So with these prices and my frugal nature, I have pretty much only used gels when they are offered at an aid station. At their most basic, energy gels are a portioned source of calories, carbs, sodium, potassium, a few vitamins, and sometimes caffeine. I figured I can get all of this, although maybe not as conveniently, from real food and liquids. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, Gatorade, and a caffeinated beverage pretty much covered all the nutrition supplied by gels. Having these items and eating them in small portions at a designated cache on the loop where I do my long runs has worked for me, but I still wanted the option of carrying the necessary nutrition for other routes where it wasn’t convenient to return to a nutrition cache location as often. So I started experimenting with making my own energy gels. I tried several different ingredients in different combinations. I used honey, smashed bananas, chia seeds, molasses, peanut butter, maple syrup, instant coffee, coffee grounds. After experimenting, I did a little research and found some recipes online, all of which were similar to what I had already been using. I almost think that the experimenting phase was more productive than the recipe research phase. When experimenting, I developed the recipe by taste to my preference, which I would say is pretty important because I will be the one eating this stuff. I would recommend that you do the same. Start with a basic recipe (several linked to below with the Homebrew Power Goop being the simplest) and alter it as you see fit to make it perfect for you. If you want some advice from a pro on how to make your own energy gel, check out this video from Ginger Runner Live of Zach Miller talking about his recipe.
|Hammer Nutrition Flask|
Another option is a reusable flask like these offered by
GU and Hammer Nutrition. It may not be as convenient
as having each portion individually sealed, but it is more
affordable and also avoids the wasted packaging.
|GU Nutrition Flask|
An additional minimal waste and thrifty option is to rinse out and reuse either apple sauce or infant food squeeze pouches. This method is a little more time consuming due to the rinsing and refilling, but it does give you a final product very similar to the commercially purchased energy gels. Most of the gel recipes I’ve used are too thick to funnel into the pouches. I’ve found that one of the best ways to refill the pouches with your goo is by using infant medicine syringes. It is best done carefully, slowly, and with a fair amount of shaking (see YouTube video for demonstration).