The Best Energy Chews for Chasing PRs
Truth be told, there aren’t many things that give workouts a significant boost—at least things that you don’t already know. Getting good sleep, eating well, and working to stay limber do most of the heavy lifting, whether you’re, well, heavy lifting, or going for a hard run or bike ride. That said, energy chews have become a popular means to get over that PR hump.
What are energy chews? They’re basically gummies designed for athletic performance rather than delivering sugary, cavity-creating payloads. They’re often carb-rich and include added electrolytes and caffeine. Which ones are the best, and when should you take them? We tried the most popular options on the market. Here are the results.
What to Look for in Energy Chews
Easy to digest carbohydrates are fundamentally what energy chews are bringing to the table. Sometimes called simple sugars, most energy chews offer 20 to 25 grams of carbs per serving and suggest eating two servings per workout—one before and one during. These simple sugars can take a few different forms, but they’re most often some mix of sucrose, glucose, and maltodextrin. Think sugar carbs, not bread carbs.
Most energy chews come in caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions. For the most part, we tested the non-caffeinated options, as most people get plenty of caffeine as it is (probably too much, truthfully). If there is caffeine, it’ll likely be around 25mg per serving, which is significantly less than a standard 8-ounce cup of coffee, which harbors somewhere around 90mg of caffeine.
Caffeine is ergogenic—workout boosting—but isn’t necessarily something you’d want to reach for to prop up every workout, especially if you’re exercising four to six times a week. Consider caffeine-loaded energy chews when you’re really pushing yourself—perhaps during longer weekend workouts.
The third prong of an energy gel’s workout-boosting power supply is electrolytes. Though they offer significantly less volume of electrolytes than hydration and electrolyte powders do, energy gels nearly always contain them. Electrolytes show up on the nutrition label as sodium, and you can expect anywhere from 30 to 100mg of them.
The Best Energy Chews for Working Out
BUILD YOUR STACK
For how few calories you get from energy chews, they deliver a huge amount of carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, and potassium. If you eat them outside of their functional purview—fairly intense exercise—they could not be considered healthy for this reason. But consumed with purpose, they can boost workouts that drain your body of all the things they provide, so could generally be considered a net positive. If you’re worried about health factors, you should absolutely speak to your primary care physician before trying them (especially if you opt for caffeinated energy chews).
You should take energy chews 15 to 30 minutes prior to an intensive workout and again as needed during the workout. You’ll see some slight diversions from this suggestion, but this is the general consensus among the companies that make the chews. This usually means you eat half the packet before the workout and the other half during it.
Bear in mind that, though the caffeinated variety of energy chews typically carry less caffeine than coffee, the volume of caffeine is still sufficient to both energize you and keep you awake should you take them for an evening workout. If you’re particularly caffeine sensitive, consider non-caffeinated options or limit usage to morning and afternoon training sessions.
It should take about 30 minutes for energy chews to begin doing their work. This lines up with when you should take your first energy chews pre-workout so you begin feeling that extra bit of energy as you begin your workout. Note that this timing will differ person to person, so allow for a self-experimentation period.
The answer to this depends completely on your goals, body composition, and workout intensity. That said, for most people simply following the suggested serving sizes on the nutrition label should suffice. Because every energy chew is sold in different quantities of chews, there is no unifying number to recommend for athletes to eat. Don’t get cute: follow the nutritional label and adjust as needed.
Whether it’s running, rowing, lifting, or various organized sports, the human body needs carbs to keep going when the going gets tough—roughly 30-60g of carbs per 60 to 90 minutes of working out, per the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). We also know caffeine supports both cardio and power-based workouts in men and women. So, generally speaking, any workout lasting longer than an hour could be supported by energy chews.
In reality, we prefer to limit their use to longer, more focused, higher intensity sessions.