by Stephen Hallgren
Ask a marathoner what type of fuel they use, and you will quickly find that the answers you receive are as varied as the number of people you’ve asked. For those who have an iron stomach and are capable of handling GU, there are 18 flavors to choose from (last I checked), with every athlete staunchly claiming their go-to flavor. Googling “energy gels'' will inundate you with GU alternatives, each company touting a unique take on the energy gel. Vegan, isotonic, natural, caffeinated, GI safe… there are so many alternatives that it feels overwhelming to know what to try.
While I have zero GI issues with energy gels, I don’t like the flavor, texture, aftertaste, or consistency of GU. I can get one down with no problem but have no desire to take a second one. This becomes a problem with longer distances, like the marathon, where at least four gels are needed to meet my energy requirements. Fueling has been the worst part of every race I’ve run. And with a Spring marathon approaching, I wasn’t looking forward to choking down four vanilla bean GUs. I didn’t know what to try either.
One company that caught my attention was Maurten. I don’t know if it was the clever branding, endorsement from Eliud Kipchoge, or recommendations from a friend, but Maurten kept coming to the forefront as THE gel to try if you’re looking for something new. And I was looking for something new.
Maurten advertised as a brand that was groundbreaking and scientifically proven. They used fancy words like “encapsulated carbohydrates”, “hydrogel technology”, “biopolymer”, “alginate,” not to mention “science”! Their packaging tempted me with its sleek minimalistic design, Kipchoge lured me with his cool and confident face, and my friend swore by the gels as the only thing that has worked for her stomach. The one thing holding me back was the cost.
Maurten gel costs almost three times as much as GU for the “regular” ($1.25 vs. $3.60) and more than three times as much for “caffeinated” ($1.25 vs. $4.16). Not only does it cost more, but you also have to go all-in by buying a whole box at almost $50 a box. While runners are notorious for dropping a lot of money on shoes, I was more hesitant to drop that kind of money on gels. Then I remembered how I didn’t want to choke down four vanilla bean GUs and Kipchoge kept smiling at me, subliminally telling me I could be like him. Plus, Maurten claimed to address all the things I hated about energy gels.
I caved in, spent the money, and gave Maurten a shot for my final long runs and the Providence Marathon.
There are many reviews about the Maurten gels -- how they taste, their consistency, and size. Read them! But was it worth spending $15.52 (I used half caffeinated and half regular) instead of $5 for fueling my marathon? Or did I get scammed on all the hype?
I’ll cut to the chase: it depends. If you have zero issues with the energy gel you currently use, are satisfied with your fueling plan, and have no adverse side effects, it’s not worth paying three times more for Maurten gels. I did not notice any increased effectiveness of Maurten over other gels. And I doubt you would either.
BUT, if you hate energy gels or have GI tract issues using them, it’s well worth the extra cost. I took four Maurten gels for my marathon and did not feel like I had to choke down that final gel. While I had other issues with my marathon, Maurten gels were not one of them. So forking over an extra $10 to avoid that distraction was an ok price to pay.