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Energy Gels: How & When Should You Use Them

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Energy Gels: How & When Should You Use Them

As an endurance athlete, you know the importance of fuelling your body properly during long training sessions and races.

Energy gels have become a popular choice for providing a quick and convenient source of energy to sustain performance. However, understanding how and when to use energy gels effectively can make a significant difference in your performance.

What are energy gels?

If you’re new to the concept of energy gels then you might be wondering, what are they?

Energy gels are a concentrated nutritional supplement used to provide a quick source of energy during exercise. They typically come in a small, single serve packet and contain a blend of simple and complex carbohydrates, electrolytes and sometimes caffeine. 

What are the benefits of using energy gels?

  • Rapid Energy Boost: Energy gels are specifically formulated to deliver a concentrated dose of carbs, providing a quick boost of energy when you need it most. They can help replenish depleted glycogen stores and prevent fatigue during long-duration activities.
  • Easy to Consume: Energy gels are lightweight, portable, and require no chewing, making them convenient to carry and consume during exercise. They typically have a gel-like consistency that can be easily swallowed without the need for water.
  • Easy to Digest: Energy gels are designed to be easily digestible, reducing the risk of stomach upset. The carbohydrates in energy gels are rapidly absorbed and used as fuel by the working muscles.

When to use energy gels?

  • Before Exercise: Consume an energy gel approximately 15 to 30 minutes before your workout or race to provide an immediate source of fuel. This can help top up your glycogen stores and provide an initial energy boost.
  • During Exercise: Consume energy gels during longer training sessions or races to maintain a steady supply of carbohydrates and prevent energy depletion. Start taking gels after about 45 to 60 minutes of exercise and continue at regular intervals, typically every 30 to 45 minutes.

Key information about energy gels

  • Check the Label: Energy gels come in various formulations, so it's important to read the label to understand the specific ingredients, nutritional content, and recommended serving size. Look for gels that match your individual preferences and dietary needs.
  • Practice During Training: Experiment with different brands and flavours of energy gels during your training sessions to determine which ones work best for you. Pay attention to taste, texture, and how your body responds to different gel formulations.
  • Stay Hydrated: Energy gels are designed to be consumed with water to aid digestion and optimize their effectiveness. Drink a few sips of water after taking an energy gel to ensure proper absorption and prevent dehydration.
  • Listen to Your Body: Every athlete is different, and individual fuelling needs may vary. Pay attention to your body's cues and adjust the timing and frequency of energy gel consumption accordingly. If you feel a drop in energy or experience hunger pangs, it may be a good time to take another gel.
  • Avoid Excessive Consumption: While energy gels are beneficial, it's important not to overdo it. Too many gels or consuming them too frequently can lead to an upset stomach. Stick to the recommended serving sizes and listen to your body's signals.

Energy gels are a convenient and effective tool for endurance athletes to maintain energy levels during long training sessions and races.

By understanding the benefits of energy gels, following usage guidelines, and using proper timing strategies, you can optimize your performance and avoid hitting the dreaded "wall".

And always remember to experiment during your training, don’t leave it all till race day!

Read our article 7 Energy Gels You Need to Try, a guide to some of our teams favourite Energy Gels. If you are still stuck we have created two Energy Snacks section boxes to help you out, our Energy Gel Selection Box or the High Carb Energy Gel Box if you are looking for gels with more than 30g of carbohydrates per serving. 

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