If you are an endurance athlete, you are probably curious if energy gels can help you in your event. You have undoubtedly heard something about energy gels; some people wouldn’t compete without them and others find energy gels to be repugnant. The key to benefiting from the use of energy gel is to find the one that contains the ingredients that are right for you and to take it when you need it. Here are 4 ways energy gels can help you when participating in endurance sports.
1. Increased Energy
One benefit of most energy gels is obviously to give you more energy. In order to maximize your energy, you need to know where it is coming from. Some energy gels use caffeine as their main ingredient. Caffeine is a fine source of energy for some people, but if you are not used to consuming caffeine, it is probably not the best choice for you. Other energy gels provide you with energy from sucrose sources such as honey. Make sure you read the label, so you know what you are getting. If there is an ingredient listed that you are unfamiliar with, look it up. Look for energy gels with around 25 grams of carbohydrates.
2. Replenished Electrolytes
When you sweat, you are losing electrolytes, mostly in the form of sodium and potassium. This is another benefit of using energy gels. Most energy gels contain electrolytes, which replenish the sodium you have lost through sweat. Electrolyte loss varies from person to person and with how much you are exercising. If you end a run or a bike ride and notice salt crystals on your forehead or arms, you probably lost a considerable amount of sodium, and you would benefit from the use of energy gels.
It should be noted that not everyone needs to replace electrolytes. As a general rule, if you are working out casually for less than one hour, water will be sufficient. Most quality energy gels will contain approximately 35 grams of potassium and 45 grams of sodium.
Energy gels contain calories, and if you are competing in an endurance event, you will need calories. Some people are too nervous in the morning of an endurance event to eat solid food. This is where energy gels can be helpful. Energy gels contain anywhere from 40 calories to 150 calories. Shop around and find one that fits your caloric needs. There are also various flavors to choose from. Make sure to try it before your endurance event (not the morning of).
Another benefit of energy gels is that they delay the onset of glycogen depletion by giving you a steady supply of glucose. If you have ever competed in a marathon and experienced “hitting the wall,” you have experienced the painful effects of glycogen depletion. The average person can store approximately 2,000 calories of glycogen. When you burn this energy, your body then begins to rely on fat, which is less efficient. The result is extreme fatigue, muscle cramping and pain. Eating energy gels can alleviate the effects of “hitting the wall.”