If you're a long-distance runner, cyclist, or endurance athlete, you've probably heard of energy gels or considered including them in your nutrition plan. And also, for all the non-athletes out there, energy gels are the new fitness trend for 2022; these small looking packets have abundant energy.
What are energy gels?
Energy gels are carbohydrate-rich gels that provide energy during physical activity. They are intended for adult consumption and are made from sugars, most commonly maltodextrin and fructose.
Most energy gels are available in 1-ounce or 1.5-ounce packets, making them easy to consume during a long-distance event. Because most energy gels contain no fat, fibre, or protein, your body digests them quickly.
Why should we use energy gels?
It is up to you and your body to determine the best time to take energy gels. Each runner absorbs and processes carbohydrates at a different rate, some may feel the effect in 3 minutes, while others may take up to 15 minutes.
As your body diverts blood away from your stomach and towards your active muscles, your absorption rate slows or stops completely, this is the most common cause of unexpected toilet stops during a run.
The most important rule is to have the gel before you need it, not after crashing or hitting the wall. Throughout your training, practise using energy gels to ensure you know when and which energy gels to use.
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Precautions to take with energy gels
Best energy gel you should try
CLIF Shot Chocolate Energy Gel
This chocolate-flavoured running gel contains 7 milligrammes of caffeine and 23 grammes of energy-boosting carbs, making it ideal for someone who is tired of running and needs a pick-me-up. It has 110 calories, slightly more than the other items on the list.
Maurten Gel 100
Maurten employs "hydrogel technology" to transport carbohydrates smoothly through your stomach and intestines, making them easily digestible and energy-dense. If you're trying to avoid processed ingredients, this running gel is colour-free and preservative-free, as well as vegan-friendly.
This gel has cotton candy flavours, though you won't find that listed anywhere on the site.
GU Original Energy Gel
GU, the original running gel, offers both caffeinated and non-caffeinated options in various tantalising flavours such as salted watermelon, mandarin orange, and strawberry banana.
Branched-chain amino acids are also included in GU's proprietary blend to help reduce muscle fatigue and damage during exercise.
Honey Stinger Organic Fruit Smoothie Energy Gel
Honey Stinger's running gels are made with honey, which is easily digested and absorbed by your body. Honey has a lower glycemic index than other gels containing simple sugars, reducing blood sugar fluctuations.
Science in Sport Salted Strawberry Energy Electrolyte Gel
Because of its thinner consistency, this gel feels more like a beverage than a sticky syrup, so it doesn't require water.
A packet also contains less than one gramme of sugar, making it ideal for people who want to limit their sugar intake. However, it contains acesulfame-K, an artificial sweetener that may cause gastrointestinal issues in some people.
UCan Orange Edge Energy Gel
UCan's gels come in larger pouches than other energy gels and are made of their proprietary SuperStarch, a complex carbohydrate derived from non-GMO corn. It contains no added sugars and provides long-lasting fuel to help power your runs.
Furthermore, the tangy, citrus flavour is a refreshing treat when you've reached a plateau.
Important information: Always take energy gels with water, never on their own or with a sports drink. Without water, they take time to digest and enter the bloodstream. As energy gels also come under the category of packed sports drinks, taking them together puts you at risk of taking on too much sugar at once.