Running Gear: Cheap, Homemade Energy Gel Flask

One of my downfalls during my first marathon experience in Vermont last year was an inability to effectively fuel after about halfway through the race (contributing to my “hitting the wall” around mile 15). One problem I have is that energy gels don’t work well for me. For one thing, the pouches are messy to open and eat, and who wants to run 10+ miles with a film of sticky goo on their hands. Secondly, a mouth full of gooey, sugary gel can be tough to get down unless you have a lot of water, which makes for difficult timing during a race. I’ve also tried Clif Shot Blocks, Sharkies, and a few other products with mixed success, but chewing these while running makes breathing regulation difficult. I need a better solution for fueling on the run.

In training for my rematch with the Vermont City Marathon, I’ve now begun experimenting with alternative strategies to try to overcome my marathon fueling obstacles. Today was my first attempt. I’ve read on other websites about people who use gel flasks instead of the pouches because they tend to be less messy. The other benefit is that with a flask, you can water down your gel to make it easier to swallow on the run. Several companies market gel flasks for runners/bikers, and some come with handy little holsters (here are a bunch of gel flasks available at Amazon.com), but I decided to take a different route since I don’t like clipping things to my shorts when I run. I was in Target the other day with the family, and I decided to check the personal care section to see if they might have anything similar, perhaps a travel shampoo bottle for example. What I found in the were the two bottles pictured in this post, each selling for a whopping $0.99. Although both were being sold in the bargain bins as travel accessories for airplanes, they seemed no different in size or appearance than the “dedicated” gel flasks I’ve seen elsewhere. I love a bargain, so I bought one of each to experiment with.

Today I did a 10 mile run with the flask on the left tucked into a pocket on my new EMS Espresso water bottle waist pack, and it fit perfectly. I mixed the contents of two gel pouches with a roughly equal amount of water, and this had the desired effect of thinning out the gel so that it came out easily from the spout, and it was a lot easier to get down on the run in this form. I downed about half of my gel concoction on this particular run (the remnants of this can be seen in the flask on the left), and I’m pretty happy with the result. The even nicer thing about this cheap solution is that I could just as easily carry the small flask in my hand during a race and throw it away when done (and at a cost of $0.99, I wouldn’t feel too guilty about doing so, except for the waste/recycling factor). The only issue I had today was not anything to do with the flask, but rather that I don’t really like the vanilla Cytomax gel that I put into it (unfortunately I bought a case of 24 pouches last year that I have yet to finish for this reason). So if anyone has a recommendation of a good gel flavor, feel free to drop me a comment. I need some suggestions to try before I buy another case.

If you’re looking for a recipe on how to make your own gel at home, click here to view an article from Active.com.

Happy running!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. Michelle McBurney says:

    Thanks for ths. I use Brendan Braziers gel recipes for my Marathons. I am going to try the chia seed with agave as I am intolerant of honey.

  2. I really enjoy your posts and I am glad I saw this before I went out and bought some expensive gel flasks. I am tired of putting my gels in snack bags and cleaning my spibelt (it’s messy). Not only that hard to take a gel with snack bag while running. :)

  3. Brian Fancher says:

    Fantastic idea!!!!!!!

  4. kazda2 says:

    thanks for the post-i will try this for my agave gel!

  5. antibacterial_hand_sanitizers says:

    This is so interested! Where can I find more like this?

  6. Satorical says:

    Hammer Gels are less loathesome than most. My favorite is pretty yummy, but hard to find in stores: Carb-boom! The Apple Cinnamon ones are like an apple pie in your mouth.

  7. Hey great tips! I too have found that mixing the gel is way easier! I’m not coordinated enough to run while trying to rip open a gel packet with my teeth and squish the gel and water in my mouth all simultaneously. lol. My water belt has 4 small plastic bottles in it so I use 2 with a gel/water mix and 2 with just water, or sometimes Gatorade. I really like your idea of inexpensive disposable containers too, good idea! Those squirt bottles with the weight pack are ridiculously expensive and i always end up losing one or worse yet, dropping one on the floor of the portable pre-race outhouse! Yuck, those are tossed without a doubt! Thanks for the tip!

  8. i just made my own energy gels: 80% maltodextrin powder (from chemist – very cheap) + 20% fructose with a pinch of low sodium table salt (contains both sodium and potassium), lemon and lime juice. Delicious (much less sickly than most commercial gels) and cheap. Also good is maltodextrin powder, mix with milo (a malted chocolate drink in australia) and boiling water – the milo adds a bit of salt, B vitamins and glucose. Make up large amounts and store in the fridge, empty into your gel flasks on the day. They cost about 20 cents per gel and taste heaps better!

  9. Max Wilson says:

    Check out the flasks from Endurance. Max energy liquid gel goes down easy. No sugar added and ready to use in a recycleable pete 10oz hip flask and 3oz mini marathon flasks. http://www.endurancemaxenergy….

  10. luckygirltx13 says:

    Inspired by Julie Berg, I just blended a sweet potato, sea salt and water and put that in a flask. No GI issues and good energy source!

  11. Have you tried Iskiate? Water + Chia seeds (Salvia Blanco). Stir. Let it sit in the fridge for 20 mins. Add honey/sugar and lemon/lime juice. Stir and refrigerate for 20 more mins. Best energy “gel” I’ve ever used.

  12. Try the Chocolate #9 gels. They have only chocolate and agave nectar in them, so they have no chemical taste. I love them!

  13. jennifer says:

    I make my own gel with tart cherries and chia seeds but the pull tops sometimes are hard for the seeds to filter through. Looking for flip top bottles. Thanks for the awesome idea!

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