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What Do Energy Gels Do?

December 03, 2014

Whether you are an amateur or professional athlete, chances are you have heard of energy gels – tubes of carefully formulated natural ingredients tailored to assist you before, during and after a race. So how do these products work? What is it that makes them so popular with runners and other sportsman?

A Quick Energy Boost

First, let’s look at the obvious benefit: that these gels provide an added dose of energy. Where this comes from depends on the included ingredients so always read the label. Here are some more common sources:

  • Honey
  • Caffeine
  • Fructose
  • Maltodextrin

These ingredients will give your body a quick energy boost when you need it, waking you up once you have “hit the wall” or giving you an extra push before an upward hill stretch or the finish line.

Replenishing Your Electrolytes

Some energy gels also come with added electrolytes to help replenish any salts you have lost through sweating. Substances such as sodium and potassium are essential for regular cell function and their levels should be maintained at all times. Using energy gels with electrolytes is especially important for anyone exercising for longer than an hour. After this time, water won’t be enough for hydration and replenishing lost salts, meaning your performance will suffer.

Calories for Endurance

If you are going on a marathon, triathlon or some other long distance activity, you will also need a boost in calories to fuel your physical pursuits. Energy gels can again help with this as they contain up to 150 calories (630 kJ) depending on the brand. By consuming one gel pack every 60 minutes, you’ll gain enough calories without overloading your body on the simple sugars these gels use to give you extra energy while exercising.

Beating the Glycogen Debt

The last benefit of energy gels is they help avoid excessive ‘glycogen debt’ in your body. While in training or during a competition, your glycogen stores will be depleted, making you fatigued and sore. Your mind may also feel blurry. Energy gels prevent this from occurring by being full of easily-digestible carbohydrates which replenish your lost glycogen. This means you can gain a second wind after hitting the wall during strenuous physical exercise.

For these reasons, energy gels are highly popular among athletes in all types of sports. If you have yet to try them during training and competition, you are missing out on all these advantages!




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