You know what happens when you give a kid sugar? Just remember back to Halloween. Kids get hyper. They run around in circles, laugh incessantly and are giddier than you are when you’re watching the last 500m of a head-to-head sprint of a Tour stage.
That’s what a gel does to your riding. It’ll make you feel hopped up and full of energy. But beware.
Just like a little kid, 30-minutes after you’re flying high as kite, you’ll come crashing down and wanna curl up, stick your thumb in your mouth and take a nap. We must insist: once you start sucking down gels, you really need to keep sucking down gels every 30 or so minutes for the duration of your ride. This is why gels are great to use to fuel a late race attack. They give you all that hyper-energy to make bold moves and bring you to the finish line.
Gels are great when you need that last burst to do something miraculous.
They’re sugar. Pure, fast-acting sugar that hits your bloodstream as fast as a can of soda. Sometimes they have caffeine. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they have double the caffeine. Sometimes they have even more. Gels are great for quick, short, intense workouts. When you have to do 5-minutes intervals. When you’re doing 30” sprints. When you’re on the start line of a criterium. When you’re 10k-to-go from the end of a road race. Or most importantly, when you’re bonking and need to get out of it and get your mind and legs back on track, as quickly as possible. Caffeinated gels are great when you want the energy to hit even faster and more extreme. Use them sparingly. Span the caffeine out over the course of a ride. Save it until late in a race to give you that second wind. Caffeine doesn’t just fuel your legs, it stimulates your weary mind and can give you that extra focus you need to reach the finish of a long event. Gels are pretty easy to eat: Tear them open. Then suck. They don’t require a lot of water to wash them down. However different brands offer gels in different viscosities. Try them all. Figure out what flavors and consistencies you like. Personally, I like the vanilla and chocolates earlier in my ride. Then, as I near the end, I crave sweet-fruity ones, like Clif’s Razz flavor. Its totally personal. Work with your nutrition coach to switch up your box and try new things. Share with us your winning combination.