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A Look Back at the Energy Gels and Unilab's Active Health Sports Gel

I came to know about sports foods particularly energy gels back in 2010 during my pre-Marathon debut sessions. Just from the sound of it, I got amazed at how food scientists and nutritionists could come up with a small sachet filled with energy and nutrients necessary for the everyday (and even seasonal?) athletes. My curiosity about the energy gels grew bigger and I was able to try a few variety of them, from those already available locally and one that has not yet reached our shores. But mostly due to the side effects of energy gels, I did not come to religiously love and take one of these in most of my races except on beyond 40K distances.

Here comes the power...

Just last week during the RUPM Pre-Event Blogger's Night, Unilab announced the upcoming launching of their newest product -- the first Philippine-made (sariling atin) and first in Asia the Active Health Sports Gel. It has already passed the BFAD approval and have been tested by seasoned Triathletes after two years in the making. We were given samples for us to try out and share to our readers our honest opinion.

But before I dig my own experience with the Active Health Sports Gel, let me first give you a rundown of the energy gels that I tried before:

The first one that touched my palate was the Hammer Gel which was given along with our registration from my TBR (The Bull Runner) Marathon. Since it was my first time to take an energy gel, I was tolerating the side effects which I felt, more specifically the upset stomach in exchange of the energy I'm getting from it. This happened everytime and even during the TBR race day. That was also the last time that I took the Hammer Gel!

Not surrendering from the benefit that I can get from these energy gels, I tried another brand and which I found in one of the running-specific stores in the Metro -- the Honey Stinger Classic Energy Gel. This one I came to love better than the Hammer Gel, because first, it is a honey-based alternative (unique from other sports gel), secondly, honey has been my friend during my asthmatic-childhood days (is that a biased judgment?), and lastly, since it is honey-based, it is much syrupy in consistency compared with the Hammer gel. The only verdict about the Honey Stinger was that it is too sweet (naturally because it is honey-based) and during those times, not all sports stores carry or sells this variety so I don't always have available stock when there's an immediate need for me to buy one.

The third energy gel which I truly came to love is the MaxiFuel's Viper Active Gel which I only encountered and tried for the first time during my Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore in 2011. The taste was just right, not too sweet and has no strange/foreign taste, the consistency is superb - in between syrup and water, really smooth that you can take it without water. Unfortunately for us, this one is not yet available in our local stores!

Now for the ULAH Active Health Sports Gel, aside from being a Philippine brand, this sports gel also boasts of its syrup-type consistency, higher complex- to simple-carb ratio of 9:1 (29g total carb, 116 kcal), and also contains electrolytes in the form of sodium (28mg) and potassium (34mg).

I haven't tried this sports gel yet on an actual event but I was able to test it last weekend during our weekend surfing with Journeying James' 3rd Blogversary beach party in Zambales. For a background, we first had our 1-hour surfing lesson on the first day (Saturday), on which I forgot that I brought the Active Health sports gel with me.

Being new to surfing, I didn't know that it's also tiring getting up and being splashed out from the surfing board. Trying to keep my balance on the surf board is also hard and it has really took a toll on my quads. A 1-hour bike or run will not even make my quads cramp, but surfing almost made me cramp a few minutes before the 1-hour learning session has ended.

The next day (Sunday), it was a Sunny morning and I can't resist but to take a barefoot dip and run along the shorelines. Hereon I opened a pack of the Active Health Sports Gel after a few seconds of warm-up and off I went for a around forty-minutes of 80- to 100-meter back-and-forth running strides. After this, I got another chance to try my balance on the surf board.

Burn, baby burn!

Trying to exhaust the calories and carbs from the Sports Gel

The total physical exertion did not last for 1-hour and taking two (2) packs of the Sports Gel for this short activity is not even practical. At the same time, the activity was not enough to really know how long and what will be the effects of the Sports Gel in my body most specially to my gut/tummy, but here's my initial feedback for the Active Health Sports Gel:

Comparison table between the ULAH Sports Gel and other energy gels I've previously used

  • Consistency - comparable to Honey Stinger's Classic Energy Gel, but not as smooth as the Viper Active Gel. Water intake is still advisable after gulping a pack;

  • Taste - Not too sweet and has no weird taste even a beginner "taster" (someone who's not yet used to energy gels) might still like it;

  • Fuel for Energy - looking at the nutrition comparison table above, the ULAH Sports Gel has the second highest calorie content next to Honey Stinger's Classic Energy Gel. And since it has a 9:1 complex-simple carb ratio, this means you have more fuel in the long run;

  • Electrolytes - I was surprised that the Viper Active Gel has the highest Sodium (more than twice the ULAH Sports Gel) but no Potassium at all. The Honey Stinger has the highest Potassium and the second highest in Sodium content, while the Hammer Gel has equal amounts of Sodium-Potassium ratio. I think the ULAH Sports Gel's Sodium-Potassium ratio is enough that we can even do away with eating bananas along the route of our activity and it will still aid us in attaining our performance.

As you can also observe, I never took a Sports Gel with Caffeine. I am not a Caffeine fan and I think that's the reason why sometimes I bonk whenever I reached the finish line after a grueling race.

But, even if that's the case, I still don't want caffeine on my diet (except when I'm having a runny-nose which mostly happens on the cold days of December in Baguio) so I hope Unilab won't remove their non-caffeinated variant of Sports Gel even if there's a big clamor for a caffeinated one.

Other flavors? Unilab will soon come out with more choices but I already love the taste of the Berry Mix (which is non-caffeinated).

Good news to the RUPM Participants: Unilab Active Health is actually officially launching the Active Health Sports Gel this coming Sunday at the RUPM 2013, so watch out for it! If you will be able to try one in any of your races, you may leave a feedback about your experience about it from the comments below this post.

Godspeed Runners!


  1. Ang ganda naman ng Blogb Design mo Sir, si athan to pala yung nakasama mo sa ZAmbales. di mo nasabi Blogger ka pala

  2. Tansyooonng :)
    Salamat sa pagbisita, hindi ko naman din kasi alam na blogger ka din. Iniisip nga namin ni Ed kung may iba pa kayang blogger sa grupo natin aside sa amin nila James :)


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