How To Use Energy Gels
If you're training for an event, here are some tips to help you boost your performance with energy gels.
Each gel contain around 25g of carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars, an accessible energy source for your body to process. One gel gives you a boost for about 45 minutes of running but taking two at a time doesn’t mean you’ll have 90 minutes of running, instead you’re likely to crash as your body overloads trying to process the sugar.
When should you use energy gels?
The best time to take a gel depends on you. Every runner absorbs and processes carbohydrates at a different rate; some can feel the effect within 3 minutes while others take up to 15 minutes.
As your body diverts blood away from your stomach towards your active muscles, your absorption rate slows, or sometimes your stomach shuts down completely; this is the most common cause for unwanted toilets stops during a run. The most important rule is to have the gel before you need it. Practice with energy gels when you're training to ensure you know when and which energy gels to take.
How often should I use energy gels?
As your digestion process slows during your run, it’s important not to overload your stomach. Wait around 45-60 minutes between gels, or around 6-7 miles, to ensure you don’t overload on too much simple sugar. Try and alternate between caffeine and non-caffeine energy gels to ensure you don’t have too much caffeine.
How often should you use energy gels?
As your digestion process slows during your run, it’s important not to overload your stomach. Wait around 45-60 minutes between gels, or around 6-7 miles to ensure you don’t intake too much simple sugar at once. Consider alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine energy gels too to ensure you don’t take on too much caffeine.
What are they really like?
Whilst they're hugely beneficial for many runners, they’re not to everyone’s taste. Although usually water-based, they can vary in consistency from viscous and thick to thinner but with a stronger taste. There's a huge range on the market in a wide variety of flavours. Test a few different brands and styles to find the right consistency and flavour for you
Test them and see what works for you.
Before you use energy gels on race day, train with them first. You have to experiment and find something that works for you. Not all energy gels are the same. Some are more viscous and some taste better. When you run, your body prioritises sending blood to your active muscles, reducing the blood flow to your digestive tract. The lack of blood can irritate your system, as your body finds it harder to digest food and liquid, sometimes responding by trying to force anything out of your system. Practicing with gels, taking little bits at a time as you build up the mileage, will help your body adapt to using your stomach while running, causing you fewer issues on race day.
Always drink water
Always take energy gels with water, never on their own or with a sports drink. Energy gels will take longer to digest and enter the blood stream without water. If you take an energy gel with a sports drink, you run the risk of ingesting too much simple sugar at once.