Gels are highly concentrated carbohydrate products, available in palm-size packets or tubes. Their consistency (depending upon the brand) may be off setting at first. Squirting a gel into your mouth could feel like syrupy pudding at best or pasty hair gel at worst!
Gels offer 70-120 calories and 17-42 grams of carbohydrate per package. All gels include simple sugars (fructose or dextrose) and long chain carbohydrate/glucose polymers (maltodextrins, rice syrup or poly/oligoaccharides). Some gels however, are loaded up with other treats as well. Gu has Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’S), Power Gel has branched chain amino acids (a source of energy), caffeine (a stimulant), kola nut extract and ginseng; and Clif Shot has Korean Ginseng. None of these “additives” have been shown to have any consistent ergogenic effect, but they do add to the $….and gels are exactly that…costly.
What to look for
Easy to use format (squeeze bottle, tearable package)
Bulk dispenser with easy to use refill bottle (holds 120 grams) (saves $$ and packaging)
80-100% carbohydrate content
0-20% branched chain amino acid content
Because there are few other nutrients nor fiber to interfere with digestion and absorption, these gels are easily and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, delivering a potently quick supply of ready energy within approximately 20 minutes. Most companies recommend that you take a “shot” of gel (1 package worth) every 30 minutes, followed by a water “chaser”. When consumed at regular intervals during an endurance effort this can effectively get you 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour which can help eliminate muscle glycogen depletion and blood sugar spikes.
Make your own
You can even make your own gel – a couple of tablespoons of jam or jelly, or a few gummy bears will give you about 25 grams of carbohydrate, enough to give you an energy boost comparable to a gel, at a fraction of the cost.