sports hydration gel for marathon (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-best-sports-hydration-gels-2023-reynold-aquino) energy gels have become a popular kind of fuel for long distance athletes over the past couple of decades. Gels provide a concentrated source of energy that can be easily consumed while racing. The thick, viscous consistency allows the nutrients to pass through the stomach and be absorbed quickly. Competitors use gels as a way to replenish glycogen stores and prevent hitting “the wall” during events. Here is an overview of how sports gels work and who may benefit from using them.
Sports gels contain between 20-40 grams of carbohydrates per portion, typically in the form of glucose polymers. Some gels use fruit sugar as well. The high carb concentration provides a rapid source of energy to taxed muscles. Most gels have a consistency like honey. This enables the nutrients to pass through the stomach faster than solids. A serving of gel hydrates like a sports drink, but in a more portable form.
In addition to carbs, most gels also contain key electrolytes like salt and potassium. These minerals are lost in sweat during strenuous exercise. Replenishing electrolytes helps maintain fluid levels in the body and prevent painful muscle cramps. The sodium also helps with absorption of the sugars. Electrolyte content varies between brands, so athletes should compare nutrition labels. Caffeine is also commonly added to gels for an extra jolt of energy.
When to Use Sports Gels
Endurance athletes mainly utilize gels during prolonged training or events lasting 60 minutes or more. Common uses include:
Marathon or half marathon races
Century or half century bike rides
Soccer, hockey, lacrosse games
Hiking or backpacking excursions
Gels provide rapid fuel for the carb burning phase of activity. Most athletes consume one gel packet every 30-45 minutes of sustained high intensity exercise. Proper timing of gel intake helps sustain blood sugar levels. Overconsumption may cause stomach upset. Careful use avoids energy crashes.
Advantages of Gels
Sports gels offer several advantages over other forms of fuel like energy bars, chews and sports drinks. Benefits include:
Portability – Gel pouches are compact and easy to carry while running. Minimal packaging also produces less waste.
Rapid absorption – The thick liquid consistency gets absorbed quickly relative to solids. Provides a fast energy boost.
Precise dosing – With each pouch containing one serving, gels offer easy to manage dosing while exercising. Hard to over-consume.
Variety – Gels come in a wide array of flavors like fruit, chocolate, vanilla and more. Athletes can choose pleasing tastes.
Caffeine options – Many gels contain caffeine for an extra boost. Provides a physical and mental edge.
While generally safe and effective when used correctly, sports gels do come with some potential disadvantages including:
Expensive – Gels cost noticeably more than sports drinks per serving. The costs can add up over many uses.
GI distress – Consuming too many gels can cause distress due to the large carbohydrate load. Proper dosing is key.
Sugar content – The carb concentration leads to a high glycemic index. Individuals need to monitor blood sugar when using gels.
Dental health – The sugary consistency can harm tooth enamel over time. Proper oral cleaning is recommended after use.
Limited calories – Gels only provide carbs. Athletes also need nutrients and fat for complete sports nutrition.
Not thirst quenching – Gels hydrate via sugars and electrolytes but do not quench thirst like water or sports drinks.
While not necessarily recommended for everyday use, sports gels can provide a helpful source of mid-activity fuel for endurance athletes. Proper utilization can help sustain energy levels and stamina during prolonged training and events. Athletes should test different brands and flavors during training to determine which gels work best for their needs.