When you’re training for a long race like a marathon, the fuel you ingest during the race becomes just as important as what you eat when you aren’t running. It can be incredibly tough to make it out of that run without consuming some kind of energy.
To carry all that fuel, you need a gel belt for running.
Quick Picks – Top Gel Belts
What Does Energy Gel Do For You in a Race?
Energy gel can turbocharge your running when you feel like giving up. It can be hard to believe that one little packet of slimy-tasting goo can do that for you, but it’s true.
When you’re running, your muscles use fat and carbohydrates as energy. The problem with fat is that it takes longer to break down, which doesn’t help you much when you’re running at race pace. It won’t fuel you quickly enough.
That only leaves carbohydrates to do the job. But here’s the catch––your muscles can only store a certain amount of carbohydrates. The amount that can be stored isn’t enough to properly fuel a long run like a half marathon or marathon.
When chugging along at your marathon pace, you’ll only have enough carbohydrates stored for about two hours of running. While it may be in our dreams to cross the finish line of a marathon in that time, it’s not likely to happen for us.
So, to give us energy to break through the wall when the going gets tough, we need to rely on quick-acting sources that are easy to consume on the go. Energy gels can help us soldier on until we reach the finish line.
How Often Should I Take Energy Gels?
During your long runs, you should first take them between the 45 minute to 1 hour mark. After that, you don’t need to take one for another 45 minutes to an hour. If you find that gels give you gastrointestinal distress, shoot for the 1-hour mark.
So if you’re planning to cross the finish line of your marathon in 4 hours, you potentially need to carry five energy gels with you. That won’t require a tremendous amount of room, but remember, you need to put them somewhere you can easily reach them.
What Makes a Running Belt Good for Carrying Gels?
Running belts aren’t all the same, and finding one that meets all your needs can be a challenge. We’ve even created our own running belt just so we could have one that incorporated all the features we felt were important.
When you’re thinking about which kind of running belt to buy for carrying your gels, along with anything else you might need during the race, you need to consider accessibility. You have to be able to quickly reach your gels without having to dig too far into your belt. You don’t want to spend your concentration and energy on a hide-and-seek situation.
And you don’t want to have to unpack all the other items in your belt just to reach the gels that may have gravitated to the bottom of the belt. If you’re doing that, your belt isn’t the one for you.
So you’ll either want a designated pocket just for your gels or gel loops that give you easy access. That way, you’ll be able to quickly grab your gel, tear the top and get that energy in your body as soon as possible.
What Else Should I Look For in a Running Belt?
Most runners are going to want their belts to serve more purposes than just carrying their gels. Here are some of the other features you should look for in a belt:
- Comfort:A running belt has to feel good when you’re wearing it. If it’s bouncing around or keeps shifting and you have to tug it up or down, it’s not a good choice for you. Running can be uncomfortable enough at times, so we don’t need our belts to work against us.
- Visibility: Ideally, your running belt will be a bright enough color to attract attention so that people driving past you can see and avoid you. There should also be some kind of reflectivity in case you run during early morning hours or evening hours when there isn’t any daylight.
- Multiple compartments: Whenever you can, you should opt for a running belt that has more than one compartment. It makes your life as a runner so much easier. You don’t want that one compartment to turn into a Mary Poppins handbag, where you’re pulling item after item out of it.
- Affordability: Unless you have money to burn, you’re probably tired of spending a lot of your hard-earned cash on mandatory running gear like shoes. Running belts shouldn’t bleed you dry financially because there are many affordable options out there.
The 5 Best Gel Belts for Running
If you don’t plan to carry much more than your energy gels during your long runs because you don’t want to feel like you’re carrying more gear than a pack mule, this might be a good belt for you.
- This belt has six gel loops that are easy to load and simple to unload when you need the gel packs during your long run––it holds the gel packs tightly enough so they don’t fall out.
- The belt is adjustable.
- It’s thin and comfortable to wear, even for petite runners who sometimes feel overwhelmed by running belts.
- It holds your running bibs too so you aren’t stuck having to poke holes with safety pins into all your running clothes.
- It’s affordable.
- You get more than one color choice.
- It’s durable enough to hold up for many races.
- It doesn’t ride up if you want to wear it on your hips instead of your waist.
- It isn’t big enough to fit some larger runners.
- There are no extra pockets if you are looking for something to hold keys or Chapstick.
If you’re worried about having a hard time ripping open those gel packs if it starts raining on your long-run day, you may want to check out this belt. The Spartabelt uses water-resistant neoprene. It’s a good choice for keeping the stuff you’re carrying dry during bad weather.
Ripping open wet energy gel packs can be really tricky — they are hard enough to get open when they’re dry.
- This belt won’t bounce around during your runs, which is good because nothing can annoy a runner faster than a distracting, bouncing belt.
- This is one spacious belt––it can hold a lot of gear, including your phone, keys, and gel.
- While there are no gel loops, this belt does have more than one pocket so you can designate one to use solely for your gels so they are easy to get to.
- Despite being a bigger belt, it still manages to look sleek and stylish.
- It’s durable enough that you’ll be able to use it long-term.
- It has a reflective strip on it.
- You might have to cinch it up a bit to make it tighter during your run.
- It’s a really tight fit for bigger phones like the iPhone 7.
This belt is a cross between the ultra slim belts some runners prefer and the fanny packs that your mom probably used to wear on family vacations. It holds a good deal of gear without looking mom-ish.
- This belt has five easy-to-access loops made of elastic to hold your gels in place during your long runs.
- It also has an inner pocket that can keep hotel key cards, money, or your driver’s license safe.
- This belt includes race toggles to attach to your bib so you don’t have to use safety pins on your clothes.
- There’s an additional mini pouch for music devices, chapstick, or inhalers.
- Most smartphones will fit in the pouch on this belt.
- The belt is made of neoprene, which is water resistant, so your gear will stay dry during light rains or heavy sweating.
- It’s more on the expensive side than some other running belts.
- While it can adjust to fit up to 42 inches, it doesn’t have the option of adding a belt extender, so it won’t work for the largest runners.
If you don’t feel comfortable heading out on a long run without carrying fluid with you, this hydration belt might be what you’re looking for.
- This belt has three loops for gel on one side of the belt.
- On the opposite side from the gel loops, it has a 12-ounce water bottle.
- Bigger phones can fit into the pouch.
- The pouch is made of water-resistant neoprene to protect your items from sweat and rain.
- The belt includes two toggles to hold your bib on race day.
- It also has reflectors to keep you safer while you’re exercising in the dark.
- The design is ergonomic to ensure the belt fits comfortably.
- The silicone grippers help make sure the belt doesn’t bounce around even while you’re running at race pace.
- It has an inside pocket to keep your more valuable items secured.
- It’s an expensive belt.
- The gels are a bit hard to fit inside the loops––it takes some work to get them out.
This belt is an affordable option for those who are trying to find a quality belt. If your running budget won’t handle any more hits, this could be a good choice for you.
- This belt has four energy gel loops.
- It has reflector tabs to help you be more visible to motorists.
- The pouch is slim enough to be fashionable, but it can hold a lot of gear, including an EpiPen for those who have life-threatening allergies.
- The pouch is made of neoprene so your items will stay dry during light rains.
- The fabric of the belt will feel soft against your skin.
- The belt is machine washable.
- If your phone has a case, you might have to remove it before putting it in this belt — the fit will be too tight.
- It won’t be big enough for heavier runners.
And the Winner Is …
One of the best gel belts for running is the Fitletic Ultimate Race Belt II. It’s not the cheapest belt you can buy, but it is loaded with great features.
It holds a lot of gear and offers five gel loops that will make your life much easier during a half marathon or full marathon. The inner pocket is a nice touch for runners who like to carry money or identification while running.
I like that it has race toggles included so you don’t have to poke holes in your expensive running clothes just to attach your race bib.