I think I'm a maple syrup convert (instead of gels)

I violated the “don’t try anything new on race day” rule last weekend and fueled a 5+ hour MTB race with straight maple syrup instead of my usual cliff gels. It wasn’t a “target” race for me (primarily just for fun), so not much to lose if things went sideways. That said, It went very well and I plan to keep using maple syrup my go-to fuel for calories.

I used a ~7 ounce flask for each lap (1:45 laps) of the course and it went down much easier than gels. Thinner consistency compared to normal gels, but a thicker than SIS gels and needed to be washed down. With the squeeze flask, it’s very easy to take a 300+ calorie shot at one time if I wanted. The taste isn’t strong, which I like. There were not many good spots to eat on the course, so hitting the flask 2-3 times was much easier than trying to manage 6-7 gels and dealing with the empty gel wrappers. It also made my stops faster/easier because I was just swapping a single flask instead of emptying/filling pockets with gels. Between the syrup flask and Skratch in my bottles, I was doing over 125g of carbs an hour without any hint of stomach issues, so I’m calling it a successful experiment.

1 ounce of maple syrup is about the same as a gel (27g of carbs, a little over 110 calories), so that makes the math easy. It’s mostly sucrose. It has a few “debatable” extra natural benefits with potassium and antioxidants, but mainly I’m just looking for simple calories that my body can process without objecting. You can buy a 32 ounce jug of pure maple syrup on Amazon for $15, so it’s only about $.50 per ounce (less than half the price of a gel). If this works out long term, it will save me a lot of $ when training/racing.

The real test will be next summer when it gets hot. That’s when eating big calories gets tougher, but I plan to give it a shot. This is obviously not a new idea since there are the “untapped” pure maple gels available in the market, but I never considered trying them because they are so pricey (almost $2/gel). I’m kicking myself for not thinking about it sooner with the flask approach. Anyway, I did a search here before I tried it and I didn’t find much info, so I figured I’d share my initial experience in case anyone is looking for another fueling option.



Sounds like a good idea. Would you add a little salt in order to have some sodium? What flask did you use? Can you extract all the syrup from it?

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Sounds a lot more palatable than some of the gels I’ve tried. Could you mix in some electrolyte powder, would it dissolve?

Might need to invest in one of those hip flask cages…

Yep, you could add salt. I didn’t because I had enough in my Skratch mix, but it’s something I will consider next summer when it’s hotter. I used an old hammer flask I had and bought more generic ones on Amazon. The Amazon ones hold more, but the pull nozzles don’t work as well (kind of a crappy design, but they work). Yes, the syrup flows well and it’s pretty easy to get most of it. I originally bought the hammer flask to try with honey years ago and that was a total fail because the honey was too thick.


I’ve been using maple syrup instead of gels for years now. I’ve got two 150ml flasks that I use daily. The syrup contained works out to about 135g of carbs/flask. I’m in New Hampshire, so maple syrup is easy to get and not terribly expensive, even for the good local stuff. Way cheaper than gels, and no trash to deal with. Each flask is good for 1 - 1.5 hours, depending on what I’m doing. I find it gets absorbed slightly slower than Shot Bloks, but still pretty quickly.

I tried adding salt for an electrolyte boost, but by the time I got enough in there to matter i didn’t like the way the flavor changed. Plus it was all but impossible to dissolve the salt at room temperature. I imagine with some experimentation with other electrolyte sources (and maybe some heat) it could be done, but I prefer my electrolytes in the water bottle, so I didn’t bother.

You can also vary the flavor intensity by selecting the grade of syrup you get. I love the dark stuff, so that’s what I use, but you can go super light too for that just barely maple flavor.


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You can change up your flavours too. I like a maple syrup with either, a bit of bourbon vanilla and some espresso, or with a bit of orange and orange zest.

Been wondering what to do with the my finisher award from Big Sugar…may have to try some in a flask and see how it goes!


I’ll occassionally make my own drink mix with the following:

  • Maple Syrup (I buy mine at Costco)
  • Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
  • Squeeze of lemon or lime for taste
  • H2O

Cheap, tastes good, all-natural, and very effective

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I swapped to maple syrup for my training for and racing Ironman Canada this year to great success as well. I used 4 of the Hammer flasks, 2 on the bike and 2 on the run and also mixed in Sodium Chloride for extra salt and a dash of water–one swig was basic an ounce so I spread them out with 5 swigs per and basically like taking 5 gels, but waaaayyy quicker and easier.

One thing I was worried about is the fact that you’re supposed to refrigerate maple syrup after the container is opened and I’m still not sure how long it can last being unrefrigerated so I froze 1 of the bike flasks (along with a bottle of GU Roctane mix) for special needs and also froze the 2 flasks for the run and threw them in with an ice pack in my Run transition bag which all worked out well.

During training and on race day I noticed that the jostling of the run changed the consistency quite a bit and made it more frothy where having the flask in my bento box on the bike didn’t. Still worked fine, but made it slightly less appealing.

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I have never in my life refrigerated maple syrup.


It said to on the bottle (Costco brand) so I looked into it and it’s the general recommendation - - it can grow mold otherwise, but I imagine that takes some time and it wouldn’t happen in a day or less sitting in a transition bag, but it does freeze well (it doesn’t actually freeze solid). :grinning: Maybe the ol’ Aunt Jemima is less susceptible as well. :joy:



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My wife does this…it baffles me. :joy:

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Maybe a Costco-sized bottle might last long enough for it to be an issue but I’ve never seen it personally.

I use the highly sophisticated eyeball method and vary the ratio depending on how hard I’m planning to ride. It’s pretty tough to screw up and after making a batch or two, I’m sure you’ll have it dialed.

A couple of things that I’ve learned is that it’s best to drink fresh, you can get away with making it the night before and leaving it in the fridge but it’s best if you make the mix right before the ride, and you don’t need much lemon or lime, maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 of 1 piece of fruit.

This stuff works, on a hard ride, I can literally feel my energy levels rise after a good pull on the bottle and it tastes good!

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Montrealer here. I buy the stuff by the gallon (yes, literally). Welcome to the team!


Another Montreal here. I too have a maple syrup addiction.


Price for a quart on Amazon increased by $5+ in the last 2 weeks (over 30%). What the hell, I should have stocked up…

Gonna try this out, costco just opened in NZ, gotta be cheaper than getting gels off wiggle. I have 2 GU flasks already to use.

I had a bottle (small one, ~250ml) go mouldy once, after probably months in the fridge. Apparently if you scoop the blobs of mould out and boil it up it’s fine to eat, but it was almost empty so I chucked it. Also I feel like the real deal will go mouldy much less than modern processed stuff (things with other syrups added, flavourings/colours etc), but that’s just conjecture.