Some people swear by them and some people just swear, cursing their side effects! If you are short on time, bad at remembering to eat, or participating in an endurance event, an energy gel might be useful. Some Olympians will be using these for quick energy before or during a race in Rio. So, do they work?
Mostly comprised of sugar, they do indeed work, by providing a rapidly absorbable source of fuel which can help increase energy and focus, especially if you have not eaten within the last three or more hours.
- You have eaten within the past two hours: the food you ate will be sufficient to help you get through a WOD or workout that is < 1 hour. A gel in this instance is unlikely to provide any added physiological benefit.
- You have not eaten within the past three hours: a gel (or an alternate—see options below) might be help provide a bit of needed fuel.
- You are participating in an endurance event: a gel (or an alterna
te) may be helpful to get you through an event lasting > 90 minutes.
If you have tried the gels and are looking for other, similar options consider:
- GoGo squeez (applesauce, as well as fruit/vegetable blends)
- Sport beans
- Bolt chews
- Nut butter packets
The key is finding the one that works for you without side effects like stomach cramps or diarrhea which can happen because of the high sugar content. In the case of the chews or pastes with higher protein and/or fat, like Justin’s Nut Butter packets, delayed stomach emptying may lead to discomfort while using these.
Bottom line: TRAIN for big events using a gel (or alternate) to make sure you find one that you like and tolerate. This is not something to test out during an event.
Of course, perhaps your time would be better spent focusing on what you are eating in the 2-3 hours before a WOD or an event. If so, join us for the BIG nutrition challenge this fall!
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Interested in nutrition ergogenic aids? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.