Maurten changed everything we thought we knew about sports nutrition when they introduced their hydrogel.
The hydrogel is one of the best gels on the market today. Maurten says it’s a new way to get the energy you need for long runs.
“When people think about a gel, they think about it just being another syrupy thing,” says Maurten's Herman Reuterswärd. “But Maurten's gel is far from syrupy. It's the energy gel reinvented.”
Maurten is one of our favorite nutrition products because it packs tons of energy into a clean-burning fuel for long runs.
We put the hydrogel packets and drink mixes through serious paces ever since the Swedish products first hit the market in 2018. And now, with the launch of the brand new Maurten GEL 100 CAF 100, we took a deep dive into why we love the products.
We know that carbohydrates are critical to performing your best aerobically. But during a hard training session or race, those calories can come at a cost. The harder you work, the more blood flow you need in your arms and legs in order to push the pace. This process diverts blood flow from the gut, therefore slowing or inhibiting proper digestion.
If you’ve ever had GI distress during a workout or race, you know what we mean.
In short, too many calories or the wrong type of calories at the wrong time can create a perfect storm in your gut that makes reaching your next PR feel nearly impossible.
Enter hydrogel technology.
Maurten founder Mårten Fryknäs, a triathlete and cancer drug researcher, started researching ways to reduce GI distress from sports nutrition products. Fryknäs already found that hydrogel technology was useful for delivering medication in cancer patients, so why not test it out for carbohydrate transportation? Not surprisingly (to him at least), it worked.
A fiber from seaweed called alginate combined with pectin form a 3D matrix that encapsulates a mixture of glucose, fructose and salt. According to Maurten, the structure protects the nutrients as they move through your stomach and delivers them to the intestines where the body can absorb more carbohydrates easier.
The caffeinated version works the same way. Only difference: The new gel has 100 mg of caffeine. That’s basically an entire cup of coffee in one 100-calorie packet.
Without prior warning, when you first tear open a Maurten hydrogel packet, you might be alarmed by the “sugar booger” consistency, as one of our testers lovingly labeled it.
It’s fun to say because it rhymes, but really the gels are more akin to aloe gel or almost-set-up Jell-O. And they’re only slightly sweet, a welcome change from most other sports nutrition products on the market, according to several of our testers.
What’s more, the gels don’t require a liquid chaser, which also makes them easier to slurp down. “Most gels have a lingering too-sweet after taste,” says one of our testers currently in marathon training. “Maurten doesn’t. I like that I can take a gel and get back to my run without trying to wash a taste out of my mouth.”
This is as good of a time as any to tell you that the caffeinated gels do have an aftertaste. It’s slight, but it’s there. And we get it. It is nearly impossible to put an entire cup of coffee worth of caffeine into a tiny 40g packet without some lingering chemically taste.
On the bright side, no other caffeinated gel we’ve ever tasted has escaped this fate. So it’s par for the course. You want caffeine? Well, you have to sacrifice a little something to get it.
One of our testers is an ultrarunner who experiences a lot of GI distress during long training runs and races. When she converted to a Maurten-only nutrition plan during long training runs and races, she says she left her stomach issues behind. Completely.
“I spend a lot of time preaching the gel’s superiority to my friends on long runs now,” she says. “And, the taste—or lack thereof—is a huge bonus.”
Another tester lauded the hydrogel for the consistent energy it delivered during long runs. “I never feel a sugar spike after a Maurten gel,” he says. “My energy feels sustained and balanced.”
On the other hand, the caffeinated version definitely packed a punch. But surprisingly, not as jolting as we expected with that much caffeine.
“I was fading during a fast-finish long run,” says a recent tester. “The caffeine pulled me through.”
While we haven’t run nearly the number of miles with the caffeinated version as the original, it’s safe to say that, so far, we’re pleased with the energy delivery yet again.
Says one of our ultrarunning testers, “I think I’ll use the original Maurten products for the first three quarters of my races, and then reign in the finish with the caffeine.”
What’s a little bit of an aftertaste if it helps you kick it into overdrive? We’ll take it. And the original, too.
By Ashley Arnold. Ashley has been running competitively since 2000. She went from winning the high school 300m hurdle state championship as a sophomore in 2002 to breaking the tape at the Leadville Trail 100 in 2013. Now, her full time role is managing content as the Senior Content Marketing Manger at Fleet Feet.