Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

20 Mar
Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Last a fall I was out on a long bike ride with a friend of mine when he asked me how much money I spent a month on the carbohydrate gels I use. It was a question I really hadn’t thought much about before, but after doing a few quick calculations in my head I was shocked. Most of the carbohydrate gels I use are organic (a word usually synonymous with expensive), and during most of the year I go through 30 packs a week which comes out to $180 a month (I am so glad my wife never looks at the American Express statements). After I got home I decided to see if I could find a way to cut my expenses by creating my own carb gels, and at the end of this article you will find a few recipes that I have used. However, before we get to the recipes I need to explain how to choose your ingredients (if you want to experiment on your own).

I am a distance cyclist and except for my winter rides in the snow I seldom take a ride of under two hours. On long rides I normally burn between 900 and 1,000 calories an hour (based on my weight and speed). As a result, I try to consume 300 calories an hour (including 60 grams of carbohydrates). I get 100 calories an hour from my sports hydration mix and the other 200 calories from carb gels (and bananas when available). Most commercial carb gels offer a mixture of both simple and complex carbs and have 100 calories, along with 20 to 30 grams of carbs, and cost anywhere from $1.20 to $3.00 per package. Store-bought energy gels also have about 45mg sodium and 35mg potassium per serving. Simple carbs give a quick shot of energy, while complex carbs provide a slower release of energy. If your gel is composed entirely of simple carbs you will feel a quick rush of energy, followed by a sinking feeling a few minutes later.

You can make your own carbohydrate gels with just a few inexpensive ingredients—and it will only cost you around .30¢ per serving! As a bonus, your gels will always be fresh and free from unwanted chemicals. Here is a quick breakdown of the main ingredients that I use in my gels…

Brown Rice Syrup has 65 calories per tablespoon (21g) and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Brown rice syrup has a Glycemic Index of 25 and is composed of about 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. I buy Now Foods Organic Brown Rice Syrup from a local grocery store (it’s in their health food department) and it sells for under $5 for a 16-ounce container.

Raw Honey is a 100% simple sugar and has a Glycemic Index of 58. Honey has 64 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 17 grams of carbohydrates. Simple sugars can elevate your blood sugar very quickly, so you don’t want to take too much at one time. By the way, make sure you buy raw honey and not the processed garbage that comes in the cute bear containers.

Light Agave Nectar has 60 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 16 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 11. Maple Syrup has 53 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 13 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 54. Blackstrap Molasses has 45 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 11g of carbohydrates, along with 15mg of sodium and 500mg of potassium. Blackstrap molasses has a Glycemic Index of 55. Since blackstrap molasses has a strong flavor you should probably start with just a bit of it and work your way up!

Now for the recipes—I wish I could take credit for all of these, but most of them are recipes that I’ve cobbled together from other cyclists. However, the first recipe is mostly mine and it is my favorite!

Blue Ribbon Butterscotch Candy

Mix 8 tablespoons brown rice syrup, 2 tablespoons light agave nectar, 1 tablespoon warm water, 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/4 tablespoon Morton Lite Salt Mixture, and about 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt. This mixture provides about 100 calories per 1.5 tablespoon. A ¼ teaspoon of Morton Lite Salt Mixture has 290mg sodium and 350mg potassium (I use this as an easy way to get potassium into my gels). This is my favorite homemade gel—and as the name implies, it tastes like butterscotch candy (and is highly addictive).

Honey GOO Recipe

This recipe comes from HomeGOO, a company that sells incredibly low-priced flasks for carb gels. Mix 4 ounces of raw honey, one tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. This recipe will approximately fill a 6-ounce flask.

Down And Dirty

I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but it is very easy to make and has a mild taste. Mix 3/4 cup of brown rice syrup, 1/2 cup of agave nectar, 1/2 cup of raw honey, and 1/2 tsp of sea salt.

Finding A Flask

HomeGOO sells two different reusable flasks. The five-ounce Goo Flask is a 5.5 inch tall BPA free plastic container with a leak proof, push-pull valve. The flexible six-ounce Goo Flask is made from ultra-lightweight BPA free plastic and collapses as you consume the gel. It also has a push/pull drink spout with removable cap, though the cap really isn’t necessary. These bottles are easy to wash by hand and are dishwasher safe.

HomeGOO Flexible Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO Flexible, Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO sells the five ounce flask for only .99¢, which means that if you only used in one time you still saved money over the cost of buying prepackaged gels. The six-ounce flask sells for $3 and should last a very long time. If you are into endurance sports you owe it to yourself to try these flasks!


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60 responses to “Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

  1. Dra Martha Castro Médico WMA

    March 20, 2014 at 12:53 AM

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      Thank you so much for reblogging this post!

      • Dra Martha Castro Médico WMA

        March 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        You are very welcome 🙂

  2. sueslaght

    March 20, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    These are great! Training for the marathon last fall I couldn’t bear to add up the costs of what I was spending on gels. Excellent post and thanks!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      In a few weeks I’ll post on article on how to make your own sports hydration mix — another great money saver!

      • sueslaght

        March 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        I will look forward to it!

  3. Elaine @ foodbod

    March 20, 2014 at 1:56 AM

    That’s so useful, thank you. My husband does through boxes and boxes of gels when he’s training and taking part in events and it’s not the cost that concerns me as much as what’s in them???

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      The ingredients list on some of the gels require a PhD in chemistry to figure out! That’s why I tried to stick with gels that had organic ingredients like Honey Stinger gels. Simple ingredients are so much easier on the stomach!

      • Elaine @ foodbod

        March 20, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Definitely! When he did the Iron Man last year it took a few days for his stomach to get over all the gels!

  4. fatbeardedandtattooedcyclist

    March 20, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    i will be trying this next week!

  5. Barbara

    March 20, 2014 at 2:53 AM

    Definitely will be trying these, they sound excellent! Thank you 🙂

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      The Butterscotch flavor is fantastic — I hope you like them!

  6. cyclerist

    March 20, 2014 at 2:54 AM

    Great article and thanks for the advice!
    I will try some of these in just a little different recipes since some of the ingredients are hard to get in my part of Europe :).
    Did you estimate how much cheaper is this way of making your gels?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      Thanks for asking about the cost — I had intended to put that in the article (in fact, I just did a quick edit to include the info a few minutes ago). Since I can buy all of the ingredients at a local grocery store the cost is around .30¢ per serving.

  7. myarseiskillingme

    March 20, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    Reblogged this on my arse is killing me and commented:
    Good one from All Season Cyclist. Perfectly fit frugal zone. Big thumbs up!

  8. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    March 20, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    So cool! I’m not “there” yet, but when I am I have this post stored away! Thanks for sharing!

  9. st sahm

    March 20, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Cool! Can I sub the agave for coconut syrup/extract/milk?
    ($180 a month is crazy expensive!)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      I’ve not tried coconut syrup in my gels, but I think it would work. However, in my area the coconut syrup is rather expensive ($13 for 10 ounces), so it would raise the cost of the gels up fairly high.

  10. Jeff Katzer

    March 20, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    I think that HomeGoo flexible flask would be a great way to carry a little honey (for your tea) on a backpacking trip. Thanks for the tip.

  11. PedalWORKS

    March 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Going to give this a try. I too spend too much on gels. They are easy and quick. But expensive. I also understand that Vega have published their gel recipes.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      I actually prefer my homemade gels over nearly all of the prepackaged kind — plus the bottles are a LOT easier to use than the individual packages.

  12. unsportywomencanrun

    March 20, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Great post, thank you. My Husband is looking into making his own gels so I’ll get him to look at this. One of the things he was figuring out was where to get some containers. Thanks so much for this 🙂

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      In addition to the HomeGOO containers, HammerGel sells a 5-ounce bottle for just a few dollars (they can often be found at your local bike shop).

      • unsportywomencanrun

        March 21, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        Thanks 🙂 we have some of those hammer bottles already. The shop we buy them from give them away with every 1L bottle purchased, which is pretty nice of them.

  13. bgddyjim

    March 20, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    You’re the man, brother. Thank you for posting this!


    March 20, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Interesting. I never would have thought to make my own energy gel!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      The only thing that prevented me from making mine before was pure laziness — but once I realized how much I was paying for gels it prompted me to action!

  15. fatbeardedandtattooedcyclist

    March 20, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Reblogged this on fatbeardedandtattooedcyclist's Blog and commented:
    This is a good way to use money spent on goo and gel on parts!

  16. t1dActiveLiving

    March 20, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    Thank you! I’m going to try this!

  17. richdirector

    March 21, 2014 at 4:33 AM

    Reblogged this on Kitesurf Bike rambling and commented:
    might have to try this one at home ……

  18. rantsrulesandrecipes

    March 21, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Love this post! Great for cyclists, runners and health conscious alike!
    will definitely be making and passing along!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 21, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      If you decide to modify the recipes (and I’m sure you will), please pass along your ideas!

  19. Julian

    March 23, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Curious – why don’t you use pure sugar?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 26, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      Two main reasons: Pure sugar is a simple carbohydrate and it would give you a quick rush of energy followed by the horrible energy crash. It would also be very hard on the stomach.

  20. Mrs. Brown

    March 23, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Awesome thank you shared this on my facebook page! 🙂

  21. elijmolloy

    March 25, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    I recently had a similar epiphany with my energy bar spending. I found some homemade Larabar recipes online and it’s working great.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 26, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      Now I’m going to have to find those homemade Larabar recipes — I love Larabars!

  22. Dan

    March 25, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    In the butterscotch recipe, did you mean 1/4 tablespoon lite salt as written, or did you mean 1/4 teaspoon instead? A quarter of a tablespoon is an awkward and uncommon amount to measure, while a quarter teaspoon is a common measurement, and in giving the nutrition information you also referred to a quarter teaspoon.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      Dan, just 1/4 teaspoon is all that is needed — any more would ruin the recipe. I bought a set of measuring spoons that had the 1/4 teaspoon as part of the set (my wife didn’t want to share he measuring spoon set).

  23. Laura

    March 30, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Visiting from Elaine – this is a great post. Gels used to always make me sick until I started making my own – such much better without the foreign ingredients!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 31, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      Thanks for visiting! Simple ingredients are always easier on the stomach (and organic is even better).

  24. triathlonobsession

    April 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Reblogged this on Triathlon Obsession and commented:
    Making your own gel is an awesome idea even if you are not spending a fortune on them. I’m curious to tweak this recipe as well!

  25. Clyde Lied

    July 10, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    Ecsqueeze-me?? … “Lite Salt”?! … dwaa???
    Nice page here. I’ve been making my own “homemade gator-aid” for years & I can usually drink it about ten-times as fast as any store-bought stuff – and this is without even trying!! (I haven’t tried hay-switchel yet)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 10, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Morton Lite Salt is the easiest way to get needed potassium into your gel (plus I use a little bit of Kosher salt to balance my blend out).

  26. Race Leader

    August 13, 2015 at 6:02 PM

    thanks for the recipe! I’ve just worked out this could save me USD200 a year…gulp

  27. Dana

    October 24, 2015 at 2:10 AM

    My friend introduced me to Humangear GoToob’s which are awesome for homemade and bulk gels. I used them on my trip along the Divide route this past summer. I’m going to try these new gel mixes out this weekend. Thanks for posting.


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