Copycat GU Gels

Well, that didn’t take long.  I really didn’t want to make a gel out of maltodextrin.  Without really knowing much about it, maltodextrin just seems like a weird laboratory concoction that companies must use because it’s cheap or shelf-stable or something.  It can’t possibly be good for you and it’s about as far from a whole food as it gets.

So why did I change my mind?  Science.

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What in the world is maltodextrin anyway?  It’s a powder that is created from a starch (usually corn, but any starch can be used, like wheat or tapioca) by adding some acids and enzymes.  It is technically a complex carbohydrate, but it acts even faster than simple sugar in the body.  When you are exercising hard, you want the fastest fuel available (in other words, something with a super-high glycemic index) to get glucose to your muscles and maltodextrin is it.

For a really in-depth analysis of carbohydrates specifically for running, check out The Science of Energy Gels. I love this site!  Jonathan Savage has broken down exactly what the most popular and obscure gels are made of and what they do in the body.  One of the many eye-opening things I’ve learned is that the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates only refers to how heavy the molecule is, not how fast the carb hits the bloodstream.  Small molecules are simple and big molecules are complex.  But as Savage writes, “This division into simple and complex is unfortunately crap (biochemistry term meaning ‘not useful’).”  So simple carbs like fructose have a low glycemic index and are slow to digest while maltodextrin digests quickly.  And it’s even faster than pure glucose.

But speed of digestion is only part of the story.  Ever wondered why every commercial gel pack instructs you to drink water with it?  That’s because in order to process the carbohydrate, your body needs a certain amount of water and each type of carb requires a different amount.  Maltodextrin requires six times less water than glucose and frutose!

This is the part that convinced me to try it.

Why does the amount of water matter?  Obviously you are going to be drinking fluids during a marathon, so is this really even an issue?  YES!  A gel with 20 grams of maltodextrin (and nothing else) requires 2.2 ounces of water to become isotonic (fancy word for becoming the same concentration as your blood and therefore absorbable) and a gel made with fructose or glucose needs a whopping 12.8 ounces!  If you take 2 gels an hour, you’ll need to fill your stomach with 2 and a half pints of water, just to absorb the gel. If not, it will just sit in your stomach, probably causing all sorts of gastro issues.  Not to mention that means you need to stop 6 times an hour at water stations and drink the entire 4 ounce cup without spilling.  Yeah, right.

So why do I add fructose at all?  Since there are different pathways in the body to metabolize fructose, adding a little to either maltodextrin or glucose allows you to absorb more calories of carb per hour than either carb alone.  More calories per hour means more energy!  I’m willing to trade drinking a little extra water for more calories.

So where do you get maltodextrin?  You can buy an 8-pound tub on Amazon, which would make about 181 gels for $23.  I chose to go to my local homebrew supply store and buy 8 ounces for $1.50, just to be sure I liked it.  It works out to be about the same per pound, so I’ll support local.

Enough science!  Here’s the recipe for chocolate. Sub a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice for the vanilla and cocoa for a citrus flavor.  For peanut butter, swap the cocoa for 2 teaspoons of peanut butter powder like PB Fit.

Serves 1 gel

Copycat Chocolate GU Gel

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 20g (about 3 tablespoons) maltodextrin
  • 375mg (1/32 teaspoon) salt
  • 350mg (1/32 teaspoon) Morton's Lite Salt (optional, but good for potassium. Omit or sub salt if you don't care about it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cocoa
  • 7.5g (about 1.5 teaspoons) agave
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons water (you may prefer more or less, so add slowly!)

Instructions

  1. If you have a digital scale, it is much easier and more accurate to weigh the maltodextrin and agave rather than measure. Mix all the dry ingredients first then add the wet, going very slowly with the water. Maltodextrin becomes a liquid very easily (that's the point!), so add more or less water depending on your preference. Seal in a custom made FoodSaver bag or fill a gel flask.
Cuisine: Endurance Gel |

Notes

This gel requires about 10 ounces of water to become isotonic (absorbable). Use less agave if you want to drink less water. Calories: 99, Carbohydrate: 25.2g, Sodium: 233.5mg, Potassium 87.5

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http://theplantedrunner.com/copycat-gu-gels/

 

 

11 Replies to “Copycat GU Gels”

  1. Have you tried the Stinger gels... they are based (somewhat I'm sure) on honey. There's a massive honey taste to them. And while I don't fully dig them, they are a good change of pace from the typical gels/gatorade taste.
    1. I'm not a big fan of honey, so no, I haven't tried them. Honey is a mix of fructose and sucrose, so not the absolute best choice based on absorbtion rates, but if it works, great! I posted about my Honey Stinger Waffle fail earlier this summer. It wasn't pretty!
  2. […] to my GPS watch, own lots of compression socks, and eat strange space-age goos on long runs (homemade, of course).  But I don’t like to rely on packaged food and prefer to make my […]
  3. […] For more on the science of the ingredients, check out my original post on endurance gels. […]
  4. […]  No tummy issues and they go down smoothly and easily with a lot less water.  My caffeinated Salted Peanut Butter with a touch of protein was perfect for the back half of yesterday’s workout.  The Lemon […]
  5. Hi Claire! Somehow followed your recipe but modified for my taste and needs. First marathon completed without any damage or bonking... except some cramping of course :) I used a mixture of maltodextrin, fructose and sea buckthorn juice. Exactly I mixed 150grams of maltodextrin, 25 grams of fructose and around 75 grams of buckthorn juice. I obtained around 250 grams of thick gel I stored in a 250 gram Salomon Soft Flask (http://www.salomon.com/us/product/soft-flask-250ml-8oz.html?article=359801) Of course I drank water on the course to dilute the gel and also put water in the flask as I consumed the gel. I finished full of charge. The buckthorn juice concentrate is very sour but adding fructose you can adjust the sweetness to your taste. And is full of vitamin C and other goodies. Thank you once again for sharing good things with us!
    1. So glad you tried it and it worked out! I have never heard of buckthorn juice. I'm going to have to look into it! I haven't decided yet if I will put my gels into individual Food Saver bags or use my gel flask. My worry is that the hard sided gel flasks don't squeeze much so you are left with gel inside. Your idea of refilling with more water is a good one. I don't know if I'm coordinated to do that at top speed though!
      1. :) The Salomon flask is so soft it sqeeze out every bit of gel even if is thick. Thanks to the bite valve it remain vacuumed. I made it thick, very concentrated (not isotonic) just to be sure I have enough spare calories with me. I think I packed around 600 calories :D I screwed with the electrolytes hence the crampings... The Salomon flask can be rolled and put into a pocket because is so soft and flexible. I think the main advantage of such soft flasks is one can sip a little bit of gel to allow it to be digested and for a constant supply of energy.
  6. Robert Nicholson says: Reply
    I was wondering the recipe above how many servings does that make? Do you put the servings in a 32g packet?
    1. Hi Robert! This recipe is for a single gel. I usually make my own gel packs in a FoodSaver, but you can also use a gel flask. Let me know if you try it!

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