin waffles, and they’re delicious enough to be enjoyed both on and off the bike.
No, we’re not talking about those crunchy rice cakes you find in the bags at your local grocery store. By “rice cakes” we mean the homemade on-the-bike snack made popular byDr. Allen Lim at Skratch Labs and enjoyed by professional cycling teams all around the world.
The carbohydrate base is made with sticky rice and sugar, but the draw is that they can be customized with just about any ingredients you prefer. For a sweet option, check out Lim’s blueberry chocolate coconut recipe, and for savory, check out his black pepper parmesan recipe.
Sports drinks have come a long way from what was served on the sidelines at soccer games as a kid. While you can still find the usual suspects at your local grocery store or vending machine, there are several brands that have formulated some pretty effective solutions that address both calorie consumption and hydration at the same time. The convenience factor is similar to a gel, and these mixes usually include electrolytes and simple sugars like glucose and sucrose, with some including some protein to stave off hunger.