Review: Huma All-Natural Energy Gels, Eat Chia Seeds and Run

While energy gels serve an essential purpose for endurance athletes, none of us would categorize these sugary, syrupy concoctions as healthy. I’m picky about what I put into my body. I prefer eating natural, wholesome real foods. So when it comes to race and training fuel, finding clean options made with natural ingredients is a bit more complicated.

So when a brand claims it’s the world’s best-selling, all-natural energy gel, it piqued my curiosity.

Additionally, as a former importer of chia seeds, a key ingredient of Huma energy gels, I consider myself a connoisseur of the superfood. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at some of the company’s marketing claims, followed by my takeaways about fueling with Huma in a recent 25km progression run.

 

 

Marketing claims – chia up your runs

The brand name, Huma, is short for Tarahumara, the indigenous people of Chihuahua, Mexico, featured in the best-selling book Born to Run. They are renowned for their ability to run long distances, fueled by the superfood chia seed.

“Huma Gel is made with 100% all-natural ingredients, including chia seeds – filled with vitamins, minerals and energy,” says the company.

The key marketing message is natural ingredients are the gentlest on our gastrointestinal system and, therefore, self-dubbed the “happy stomach gels.”

Super duper chia seeds

Since chia seeds are a selling point, let’s discuss why many consider them the O.G. of superfoods.

  • It’s one of the richest sources of dietary fiber. An ounce (28g) of chia seeds provides 11g of dietary fiber, which is about 42% of your recommended dietary intake, according to the American Dietetic Association.
  • It’s a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. For athletes on a plant-based diet, chia is an excellent source of the macronutrient because 28g of chia seeds contain 4.4 grams of proteins, nearly 10% of the daily requirement.
  • It’s densely packed with Omega-3, an essential nutrient the human body doesn’t produce on its own. 3 ounces (85g) contain the same amount of Omega-3 as 9 ounces (255 grams) of salmon.
  • It is loaded with minerals, including calcium, boron, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, etc.
  • It’s a rich source of caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin. The powerful antioxidants can help fight free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and cell damage.

So yes, chia seeds are fantastic, and Huma energy gels incorporate milled chia seeds. However, while the company doesn’t specify how much chia seeds are used, the superfood is listed fourth or fifth on the ingredient list. One gel is only 36-43g, so I’m not sure if there are enough chia seeds to get the full range of benefits.

 

Ingredients – carbohydrates from natural foods

Most Huma Orginal and Huma Plus (more electrolytes) are fruit flavors based on fruit purees. Let’s look at two of them here.

Apple & Cinamon

Blueberry

  • Blueberry Puree
  • Cane Sugar
  • Water
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Powdered Chia Seeds
  • Blueberry Concentrate
  • Sea Salt
  • Citric Acid

The carbohydrates are fructose (fruit puree), sucrose (cane sugar), and glucose (brown rice syrup). I just want to point out that, yes, the sugars come from natural foods, but sugar is still sugar. Don’t let the “all-natural” fool you into thinking it’s a healthier gel option. To be fair, Huma never claims to be healthy either, so I’m not saying Huma set out to trick you.

In theory, the dietary fiber from chia seeds should slow the absorption of sugar and improve blood sugar levels, avoiding big spikes and crashes. I have read reviews by diabetic patients who use Huma as a safer gel of choice for their medical condition.

On the flip side, the fiber will also slow carbohydrate metabolization and require longer mouth-to-muscle time. However, this could translate to a more stable energy source easier on the stomach, just as Huma said.

 

Nutritional facts

At 44g per sachet

  • 100 calories
  • Fat 0.5g
  • Carbohydrate 21g (includes 1-2g of dietary fiber)
  • Protein 1g
  • Sodium 105 mg
  • Also provides calcium, iron, and potassium.

The Plus version offers similar amounts of macro-nutrients but adds more electrolytes, up to 240mg of sodium.

Taste and consistency

The fruit puree offers a more pleasant experience than the typical syrupy mixture. In terms of texture, it’s just about right, not too thick or watery.

Fear not if you are worried about chia seeds stuck in your teeth. The seeds are finely milled, so they’re not noticeable.

In regards to taste and consistency, it’s pretty standard. If you’re an experienced gel eater, there’s no surprise there.

Packaging

Although Huma’s packaging is a slightly bigger version of what we’re used to with GU or Hammer, it’s flatter and less “puffy.” I had no issue carrying them in a running belt or hydration vest.The tear is also the standard design that most endurance athletes are very used to by now, so it’s an easy open-squeeze-swallow when on the move.

 

 

Performance – 25km progression run

The course was a 5km flat loop. We ran the first 5km at an easy pace, cut down each loop, and finished at the lactic threshold.

Below were the paces for each loop

  • 5:00-5:10 min/km
  • 4:45 min/km
  • 4:30 min/km
  • 4:10 min/km
  • 3:55-4:00 min/km

I purposely picked a faster-pace workout to test an energy gel that includes dietary fiber and protein to see if there will be a noticeable difference in absorption. I did not eat breakfast and took an Huma Original Blueberry 20 minutes before the workout.

I then took a Huma Originals Apple & Cinnamon each after the second and third loops. A fourth Huma Plus Lemon Lime after the fourth loop finished up the workout.

I carried the energy gels in a compression running belt and set water bottles at the start of each loop for quick sips to chase down the gel.

Some takeaways

  • The taste of Huma energy gels wasn’t bad; a light fruity flavor that’s quite nice for hotter temperatures.
  • I definitely didn’t feel as big of a spike as other energy gels, which can be both good and bad. The good thing is it’s a stable, slower-reacting energy source as long as you refuel consistently. The bad is if you need that instant boost feeling, Huma might leave you wanting.
  • I find the flatter, slightly bigger sachet easy to grab out of my compression belt. No problem when I cut down to marathon and threshold paces.
  • One thing I want to add is that due to the milled chia seeds, there seems to be a bit of oil in the gel. So I would pay attention to expiration dates and store them in cool environments.

 

Conclusion

I had four Huma energy gels over 25km and had zero stomach issues. I don’t eat energy gels for the flavor anyway, so as long as a brand doesn’t cause gastrointestinal problems and helps sustain my energy output, it’s a good fuel.

Huma definitely gets the job done while offering a decent flavor. The workout was a tough one, and the energy gels got me through it despite running on an empty stomach.

With stable energy, a pleasant taste, and additional micro- and macro-nutrients, Huma is a balanced energy gel suitable for any endurance activities in my book.