There's no doubt the energy gel is one of the best sources of energy in cycling. It provides fast energy through simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. It is simple to use, light to carry, and packs a punch.
And yet, many top-level cyclists, including the renowned nutritionist Dr. Tim Podlogar, also use gummy bears to fuel their athletic performance. And there's a good reason for that, too. After all, gummy bears are quite similar to energy gels. It's mostly sugar, really.
So, which one is better? In this blog we finally put this long-lasting rivalry to an end.
Energy gel – best fuel for cycling
There is a variety of energy gels on the market (check out our top 3 energy gels for 2023), but on average, energy gels contain carbohydrates and different amounts of electrolytes.
The carbohydrates in the energy gel are primarily glucose or maltodextrin. Energy gels that aim for higher intakes of carbohydrates also contain fructose, as the combination of glucose and fructose allows your body to use both carbohydrates transporters and increase carbohydrate absorption to 90 grams per hour.
Most energy gels also contain some kind of minerals, primarily salt. More advanced energy gels contain various minerals, which in contact with your blood become electrolytes and preserve optimal hydration needed to sustain your body functions.
The energy gel is also easy to carry in your pockets and dose during cycling. Most energy gels also taste good, which increases their popularity among cyclists.
Gummy bears – alternative fuel in cycling?
Gummy bears contain various sugars, which can be both glucose and fructose, but often it is glucose syrup. In fact, Haribo gummy bears contain 16 grams of sugar per 36 grams serving, which means almost 50% of gummy bears is sugar.
While a bag of gummy bears might be slightly less practical to carry around than a single gel, it might get the upper hand once the number of energy gels in your pocket increases.
Gummy bears are also extremely practical to dose in terms of micro-dosing, as a single gummy bear weighs around 2 to 3 grams. On the other hand, if you need to hit a specific amount of carbohydrates, counting gummy bears while cycling might get tricky, and potentially dangerous.
Energy gel vs gummy bears – the showdown
Now that we understand what the two contestants bring to the table, let's analyze which of the two is better for cycling – the energy gel or gummy bears?
The main reason cyclists consume either the energy gel or gummy bears during cycling is carbohydrates.
Both the energy gel and gummy bears contain glucose, a fast-acting sugar with a high glycemic index, which allows your body to quickly get access to energy during cycling.
Nevertheless, glucose is a better source of sugar than glucose syrup. Glucose is your body's preferred source of energy, while glucose syrup is a liquid solution of various sugars, so the exact content of glucose may be questionable.
Both the energy gel and gummy bears might contain fructose, which increases absorption and reduces gastrointestinal issues, but this depends on the individual energy gel or gummy bear.
If we base our decision on an energy gel optimized for the intake of sugars during intense exercise, the energy gel is the winner of this category.
Energy gel: 1 – Gummy bears: 0
The energy gel is extremely practical to carry, but as your energetic needs increase, the energy gel's practicality decreases. There are only so many energy gels that you can stuff in your pockets.
In that sense, it seems easier to carry a few bags of gummy bears. So in terms of sheer energy value, the gummy bears are more efficient.
As far as dosing goes, they both have pros and cons. Gummy bears are perfect for micro-dosing, but they lose some of their appeal if you need to hit the exact amount of carbohydrates per hour.
The winner in this category? It has to be gummy bears.
Energy gel: 1 – Gummy bears: 1
While there is no reason why gummy bears shouldn't contain electrolytes, most of the commercialized gummy bears, such as Haribo, don't.
To be fair, most energy gels also lack in the electrolyte department, but there are energy gels out there that contain advanced electrolyte formulas.
Why are electrolytes important? Because they allow you to sustain optimal hydration during cycling, which in turn is crucial for your health and athletic performance.
As far as electrolytes go, the energy gel seems to come out on top, but only slightly.
Energy gel: 2 – Gummy bears: 1
Taste is highly subjective. Some cyclists love energy gels or a particular brand of energy gels, others don't. Some cyclist love gummy bears, other don't.
Nevertheless, gummy bears are primarily made to seduce our taste buds, so they should have an advantage in this regard.
For this reason, gummy bears win this category, too, and we enter the final category tied at 2-2.
Energy gel: 2 – Gummy bears: 2
There has been plenty of discussion in terms of the energy gels' influence on health. Many cyclist still fear sugar and try to avoid it at all costs. Others only shun away from fructose.
Be it as it may, both glucose and fructose seem to be a smaller risk to your health than glucose syrup, but further research is needed.
Also keep in mind that gummy bears may include other additives to keep their form and taste, which further amplifies the risk to your health. While energy gels may also contain additives and other unhealthy ingredients, gummy bears seem to be the greater offender.
Although not entirely conclusive, the energy gel is our winner in terms of health, which also makes it the winner of our epic showdown.
Energy gel: 3 – Gummy bears: 2
Energy gel is better than gummy bears for cycling
There you go. After an intense showdown, the energy gel has emerged victorious over gummy bears.
It was a much closer fight than we expected, and the gummy bears are definitely a worthy contender, but in the end only one of them can stand on top of the mountain looking like a complete badass.
Energy gel and gummy bears – hand in hand?
Yes, the energy gel has defeated gummy bears in the fight of the century, but this doesn't mean you should necessarily choose one over another.
As a matter of fact, many cyclists combine energy gels and gummy bears to get the best of two worlds.