I have been working in a sports nutrition shop for quite some time and have thrown away a bunch of expired energy gels. You have to do it by law, but are they really bad or could you still eat them?
You can consume expired energy gel without any problems as long as the package is still fully sealed. Energy gels contain mostly sugar which is a good preserving agent and does not go bad even after the expiration date.
Even though consuming expired energy gels is considered safe, you should be able to recognize an energy gel that has gone bad, especially if you are a beginner cyclist looking to extend the distance of your rides. Below I will help you identify the signs to avoid potential problems.
Looking for the best energy gels? I suggest you use SiS Go Isotonic energy gels, which fuel many professional cyclists.
Is it safe to consume expired energy gels?
In my still short cycling career, I have eaten a bunch of expired energy gels. Some of them I got for free, others I just didn’t use quickly enough.
I’m happy to tell you I’m still here – alive and kicking. I have never had any problems with expired energy gels, not even a minor one.
Consuming expired energy gels is safe, especially if they have expired recently. I have heard stories of people who ate energy gels that expired five years ago and had no problems.
Why is that?
Well, energy gels contain mostly sugar in the form of glucose, fructose or maltodextrin. Sugar itself has an indefinite shelf life, meaning energy gels have it as well.
Sure, there are some other ingredients in energy gels as well, but as long as the packaging is intact, the sugar will make sure that these do not spoil either.
Why do energy gels have an expiration date?
Most of the time, having an expiration date is required by law. The shell life of energy gels varies greatly by the conditions in which it’s stored, so the expiration date is not set in stone. That’s why you should consider the expiration date more like a guideline than a rule.
The terminology used also matters a lot. Manufacturers normally use two terms – use-by and best-before.
Use-by is considered the more serious of the two. It’s used when there is an ingredient in the product that will go bad on that date and it’s not considered safe to consume it after that.
Best-before is more of a marketing trick. Nothing will happen on that date. It is just the manufacturer’s advice on how long it is advisable to consume the product to ensure it meets all standards.
Most, if not all, energy gels use a best-before date, which is just another proof that you can eat them past expiration without any problems.
The energy gels that I use – SiS Go Isotonic – have an 18-month expiration date and use the term best-before.
How long past the expiration date can I use energy gels?
The easy answer to the main question is – as long as you dare to eat them. Most of the time, energy gels are still good even after expiration. But if you don’t want to risk it, throw it away and buy a new one. After all, they are quite cheap.
Energy gels are packaged in aluminum foil, which decomposes for 80-400 years. This is important, as damaged packaging is the most common reason for a spoiled energy gel. So you have 80-400 years to eat your energy gel.
Sure, I wouldn’t eat a 400-year-old energy gel (not that there are any, as they were invented in 1986), but there’s a chance it would still be edible.
What I am trying to tell you is that you can eat expired energy gels indefinitely as long as there are no signs of spoilage. And even if you eat a spoiled energy gel, you won’t have serious health problems.
What problems can I have if I eat expired energy gel?
There aren’t any real long-term health problems you could face if you eat an expired energy gel. It may cause you some inconveniences, but they will quickly be forgotten.
The worst consequences of consuming a spoiled energy gel are stomach issues. As with any spoiled food, the stomach reacts to spoiled ingredients in an energy gel.
As a result, your stomach may hurt and you may expel the energy gel either upstairs or downstairs. Most likely, it will only cause stomach discomfort, which will go away after a while, but it will ruin your ride before that.
How do I know if energy gel has gone bad?
If you want to avoid problems with energy gels, you need to be able to recognize when they have gone bad.
Next time you use an energy gel, look out for these signs:
- Hole in the wrapper. The first thing to do is to check the packaging. If you find holes through which air could get inside, there is a good chance that the energy gel is spoiled. In this case, throw it away.
- Bloated packaging. If a sealed energy gel is bloated, this is a sign that bacteria have entered the gel. Do not consume such an energy gel and throw it away.
- Texture. The energy gel should be sticky but still runny. If it is thick and chunky, that’s a sign it should find its way to the trash can.
If you find any of these characteristics in an energy gel that has not yet reached its expiry date, be careful when using it. I suggest that you throw it away instead.
Consuming expired energy gels is completely safe and in most cases has no negative consequences.
The sugar that makes up most energy gels has an indefinite shelf life, which is why energy gels have a theoretically indefinite shelf life. But only if they are sealed airtight.
If you have an energy gel that has passed its expiry date, look out for any holes in the wrapper, bloating in the packaging or a gel texture that is too thick. If any of these defects are present, throw it away.
If you unknowingly consume a spoiled energy gel, you may get stomach issues. Most of these go away after a while, but they can also cause some unpleasant moments in the toilet.