How Many Gels To Take During Marathon

When it comes to running a marathon, fueling your body properly is crucial for optimal performance. Many marathon runners turn to energy gels to provide a quick and easily digestible source of carbohydrates during the race. However, figuring out how many gels to take during a marathon can be a bit of a science. As an experienced marathon runner myself, I can offer some insight and personal tips on this topic.

The Importance of Energy Gels

Energy gels are designed to provide a concentrated source of carbohydrates, usually in the form of glucose or maltodextrin, which are quickly absorbed by the body. They also often contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium to help maintain proper hydration levels during prolonged exercise.

During a marathon, your body relies on stored glycogen as its main source of fuel. However, the glycogen stores can become depleted after about 90 minutes of continuous exercise. By consuming energy gels during the race, you can replenish those glycogen stores and help prevent the dreaded “bonking” or hitting the wall.

Personalized Gel Strategy

Every runner is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to experiment during your training runs to find the gel strategy that best suits your individual needs. Here are a few factors to consider:

Race Distance and Duration

The distance and duration of the race play a significant role in determining how many gels you’ll need. For a marathon, which typically takes around 3-4 hours to complete, most runners aim to consume approximately 1-2 gels per hour.

Personal Tolerance

Some runners may find that consuming gels too frequently or in large quantities leads to gastrointestinal distress. It’s essential to listen to your body and find the right balance that works for you. Start with a conservative gel intake and gradually increase if you feel you need more.

Training Runs

Use your long training runs to practice your gel strategy. Pay attention to how many gels you consume and how your body responds. This will help you fine-tune your plan for race day.

Executing Your Gel Strategy

Now that you have a rough idea of how many gels you should aim to consume during a marathon, let’s talk about how to execute your gel strategy effectively:


It’s best to consume your first gel about 45-60 minutes into the race to allow your body to settle into a rhythm. From there, aim to take a gel every 45 minutes to an hour. Sticking to a consistent schedule will help ensure a steady and reliable energy supply throughout the race.


Remember that energy gels are concentrated sources of carbohydrates, so they need to be consumed with water to aid in digestion and prevent stomach issues. Make sure to hydrate properly at each aid station and follow it up with a gel if needed.

Practice Makes Perfect

Lastly, I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing your gel strategy during your training runs. Experiment with different gel brands and flavors to find the ones that you find palatable and easy to consume during exercise.


Figuring out how many gels to take during a marathon is a personal journey. It requires trial and error, as well as paying close attention to your body’s signals. By considering factors such as race distance, personal tolerance, and training runs, you can develop a gel strategy that works best for you. Remember to start conservatively, practice during training, and stay hydrated. With the right approach, energy gels can be a valuable tool to help you conquer your marathon goals!