Summary of Santa Madre Unusual Gel review: Santa Madre Unusual Gel is an enormous single-serving energy gel with 60 g of carbohydrates, 241 calories, and 70 ml in volume. The flavor is palatable, and the consistency is on the watery end of the spectrum. If you plan to take the entire gel in one go, be sure your stomach is trained for such a hefty dose of sugar.
At 60g of carbohydrates per sachet, Santa Madre’s Unusual Gel is the most energy-dense energy gel reviewed by Runivore.
When I tested this energy gel from SiS, I mentioned that sports nutrition brands are engaging in an arms race to see who can pack in the most sugar. I’ve also reviewed Precision Hydration & Fuel’s “Jumbo Gel,” but that one had a resealable twist cap, so it wasn’t meant as a single serving.
For reference, each GU Original energy gel supplies around 20 g of carbohydrates. Although scientific studies suggest that the human body can process up to 90-120 g of carbohydrates per hour, the average runner eats only 2-3 packs for marathons, about 40-60 g of carbohydrates. Moreover, the rule of thumb is to spread it out and not try to cram the entire amount all at once.
What I’m trying to say is that 60 g of carbohydrates is A LOT for your stomach to handle! Read the following review to find out how my body responded to Santa Madre Unusual Gel.
What is Santa Madre Unusual Gel? Marketing claims
The writing on the company website was a bit strange, making it difficult to understand the points the brand wanted to make. I also found a lack of information explaining some of the features claimed.
Regardless, below are a few of the selling points and what I managed to decipher after my test drives.
- It’s a “low-density” energy gel “manufactured under liquid technology.” I couldn’t find anything on the website about what “liquid technology” actually is. I concluded it’s just a fancy way of saying Santa Madre Unusual Gel has a watery consistency.
- Contains 60 g of carbohydrates at a 1:0.8 glucose-to-fructose ratio.
- The gel has something called “Refresh Technology,” which assists in body thermoregulation and provides your “palate with a refreshing sensation.” Once again, zero clarification. More on this in the sections below.
What are the taste and consistency of Santa Madre Unusual Gel?
The energy gel comes in one flavor – Neutral-Lemon. It’s watery with a bit of tartness and has a mild medicine taste. It’s not the best-tasting gel I’ve tried, but also definitely not the worst.
The mentioned “Refresh Technology” provides a cool sensation in your mouth, throat and upper chest, similar to drinking a minty beverage but without the mint flavor. I don’t know whether it helped regulate my body temperatures, as claimed by the brand, but it was refreshing indeed.
It’s a 100 g energy gel, which is very big but understandable. Santa Madre had to increase the water content to ensure the 60 g of carbohydrates didn’t make the gel too sweet and thick.
What are the ingredients and nutrition facts of Santa Madre Unusual Gel?
At a whoppin’ 100 g or 70 ml, Santa Madre Unusual Gel provides 241 calories and 60 g of carbohydrates, of which 16 g are from sugar. It also delivers electrolytes in 100 mg of sodium, 23.2 mg of magnesium, and what I deduced as 1000 mg of potassium (50% of NRV of 2000 mg).
Source: company product website.
Regarding ingredients, Santa Madre Unusual Gel uses four types of sugar: maltodextrin, dextrose (both are pretty much the same as glucose), isomaltulose (a combination of glucose and fructose), and fructose. The gel is formulated based on a 1:0.8 glucose-to-fructose ratio, allowing your body to replenish carbohydrates through two pathways.
Water, maltodextrin, isomaltulose, dextrose, fructose, sodium chloride, magnesium bisglycinate, citric acid (acidifier), potassium citrate, preservatives: potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, natural flavors, l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
How’s the packaging of Santa Madre Unusual Gel?
It’s a big gel, which it had to be considering the water and carbohydrate content. At 17.5 cm x 5 cm, the sachet is not fitting in normal-size shorts pockets and most front compartments of hydration vests. If you want to bring this product on runs and rides, make sure you have appropriate fuel-carrying gears (running belts or back pockets of bike jerseys).
(Santa Madre Unusual Gel dwarfs SiS Go, another big gel. )
I’m a fan of sachets with a “connected” tear design, which prevents tiny pieces of litter. It’s especially convenient when you’re biking and have to open the sachet with just one hand and your teeth.
Ignoring the inconveniences of such a big pack, the overall consumption experience, from ripping it open to eating the gel, was positive.
Does Santa Madre Unusual Gel work?
I tested Santa Madre Unusual Gel on two runs. On one, I ate the energy gel gradually over an hour, treating it like three gels. On the second run, I slammed it down all at once.
Below are some takeaways from my experiences:
3hr 30min 33 km hilly LSD on an empty stomach
- Unusual Gel was my sole fuel for the first hour and a half.
- Honestly, I was hesitant about eating the entire gel in one go, so I treated it like three. I took a third of the gel 30 minutes into the run, held it for 15 minutes while running, and consumed some more. When the amount in the sachet got low enough, I rolled up the top and put it in my compression running belt. Then I ate the rest at the hour-and-a-half mark.
- At LSD pace, it wasn’t too tricky to do all that. However, it could be a hassle if I was running at marathon pace.
- It didn’t taste great, but certainly palatable. The “cool” sensation was a plus when the temperature climbed to 30°C+ halfway through the run.
- When I split this massive gel into multiple servings, it performed great, sustaining my energy levels with no stomach issues.
2hr flat LSD run on an empty stomach
Three days later, it was time. I used the energy gel as it’s meant to be used, a single-serving product. Aka, pound it all down.
- I ate the entire 100 g, 241 calories energy gel at the half-hour mark. I quickly felt a surge, but it lifted my energy levels for only 15-20 minutes, which was disappointing since I ingested 60 g of carbohydrates.
- My interpretation is that when the gel hit my tongue, my brain recognized that a hefty dose of sugar was incoming, and the enzymes in my mouth also began to break down some of the simple sugars. And the result was that initial “boost.” I was LSDing at 5:45 min/km before the gel and effortlessly dropped to 5:20ish min/km afterward.
- More guesstimate here. The rest of the gel entered the gastrointestinal system for digestion, but my stomach wasn’t ready to handle such a massive dose of sugar. I suspect that a portion of the sugars was not properly processed so that the gel couldn’t provide sustained energy after the initial surge.
- My suspicion was confirmed when I felt mild stomach pain/discomfort 30 minutes later. It wasn’t debilitating, and I could maintain pace and cadence.
- During my marathon build-up in the winter, I trained my gut to handle 90 g of carbohydrates spread out over an hour. However, 60 g all at once is a different beast. So don’t try this home, my friends, without “proper training.”
Santa Madre Unusual Gel is an enormous single-serving energy gel with 60 g of carbohydrates, 241 calories, and 70 ml in volume. As a reference, the original GU gel contains only 20-25 g of carbohydrates. The flavor is palatable, and the consistency is on the watery end of the spectrum.
Unusual Gel has what the brand dubbed “Refresh Technology,” which creates a pleasantly cool sensation in your mouth and throat. I would like to see clarification about the thermoregulation benefits claimed by the company.
I found the gel more effective when consuming it gradually over an hour. It maintained my energy levels but required me to hold onto an opened sachet while running. When I took the whole thing all at once, I felt a noticeable boost initially, but then the feeling dissipated earlier than expected. I also had mild stomach pain not too long after consumption.
Santa Madre Unusual Gel certainly packs a carbohydrate punch, but make sure your gut is ready for it.