Energy Supplements Brookings SD
Sioux Falls, SD
Energy Gels/Sports Drinks
Energy bars, energy gels, and sports drinks all provide carbohydrate supplements for the active athlete or cyclist, but with differing water content. Solid energy bars are easy to carry, but require conscious attention to maintaining hydration (drinking). Gels offer some alternative taste options, and are prefered by some who find themselves aspirating (and coughing) on the crumbs from a bar. Drinking is still mandatory to maintain hydration. Sports drinks are basically gels with water already added and thus provide the added advantage of helping maintain your hydration as they resupply your energy needs. Which one you choose to use depends more on personal preferences than performance advantages.
Energy gels (also called carbo gels) are a thick carbohydrate syrup or paste designed as an alternative snack supplement to extend your muscle glycogen stores and provide additional Calories and energy for rides of more than 2 hours. They contain a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates (usually maltodextrin, rice syrup, or polysaccharides) packaged in a palm sized packet of plastic or foil with a tear off end to allow the contents to be "sucked" out rather than chewed, and provide between 70 and 100 Calories (17 - 25 grams of carbohydrate) per packet. An additional advantage is that they are completely fat free minimizing any delay in gastric emptying. To provide the 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour usually suggested to supplement exercising muscle glycogen supplies, you would need a gel packet every 30 to 45 minutes.
Being semi-liquid, they should empty more quickly from the stomach providing a more rapid energy boost than solid sports bars, but at this time studies comparing solid and gel carbohydrate supplements haven't been published. And in a previous study of solid vs liquid carbohydrate supplements, cycling performance was similar in the two groups of cyclists using equivalent amounts of water and carbohydrate consumed either as a sport drink or as a solid sport bar with a water chaser. This suggests that aside from taste and ease of use, energy gels are a relatively pricey snack with little to recommend them over bagels or fig newtons as an on the bike carbohydrate supplement.
Yet I will regularly receive annecdotes such as this:
"I have to disagree with your point about no proven help from gels. I am an ultramarathon cyclist- having completed numerous double centuries. I train long, hard miles and have had to be extremely targeted in my Calorie intake for training. After trying a variety of products, I found my solution. ∗∗∗ and Sustained Energy drink from ∗∗∗. I agree- gels don't make you fast. However, Calories must be replaced when cycling, and replacing calories with pure sugar has been a disaster for me (and many people I know). ∗∗ and ∗∗ provide the proper Calories without the sugar. All the endurance riders I ...