Like energy drinks and bars, gels are another utensil in an athlete’s quick access to carbohydrates before, during or after exercise.
How to Use Energy Gels?
Though the lighter and smaller gels may prove the most useful for long-distance competitors needing nutrition on the move.
Glycogen, glycogen, glycogen. Glycogen is the energy source you tap into when you exercise. It’s also what you are going to want to stock up on before and refuel in between, and after a race. Alongside energy drinks and bars, energy gels are an excellent way to do this. With the more compact design of gels, they may be the winner for competition. How to use them depends on race length. Generally, you want to refuel on carbohydrates for every hour of exercise, this means that at any length of triathlon you’re going to want something on hand.
Generally, it is recommended to take on 20-40 grams of carbs before you compete.
It’s best to intake these carbohydrates an hour before to allow absorption and your glycogen stores to refuel.
As gels contain generally 20-25 grams of carbohydrates you may want to double up with an energy drink or bar to reach the 40 grams.
The golden rule is one gram of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight, per hour.
That said, generally 30-60 grams of carbohydrates are recommended per hour.
Even if you are on the heavier side, consuming too much while you race could lead to stomach discomfort and bloating.
Consider an energy gel alongside a drink per hour, to bring you into the optimal range.
Both energy gels and protein bars can work here.
You want to refuel your glycogen stores, while providing protein for muscle repair.
# Short Distance
Short distance energy gels are designed for activity ranging from 1 to 3 hours.
They provide 23g of carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates will usually be a mixture of glucose, maltodextrin and fructose.
They generally contain vitamins B6 and B12 help reduce fatigue, vitamin E and zinc to help protect cells from oxidative stress and vitamin B1 to maintain normal energy metabolism.
They should be taken every 45 minutes to and hour, with water.
# Long Distance
Long distance energy gels are designed for exercise spanning more than 3 hours (Ironman territory).
They provide 22g of carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates will usually be a mixture of glucose and maltodextrin.
The vitamin and mineral composition is typically the same as that found in short distance gels.
They should be taken every 45 minutes after the first 3 hours, with water, and one taken following exercise.
As you can generally take in carbohydrates up to one gram per kilogram of bodyweight, feel free to take gels alongside drinks or bars. But, remember that it is generally not advised to take in more than 70g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise. It is particularly important to consider you are going to be mid-exercise and don’t want to overload your digestive system. Use gels wisely alongside other carbohydrate sources and you can improve your energy reserves through your triathlon, plan and practice accordingly to ensure you are optimally prepared for your race. Practice runs are vital to ensure you don’t leave yourself short, or overdo it. Go get ‘em.