Do Energy Gels Expire?

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Most energy gels have an expiration date of 12 to 24 months from date of production. GU energy gels for example have a shelf life of 18 monthsHoney Stinger energy gels and chews also last 18 months. Other brands like Spring Energy, have a Best By date of 6 months. This may be due to the use of more natural ingredients. However, we should note that just because an energy gel is expired, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used any more. 

We have experience with food production and sales with our own Runivore superfood bar (blast from the past). We have some idea with how Best By dates are set and what they mean. The short answer is that all food starts to lose its nutritional and taste qualities over time. This doesn’t mean that an energy gel that is a month or two over its expiry date can’t still be ok to eat. 


What does it mean when energy gels expire?

The rules vary by country, but we’ll stick to what the practices and regulations are in the US. The truth is that there is no law requiring the labeling of energy gels with “Best By”, “Expires On” or “Use By” information. All manufacturers (good ones at least) follow these rules to give their customers information about when their energy gels provide the best results and retain the best taste. 

There is a direct quote from the department of Agriculture to support this: 

Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.

How do companies decide on expiry dates for energy gel products?

Based on our experience, when products are still in their prototype stage they get tested for how long they retain their taste and nutrition. This is done by accelerated shelf life testing. They look something like this:

The products tested are placed in special ovens which can accelerate aging of the foods. For every week spent in the special oven the foods are aged a month. A product being tested for 12 month shelf life should therefore pass a 12-week accelerated shelf life test. 

Depending on the types of ingredients used in the energy gels, companies may want to further test their products with microbiological tests. These types of tests would give a much more definitive results regarding the nutritional quality and safety of the final product. 

What’s the difference between “Best by” and “Use by” dates? 

A variation of the following are typically used for perishable goods like meats and dairy: “Use by”, “Expiry Date”. These indicate that a food may no longer be safe to consume. 

Energy gels usually follow labeling like “Best by“, “Use by“, recently recommended by FDA “Best if used by labeling. These labels are a signal to consumers that the quality of the product may start to decline. 

Again, based on my experience with our own products, I’ve tried our energy bars when they were 12 months past their best by date. Some of the flavors even improved with time, while others deteriorated quite fast after passing the Best by date. 

When writing this piece, we also reached out to one of our distributors who also happens to be the distributor of GU energy gels. He assured us that as long as the gels are stored in good environment then they remain OK to consume for 6 months after they Best-by date.

What determines how long energy gels last? 

Ingredients, packaging, storage environments are key factors that determine how long your energy gels will last. 

How ingredients affect the expiry date of energy gels?

Dry ingredients usually have a longer shelf life over wet ingredients – so that’s a minus for energy gels. But sugars and salt are widely used as preservatives – so that’s a plus. 

Using lots of real foods can put a limit on the shelf life. This is what may cause Spring Energy gels to have a shorter shelf life over others. They use lots of high-quality foods like rice and fruits in their gels. 

Adding natural or artificial preservatives to energy gels can extend the shelf life. But these additives may have negative affects on taste and other qualities of the energy gels.

Make sure to read the label of your chosen sports gels to see if they suit your diet. 

How packaging affects the shelf life of energy gels?

We can draw on our own experience to discuss packaging and how it affects the shelf life of sports nutrition products. 

At one point we tried packaging mini versions of our energy bars in see through packs. These products were meant for samples – and we wanted our potential customers to clearly see the quality ingredients. 

We quickly found out that this has a huge impact on shelf life. Especially when the products are exposed to sunlight. Our mini bars deteriorated with regards to taste in half the time of the products packaged in traditional airtight, non-see-through packaging. 

To ensure energy gels last a long time – all major manufacturers use quite thick-lined air tight packs.

Beware of see-through energy gel packs.

How storage affects energy gel shelf life? 

Most manufacturers recommend keeping energy gels in dry, room temperature conditions, and away from the sun. 

Many people ask whether it’s okay to freeze energy gels? The answer is: it depends, but we would recommend against it. Spring says on their FAQ site that you can freeze their products but only if you want to enjoy them frozen. 

GU energy gels don’t say whether you can or cannot freeze energy gels. But you should note that when you freeze an energy gel, you change its physical properties from a liquid state to a solid state.

When you reverse the process the results may not be as expected. Sugars may crystalize in the process, and overall structural integrity may be completely changed after the thaw. 

Key takeaways on energy gels expiry dates

Energy gels do expire, but that doesn’t mean that they still can’t be consumed. Always check the website of the manufacturer for any recommendations or warnings (consider that our disclaimer). 

If you have gels that are close to or just past their best by date, then give them a try.

Try them before your big race first of course!!!

If they taste good and texture is fine, then they are probably still good to go. 

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