Carbohydrates are condensed into gels that provide energy for exercise and promote recovery and these are convenient to consume and the energy provided is immediate. Energy gels are used by endurance athletes such as cyclists and runners. While exercising for hours, these athletes need to consume fuel for energy and food can be clumsy and too filling. Drinking too many sports drinks can cause cramping and heaviness. These energy gels are also named endurance gels or sports gels after the population it caters for.
The main ingredient in these gels is carbohydrates, but there are also other nutrients that are added to delay muscular fatigue, provide energy and raise blood sugar levels. These gels are easily digested because there is no added protein or fat and the average gel contains about 100 calories. The carbohydrates consist of sugar and maltodextrins to provide quick release energy and the gels are a dehydrated form of sports drinks. Gels arose after sports drinks were invented and they are a different form of energy. Gels are consumed fifteen minutes before starting and every 30-45 minutes during exercise to sustain the athlete until the end of the event. Usually the energy gels are only consumed in longer events lasting more than two hours and about two gels can be taken per hour, but this is dependant on the product, runner’s size and the distance. To avoid dehydration, it is recommended that energy gel be followed with water. Many gels can be diluted in water to make it more drinkable and less thick, but this can be time consuming and clumsy on the run. Popular brands include e-Gel, Gu and Powerbar and flavours range from cappuccino to berry.
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Pros of energy gels
- there are added ingredients such as electrolytes, that help the athlete by bringing the body into balance while it is being stressed and dehydrated
- ginseng, amino acids, vitamins and Coenzyme Q10 are also added to some gels to aid performance. Gu’s Roctane contains an Amino Acid Blend of Histidine, Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine to reduce acid build-up and the Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG) reduces muscle damage
- caffeine can be added to some gels for energy
- convenient to open with the easy to peel notch
- gels can be carried conveniently in a pocket and they are not heavy
- gels are absorbed and digested easily and have an immediate effect
Cons of energy gels
- if the energy gel is not taken with water, it can lead to dehydration
- some gels do not taste nice
- gels may cause heartburn or reflux
- if the gel is messed, it is sticky
- purchasing a few gels is more costly than sports drinks
Energy gels are convenient for endurance athletes but they must find the gel flavour and type that works for them. There are many energy gels to choose from and athletes should experiment with various flavours. After an endurance race, athletes should rehydrate with water and eat a meal containing protein to facilitate muscle recovery.