Dietary Advice During and After Exercise

Energy gel

Par Nicolas Aubineau - 4 minutes de lecture

energy gelLargely used by sportsmen, and more specifically runners, (half marathon , marathon…) and other runners such as trailers, triathletes, tennis players, energy gel has a bad reputation for it is supposed to cause digestive troubles, … So let’s go into detail.


Why should we use energy gel ?

As I have presented in the description of the sports drink, it is imperative to have an exogenous carbohydrate intake during the effort especially when it exceeds 1 hour. Indeed, the daily diet (if it is balanced, adapted to the needs) can not provide more than 1 hour.


The big advantage of the gel is it is easily transported it (in a « machine gun belt ») unlike an sports drink that requires to carry a vial, a can, or a water bag … Here is the key to its success!


What makes a good energy gel ?

Based on the same principle than the sports drink and the energy bar, the energy gel must contain carbohydrates, sodium and vitamin B1. It seems important that the gel contains other active ingredients, but this is rarely the case and if present they are in an effective amount (see my article on the sports nutrition market allegations) :

  • Magnesium: Magnesium intake allows good muscle contraction (transmission of nerve impulses, acid-base balance, energy production), it is important in any type of effort especially on the long,
  • Potassium: it is one of the minerals that is lost in the sweat especially during warm atmospheres (+ 24 ° C),
  • Vitamin C and / or Vitamin E: antioxidant vitamins, they are very important during the effort to regenerate the cells,
  • Niacin (vitamin B3): it contributes to normal energy metabolism
  • BCAA: derived from proteins, branched amino acids recover during exercise and have an influence on central (moral) fatigue.


Advantages and disadvantages of energy gels



The gel is easily carried (in the hand, belt with bib, pocket …), it can be used very quickly if needed.



As my comparison shows, the composition is very (too!) weak to consider the gel as the only energy supply during an effort. Brands that have a good marketing service communicate for 100g (3.5 oz) of product, and your gel only weight 25g (0.88 oz) so it is necessary to divide by 4 the information written on the gel. And yes … and when we compare the contribution of a gel to that of 500 ml (16.9 fl oz) of a drink, the difference is doubled or even more.


Its texture requires the gel to be taken with water (which is usually given in a cup and requires a small stop). Not very optimal.


As for digestive disorders, a gel brings an average of 20g (0.7 oz) of carbohydrates equivalent to 4 pieces of sugar . Seen from this angle, it seems logical that eating 4 pieces of sugar in one stroke with a stomach which has already been put to strain by the effort, causes a discontent of the latter ! Some people never have any problem, but many sportsmen and women are victims of stomach ache and once the damage is done, a poor performance or even abandonment can follow.


A drink does not cause this effect because it is consumed regularly contrary to the gel which is consumed generally in one shot.


Ways to use it

As I mentioned above, a gel must remain a one-time contribution and not the sole intake of a race. All the athletes and I am one of them, including marathoners (even those under 3h) test water bag and then adopt it because they are autonomous, regularly consume their energy intake and thus avoid digestive disturbances or hypoglycemia. Attention I have followed an athlete under 2:20, at this level, the weight question can play a key role I will ask him a test (in training! ) to see.


Concretely, always take a gel with a glass of water because of the pasty texture. Considering the average intake, it is necessary to consume 2 per hour but I do not guarantee the results on your digestive system.


My conclusion about energy gel

My comparison of energy gels present on the market proves it, an energy gel is very low in quality. It is often used by runners because it is easy to carry even though the tests I conducted with athletes followed (some in 2h40 on marathon) showed an improvement in performance with an sports drink. Not to mention the digestive problems … Finally, I propose a recipe to make your own gel on the following link: house energy gel.


Sports Dietitian Nutritionist


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