Have you ever wondered about energy gels, what they are and how they work?
As a triathlon coach and a Sport Nutrition Masters student, I hope to provide you with a brief explanation and an insight into my favourite energy gels.
What are energy gels?
Energy gels are a liquid, gel-like substance that contain a form of fast acting carbohydrate to give you a boost of energy.
What are energy gels made of?
Key ingredients of an energy gel are water, flavouring – often fruit juice, and some form of carbohydrate. The carbohydrate is the active ingredient that is going to give you the energy you are looking for.
What type of carbohydrate are used within energy gels?
Different gels will be made from different forms of carbohydrate, but generally it will be some form of sugar. The main types of simple sugars used in gels are glucose, sucrose, fructose and maltodextrin. The body will absorb and utilise these sugars at different rates. Glucose, sucrose and maltodextrin are all absorbed by the body quickly, where as fructose is absorbed at a slower rate (Jukendrup, 2012). Different transporters are used by the body to carry glucose and fructose into the cell. Therefore, to increase the amount the body can absorb, it is recommended that a combination of fructose and glucose are consumed. This will allow more energy to be taken in and the energy available will last for longer.
How much energy is there in a gel?
Here is just a sample selection of the different size gels and the different amount of carbohydrate in each.
- SIS GO istonic gel – 60ml – 22g Carbohydrate
- OTE energy gel – 56g – 20g Carbohydrate
- High 5 energy gel – 40g -23g Carbohydrate
- Torq energy gel – 45g – 28.8g Carbohydrate
- Kendal Mint Cake energy gel – 70g – 27g Carbohydrate
Approx. 20 to nearly 30g of carbohydrate can be consumed from a gel. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for endurance events are for trained athletes to consumer 60-90g carbohydrate / hour during exercise. (Thomas, 2016). For many, this amount will not be tolerated. However, it is worth considering how many gels you may consume in a long run / race and calculating the cost.
How to use an energy gel.
As with anything new – consuming an energy gel should be done during training and well tested prior to race day. Ensure that there is water available and maintain hydration as well as energy levels. Consider topping up glycogen stores from early in to a run, rather than waiting for them to be depleted.
My favourite energy gels
Torq Energy Gels
Torq have a fantastic range of flavours of energy gels including my three favourites strawberry yoghurt, raspberry ripple and rhubarb crumble. The texture of the Torq gels is also different and I find far more palatable to other gels on the market.
Best Price for Torq Energy Gels
Buy Torq Energy Gels from Wiggle for £22.08
Kendal Mint Cake Energy Gels
Kendal Mint Cake energy gel is a strange experience. I have only tried the lime and mint gel and I really liked the flavour. There is a bit of a hint of mouthwash taste – but – the freshness that it brings to your mouth is very refreshing. Subsequent sips of water feel much cooler for a considerable amount of time after. Therefore, in hot weather, a KMC gel is a great choice.
Best Price for Kendal Mint Cake Energy Gels
Buy Kendal Mint Cake Energy Gels from Amazon for £16.99
Jukendrup, A. (2012) Sports Nutrition from Lab to Kitchen. Meyer & Meyer Sport, Maidenhead.
Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K.A., and Burke, L.M. (2016) American College of Sports
Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 48(3) pp. 543-568.