All of us in the Endurance world look for that little extra edge as well as the essentials of nutrition. In 2021 a little known company out of Sweden launched a new form of energy gel and fast forwards to 2023 and that brand is one of the biggest in the world of endurance nutrition. Maurten® is currently making an estimated £1mn a week and projected to hit annual reviews of £27.5mn.1 With its global visibility bolstered within the endurance market due to it being a key nutrition sponsor of Ironman® and marathons (such as Berlin) then should this be your brand of choice for carb gels and drinks?

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The history of the brand & its science

Olof Sköld brothers wife sisters husband (;-)) was called Mårten (Maurten®) and wanted to create a better sports drink, so he and Olof Sköld come up with the use of a pharma based delivery technology of sodium alginate + pectin.2 From this others (Karl Sköld, Henrik Wingstrand and Sven Mårten Fryknäs are listed as co-founders) where brought on board and with the help of the academics Martin Ahnoff and Anna STRÖM helped develop, patent and bring to market Maurten AB and its carb gel and drink2 (Note: Maurten AB is a subsidiary of Laminaria Group AB, which holds all the IP for Maurten from April 2016).

At this time of launch no public data other than anecdotal evidence from athlete testimonials was available to demonstrate efficacy such as well controlled research that was peer reviewed studies.


The Kiphoge effect

One of the smartest moves was the approach of Maurten® to work with Professor Yannis Pitsiladis on the ‘Breaking2’ project, where World and Olympic gold medalist runner Elliud Kiphoge would attempt to break the 2 hour barrier in the marathon. In addition, to their work with Kenenisa Bekele for the 2016 Berlin marathon and the ‘development of the real world’ application of the Gel technology (and likely the result that got them in the door for Breaking2), it was the global recognition from the ‘Sub2’ event in 2017 propelled them onto the world stage. Maurten® was now recognised as an “ultra” premium, science-based, endurance product and brand.

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In addition to the success from Sub2, some nice marketing with unbranded gels that suggesting athletes want to use Maurten® even if sponsored by other endurance product brands made some headlines. The result of this innovative marketing was in effect a “No ‘independent’ proof before promises” approach that on the back of athlete testimonials propelled Maurten® from a regional brand to the multi-million £ global brand we recognise today.


A Closer look at the “REAL” science

It’s a true story of low tech gorilla marketing against the brand led traditions in the endurance market. It also takes a page out of the designer clothing market that it’s not just about the cost of goods but about developing true brand value. Beyond the food marketing and product promotion aka “the hype”, what does the REAL science say about these products? As the founders of Maurten® would say, is their product a leap in science that has not changed that much from the 1960’s?

Well let’s take a look at the published evidence using the following search terms in Pubmed:

[Search terms: Sodium AND Alginate AND Hydrogel AND carbohydrate]

[Limits: Clinical trial, Meta-analysis, Review, Systematic review]

Table 1. Summary of Maurten® HydroGel studies

Following a search using the above inclusion / exclusion criteria and then reading over each related paper we find there are 11 published peer review studies and in addition we note 1 abstract that was surplus to the search above. So let’s take a dive into the outcomes of these studies as summarised in the table above.

What did the evidence tell us?

We have 10 papers (excluding the review paper) that are relevant to the use of the Maurten® Hydrogel. Of these we should really look at 3 key areas.

1. Does Hydrogel enhance performance above that of a none-gel forming carb drink?

2. Does HydroGel increase Carb oxidation, decrease use of stored carbs or enhance fat use?

3. Does Hydrogel result in less GI issues?

Key area 1Performance enhance: Of the 10 relevant papers 5 do not contain any assessment of the effects of HydroGel on physical performance. Of these remaining 5 only 1 study (Rowe et al 2022) demonstrates any performance benefit.

Summary 1: So on the face of it we can conclude that Maurten Hydrogel on the basis of the performance tests within these studies as a general view is no better that carbohydrate formulations that don’t form a gel following ingestion. 

Key Area 2 – Spares glycogen (stored carbs): Of the 10 studies 9 measured either rates of CHO/Fat oxidation and or Endogenous use of Carbs. Of these 2 demonstrated a decrease in endogenous oxidation of carbs (burning stored carbs for energy) and 7 showed no difference in whole body oxidation rates.

Summary 2: So whilst we see some evidence that Hydrogel can in certain exercise conditions spare muscle glycogen, which may enhance performance later in competition, that data is weak. 

Key area 3: – Less GI issues: Finally, we should consider one of the main issues faced by many an endurance athlete and especially those involved in long course triathlon. Of the 10 studies, 8 measure Gastrointestinal (GI) stress / discomfort to some degree. Of the 8 studies measuring GI stress, 2 showed increased discomfort and 2 showing less from Hydrogel and the others no difference.

Summary 3: So we can conclude on balance there are based on the study designs no consistent benefits on GI complaints that what we see using none-gel forming carbohydrate sources. 


Conclusions: Should you hang your hat with Maurten®

At this point all we can really say from the published research (as reviewed in this blog) does not demonstrate any consistent performance, biochemical nor gastrointestinal comfort benefits against carb matched alternatives. There are a number of issues to consider in drawing such a conclusion:

  1. Not all studies use the same exercise protocol or performance tests
  2. The type of exercise (run, cycle) and its duration is not the same
  3. Dietary controls and fitness of the participants are different
  4. Some of the chemical/physiological techniques used to assess some of the proposed benefits differ between papers. 

The results of such methodological difference mean we don’t see consistency in the data and what we are likely to see is Maurten® cherry picking the data supporting its views and distractors or business competitors the opposite. 

My own view is I am on neither side here. The fact is the difference between conventional 2:1 carb products (none-gel forming) vs. Hydrogels are neither here no there…based on the published peer reviewed evidence. The choice of what to go for training and race day are really one of personal preference and in this case likely also one of price point. 

What Maurten® need to do going forwards its to invest in relevant study designs that replicate what endurance and indeed ultra-endurance athletes need for a marathon and or long distance triathlon. To date we really don’t have that evidence. 

I hope you find this assessment of use and we did contact Maurten® science team who kindly provided comment in relation to the available studies before we wrote this review. 

NOTE: We do see an addition 4 references in the published literature that are of interest but do not fall within the scope of the article but will include in reference list to ensure completeness of the review. Interesting is the publication of Leiper et al that seems to pre-date the Maurten® products (Interesting from a novelty standpoint).



  1. New energy drinks – without all the nasties (7th October 2023) Accessed online 17th October 2023 at:
  2. The Entrepreneurs Maurten (25th September 2019) Episode 415. Accessed online 17th October 2023 at:
  3. Pettersson S, Edin F, Bakkman L, McGawley K. Effects of supplementing with an 18% carbohydrate-hydrogel drink versus a placebo during whole-body exercise in -5 °C with elite cross-country ski athletes: a crossover study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019 Oct 26;16(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0317-4.
  4. Marciani L , Lopez-Sanchez P , Pettersson S , Hoad C , Abrehart N , Ahnoff M , Ström A . Alginate and HM-pectin in sports-drink give rise to intra-gastric gelation in vivo. Food Funct. 2019 Dec 11;10(12):7892-7899. doi: 10.1039/c9fo01617a. PMID: 31793602.
  5. McCubbin AJ, Zhu A, Gaskell SK, Costa RJS. Hydrogel Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage Does Not Improve Glucose Availability, Substrate Oxidation, Gastrointestinal Symptoms or Exercise Performance, Compared With a Concentration and Nutrient-Matched Placebo. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2020 Jan 1;30(1):25-33. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2019-0090.
  6. Barber JFP, Thomas J, Narang B, Hengist A, Betts JA, Wallis GA, Gonzalez JT. Pectin-Alginate Does Not Further Enhance Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation in Running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Jun;52(6):1376-1384. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002262.
  7. Pettersson S, Ahnoff M, Edin F, Lingström P, Simark Mattsson C, Andersson-Hall U. A Hydrogel Drink With High Fructose Content Generates Higher Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation and Lower Dental Biofilm pH Compared to Two Other, Commercially Available, Carbohydrate Sports Drinks. Front Nutr. 2020 Jun 12;7:88. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00088.
  8. Mears SA, Worley J, Mason GS, Hulston CJ, James LJ. Addition of sodium alginate and pectin to a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution does not influence substrate oxidation, gastrointestinal comfort, or cycling performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2020 Jun;45(6):675-678. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2019-0802. 
  9. Sutehall S, Galloway SDR, Bosch A, Pitsiladis Y. Addition of an Alginate Hydrogel to a Carbohydrate Beverage Enhances Gastric Emptying. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Aug;52(8):1785-1792. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002301.
  10. King AJ, Rowe JT, Burke LM. Carbohydrate Hydrogel Products Do Not Improve Performance or Gastrointestinal Distress During Moderate-Intensity Endurance Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2020 Sep 1;30(5):305-314. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0102.
  11. Flood TR, Montanari S, Wicks M, Blanchard J, Sharp H, Taylor L, Kuennen MR, Lee BJ. Addition of pectin-alginate to a carbohydrate beverage does not maintain gastrointestinal barrier function during exercise in hot-humid conditions better than carbohydrate ingestion alone. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2020 Oct;45(10):1145-1155. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2020-0118.
  12. Sutehall S, Muniz-Pardos B, Bosch AN, Galloway SD, Pitsiladis Y. The Impact of Sodium Alginate Hydrogel on Exogenous Glucose Oxidation Rate and Gastrointestinal Comfort in Well-Trained Runners. Front Nutr. 2022 Jan 20;8:810041. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.810041.
  13. Rowe JT, King RFGJ, King AJ, Morrison DJ, Preston T, Wilson OJ, O’Hara JP. Glucose and Fructose Hydrogel Enhances Running Performance, Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation, and Gastrointestinal Tolerance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2022 Jan 1;54(1):129-140. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002764.

Other Studies of Note

Leiper JB, Aulin KP, Söderlund K. Improved gastric emptying rate in humans of a unique glucose polymer with gel-forming properties. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2000 Nov;35(11):1143-9. doi: 10.1080/003655200750056600.

Lopez-Sanchez P, Martinez-Sanz M, Bonilla MR, Wang D, Gilbert EP, Stokes JR, Gidley MJ. Cellulose-pectin composite hydrogels: Intermolecular interactions and material properties depend on order of assembly. Carbohydr Polym. 2017 Apr 15;162:71-81. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2017.01.049. 

Lopez-Sanchez P, Fredriksson N, Larsson A, Altskar A, Strom A. High sugar content impacts microstructure, mechanics and release of calciumalginate Gels. 2018; 84: 26-33. Doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2018.05.029

Lopez-Sanchez P, Assifaoui A, Cousin F, Moser J, Bonilla MR, Ström A. Impact of Glucose on the Nanostructure and Mechanical Properties of Calcium-Alginate Hydrogels. Gels. 2022 Jan 22;8(2):71. doi: 10.3390/gels8020071. 

Barcelona Marathon 2017 – 1st race of the Season

It was looking like it was going to be a cool day, which in my book is a good day.


I had ran the Barcelona marathon a few times before, with the last being in 2014 so knew it can always be a challenging event due to the heat. However, it’s the luck of the draw on how hot the event could be. It was looking like it was going to be a cool day, which in my book is a good day.


We stayed about 1.5km away from the race start (Hotel Universal Barcelona), which is a great position as it means race morning you get a sleep in – if you can sleep. It also means if you have a bad race not to far to hobble into bed!

I set the alarm for a 6.30am race morning wake up to get in some carbs and giving me to get ready, walk up to race start and warm-up. I also always get my kit fully ready the night before (see Fig.1) as this allows me to not have to worry about anything on the morning other than getting food in and getting to start line fully warmed up.

kit out

Figure 1. Everything I need for race day.

I had a few issues over the months pre-race such as a calf strain, which kept me out for a week and another chest infection (antibiotics again). However, come race day I was injury and sickness free. My only concern was the lack of distance runs (30-33km) at race pace but given I am training for triathlon and there is only so much running you can do without destroying your bike and swim session.

Pre-race warm up done… I felt great and ready to attack the course (See Fig.2). I made no new changes to the pre-race diet and looked to take on 60-70g/Hr carbs, a gram Sodium and 100-150mg caffeine (I take also 3-4mg/kg 45-60mins pre-race). Simple but works for me.

pre-reace wam up

Figure 2. Ready to attack post warm up.

The Race

After getting a little panic on because I could not initially find the race entrance to the section containing the sub-3 runners, I eventually managed to get into position.

I had done a few fitness (form) tests a 2 weeks out and after a chat with the coach Garry ( the target range was 2.45 – 2.52. I decided pre-race to take the risk and go out hard over the 1st 20k and try to hold on. This was always going to be a do or die effort but its early season and not much to loose.

The course profile is in general undulating but as Figure 2 shows the first half has some gnarly little climbs with a few lasting 1-1.5km. But given much of the rest of the course (other than last 2km) are a lot flatter and the early morning (its 8.30am race start) temp is cooler I wanted to work a little harder early on.

TP analysis

Figure 3. Training Peaks view of HR pace and cadence over the marathon.


I managed to position myself at the race start about 12 deep away from the 2hr 45min pace runner. There was a lot of bunching over the 1ST km resulting in a fare few acceleration and decelerations to keep the pace maker in site. If I was to run again I would have made it into the start pen maybe 10mins (rather than 5) pre-start so I could get a lot closer to the front of the race – would have made the race start a lot less stressful.

My heart rate (post race analysis) was no doubt to high and for most of the 1st half of the race it was above 160bpm. I should not of let it get above 158bpm (my max for marathon) but I was laying it all out to try to get a 2.45. By the half marathon point I was at 1hr 23mins, so pretty good and felt quite strong feeling like I would be able to lift it a little or at least maintain in the second half. However, 1.45-55mins in I started to feel the pace and come 30k (I hit 30k in 2hrs ‘2.48 marathon pace’) in I knew I would have to start to ease off if I wanted to make it to the end with a respectable if not a PB. So I pulled back on the pace to get hr down to 157bpm, but was unsure how much damage had been done or what shape I would be in come the end. Whatever was to happen I had to keep on top of the nutrition (fluids, gels, sodium) and keep the cadence going.

during race

Figure 4. Hitting 30k into the race.

I tried to maintain my pace the best I could and like us all there comes a point in the marathon where the mental games kick in. Thoughts like ‘I could just walk now,’ ‘I am not going to break 2.45 why not take it easy,’ – All of these you just have to try to push to the back of your mind and convince yourself its good training, its early season, it’s a c-race but I want to finish strong.

By the time the up-hill drag of the last 2k came I was already hanging on but not 100% dying. The clock was ticking but I was reduced to a little over 5.05min/km pace and was happy to see the finish line in sight.


Figure 5. The finish line – Just a few 100m!

I crossed the line and finished in 2hr 55min 47s. Not my best marathon but for early season and focus on Ironman and knowing the risk of a too hard effort at the start of the race I was ok with the time. Out of the 16,346 runners I placed 317th, with an average pace of 4.10min/km (6.40is min/mile). That gets me in the top 2% of all runners.

medal and number

Figure 6. The spoils of war another medal and used race number.



I believe post race nutrition and recovery are very important and its something many almost forget about post-race other than having a shower, a slice of pizza and a beer. That’s great, but for me I want to be back to Ironman training ASAP. That means correct nutrition (quality protein and carbs post race, hydration 1.5lts/kg of bodyweight loss), ice bath, Stretching and compression tights. Of course on top of that a beer and pizza 😉

The next morning after a great nights sleep and a 20min recovery spin on the hotel stationary bike we (wife and I) went to a great place called “Brunch & Cake” near the seafront in Barcelona. They do some fantastic meals and I picked up some protein porridge + treats for breakfast (See Figure 7).

post race Brunch & Cake

Figure 6. Brunch & Cake…yum yum!

I would recommend this place to anyone if they are in Barcelona and looking for a great healthy lunch or early breakfast. Another recovery meal in the bag and the path to recovery has started.

Here is to a great 2017!