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Energy Gels – are you a believer or a skeptic?

Energy gels are a great source of energy that help fuel your endurance run or training. But, are they a must-have or just another fad? Deepthi Velkur explores this topic in conversation with two runners – Vijay and Brijesh.

There is one question that niggles runners especially when training for a long distance run – how do I avoid hitting the dreaded wall?

For an upcoming race or endurance event, you’ve probably thought through your fuelling strategy. Be it energy drinks, bars, natural food sources or gels, we all rely on some form of carbohydrate supplement to sustain energy levels to cover longer distances and help you get over the finish line.

With energy gels, you either are a believer or a skeptic. You usually end up a skeptic because you have probably read about the side effects such as gastro problems that these gels can cause. For a believer though, these gels hold a place on its own.

Simply speaking, energy gels are designed to replenish the carbohydrate stores that deplete while running. Sounds like these gels are a big saviour, right? Unfortunately, these energy gels do not provide a one to one replacement as the glycogen we intake through gels is not always absorbed by the working muscles. So why do we need to use them?

To understand this better, I had the opportunity to get different views from two runners, one an ardent energy gels believer while the other is largely skeptical of them.

Do read on to see what each of these runners have to say on the topic –

Vijay AM, an ultra-marathon runner says using energy gels has worked for him during marathons and long runs. According to Vijay, “Gels are the best food source you could carry on long runs as they are convenient, lightweight, no water
needed(tried and tested) and can be consumed on the go”
. You need to plan when to use them during the run-in Vijay’s case, he consumes the gel every 15kms during the run. The best source of energy for long runs are acquired from body stored carbs and fat, but Vijay’s view is that carb storage is limited and fat reserves of the body alone cannot meet the various surges in energy that you require during long runs. Also, eating during a run is challenging and can lead to some ugly after effects. As a result, gels present a good source of carbs as they burn faster and provide immediate results. That being said, gels can only complement the carbs and fat stored in the body that still remain the best source of energy.

On the other hand, Brijesh Gajera, co-founder and coach of Ashva ( running club, Bangalore) and a marathon runner himself, thinks otherwise. It’s not that Brijesh is completely against energy gels but his view is that running gels need to be used sparingly and he does not use gels much during training except a couple of times during long runs before the main event to ensure that every minute detail is taken into consideration for achieving his end goal.

Brijesh recommends that you use the gel only for marginal gains with caution and proper consideration and definitely not as a replacement for solid food. In his opinion, gels only make a 2-3% difference and are not very efficient, the remaining 97-98% comes from the actual training itself.

According to Brijesh, a lot of hype has been created on social media around using gels and its benefits, this can be very misguiding to newbies. Frequency and timing of the usage are critical factors to ensure they are effective else it could lead to stomach distress.

 

It is important that you practice the fueling strategy suited to you during your training phase so that it works the way you want it to come race day. If gels are not your thing, not to worry as you have plenty of other alternatives out there. Choose wisely!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

 

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Everything you need to know about running gels

From diet to technique to training, we are always looking for that something new that will help us enhance our run, so Deepthi Velkur decided to look at running gels.

It’s always the season to start running – whether you want to get serious about an upcoming fun run, get faster for a more serious event or just want to refine the way you run, there are simple ways to race smarter.

Nutrition – arguably the most crucial element to consider when it comes to enhancing your performance. It wasn’t so long ago that runners solely relied on water or sports drinks as their primary supplement while running a marathon. Today, with a better understanding of sports nutrition and the advanced technology available, there are several products out there that aid and assist every aspect of a runner’s performance.

Running becomes a different proposition when you cross the 90-minute mark. One of the go-to options for many runners keen on getting through long runs in the most efficient manner possible is running gels.

What is the purpose of these gels you may ask – it’s simple; they help fuel your run.

These energy gels are a reliable form of quickly processed energy – they generally contain 20-30mg of carbs, which can be consumed easily without breaking your stride and are small enough to fit into a running belt. I would like to provide you with some insights on the benefits these gels have while also listing out a few things to watch out for.

Benefits:

  • Energy gels take immediate action on the body and are easily digested.
  • They do not contain any added protein or fat and on an average contain 100 calories.
  • Apart from carbohydrates, they also contain electrolytes which help maintain body balance and prevent it from stress or dehydration.
  • Amino acids, ginseng, vitamins and coenzyme Q10 are added to a few gels to boost performance and reduce the acid build-up and muscular damage.
  • Some gels have caffeine added to them and hence it gives you that boost you need on a long run

What you need to be aware of before using an energy gel:

  • They need to be consumed with water as it can lead to dehydration
  • In some instances, they can cause heartburn or reflux
  • Owing to the high amount of fructose, certain gels may be allergic or cause an upset stomach
  • Very important – never consume it along with a sports drink; this will lead to high sugar levels in your body
  • Look out for gels that contain ‘maltodextrin’ as it is a palatable form of carbs and are absorbed quicker than glucose.
  • Look for gels that contain smaller amounts of fructose to avoid the gel being too sweet.

Do remember that as a runner you must experiment with the use of these gels during your training period so that you understand what gel works best for you come race day.

During a run, wait for about 45 mins or 10kms to take your first gel, the next only after 45mins later. Remember to avoid taking more than one at a time because too much too soon will break your body as it tries to process the overdose of sugar.

Some recommended energy gels available today:

  •  Isotonic Gels(premixed with water): High 5 ISO Gel, SIS GO Gel
  • Glucose/ fructose 2:1 – GU Energy Gel, High 5 Energy Gel, CLIF SHOT Energy Gel, TORQ Energy Gel
  • Caffeine gels: SIS GO + Caffeine Gel, TORQ Energy Gel guarana, High % Energy Gel + caffeine.

The key to finding the right gel is through testing and sampling a wide range of flavours. Before I end, I would like to point out that energy gels are not the only way you can fuel your exercise but they can give you a real boost and have tons of benefits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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