How to Use Energy Gels to Boost Your Run
What you put into your body makes a big difference in what you get out of it. This is why elite athletes have extremely rigid diet plans and why bodybuilders take protein and supplements. Meanwhile, energy gels are very popular among both professional and amateur runners for their ease of use and efficiency when out exercising.
So, are energy gels good for running?
Yes. Energy gels, or running gels, are extremely effective when it comes to running nutrition, and the best part is that they’re an extremely convenient way of boosting your blood sugar levels whilst on a run.
Packaged in small sachets, these sports gels are easy to deliver orally during a run, halfÂ marathon or full-marathon to help top up your energy levels if they are beginning to deplete, without adding additional bulk to your gear.
What are energy gels?
They are essentially a small hit of carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars that the body can quickly break down and turn into energy. In this sense, they’re a bit like an energy bar, however, gels can be processed by your body faster than a bar can because they aren’t solid.
Your body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates in its muscles. Known as glycogen, these carbohydrate stores will last about 90 minutes of running at a half marathon pace, and about 120 minutes at a full marathon pace. This means the average runner will be getting low on glycogen stores about halfway through a marathon.
This is where energy gels come in. The simple sugars in these gels are first absorbed into your bloodstream as glucose, giving you a spike in energy. They’re then absorbed by active muscles and organs as energy reserves.
Gels contain about 25 grams of carbohydrates per sachet. They can also contain other ingredients to help boost your performance, such as electrolytes to replace lost minerals, and caffeine to open up your blood vessels, speeding up the delivery of energy and giving your mind and motivation a bit of a boost too. Meanwhile, some of the flavourings are derived from fruits, like berries, that are rich in antioxidants to help clear the muscles of waste products.
How often should I use energy gels?
The general rule of thumb as to how to conserve energy when running is to space your gels out around 45 minutes to an hour apart to ensure you don’t take in too much simple sugar at once. This will naturally vary from person to person as everybody absorbs and processes carbohydrates at different rates. The effect of the energy gel may therefore not be felt for up to 15 minutes for some people, while, for others, it may kick in as quickly as 3 minutes.
The most important rule is to have the gel before you need it, not as you feel yourself crashing or hitting the wall. It’s always a good idea to practice with energy gels throughout your training to get a feel for how your body reacts to gels and which ones work best for you.
Our Maurten gels are some of the most popular gels we stock, so they’d be a good option to start with. Also, consider alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine energy gels to ensure you don’t overdo it.Â
And if you’re wondering how to get energy before a runâ€”as well as a solid diet plan, having a gel before you start running is a great way to make sure the tank is full when you set off.
How not to use energy gels
Consuming two gels at a time will not give you a longer energy boost. In fact, it will actually cause you to crash as your body attempts to process the sugar.
It’s also important to understand that as your body diverts blood away from your stomach towards your active muscles, your absorption rate slows, even shutting down completely in some cases. Once you’ve reached this point, you risk having stomach issues and gastrointestinal distress if you take in a gel. This irritation of an already upset stomach is the most common cause for unwanted toilet stops during a run.
Always take energy gels with water, never on their own, and never with a sports drink. This is because energy gels are essentially condensed energy drinks, so having them together runs the risk of overloading your sugar capacity. Meanwhile, without water, they take longer to digest and enter the bloodstream.
Always keep in mind that energy gels aren’t a magic cure. It’s not reasonable to expect to be able to neglect other areas of your training and then simply down a few energy gels and perform well on race day. Instead, they’re a supplement to help you get the best out of your body. There’s no substitute for a good diet, proper running prep like stretching, and good training practice.
Shop the best range of running gels online at Pure Running
Jump on our online running store to check out our range of running gels, from our popular Maurten gels to our Ammo Natural energy gel. Once you find the best gel for you, we guarantee you’ll up your running game!