A few years ago, I was about to start a 130-mile ride down the coast of California as part of multi-day San Francisco to San Diego charity event. For many of the participants, this was a daunting athletic challenge. At the start –at 6 am I might add– I saw a number of people tear into and devour a Gel...
This is actually the moment that I decided that I needed to start The Feed. That I could share my knowledge and help people with how to use performance nutrition, like Gels and Chews to their advantage, not their detriment.
The folks I saw devouring the gels and chews were going to be in for a rough day. They were now spiking their sugar levels and there was no way they could now consume enough chews and gels, aka Quick Energy, to sustain themselves for the next 8 to 10 hours of riding. The result I predicted (and came true) was that they had a significant energy crash after the first few hours and really struggled to finish the ride.
What they did wrong was not timing their nutrition to their effort. It's okay to take a gel before a ride, if that event is short and intense and you can maintain these elevated sugar levels throughout it (like a 1 to 2-hour race).
However, for long workouts, you need should only start gels & chews when you can sustain them every 15 to 20 minutes until you complete you workout. Hard to do if you workout is going to be 8+ hours.
- Once you start using Quick Energy, you have to keep using it until your workout or event is over.
- For short events, you can start before your event and generally opt for a caffeinated option.
- For longer events, count back from the end of your workout. If you have 4 gels, and you need to use one every 30 minutes, then you can start 2 hours before the end of your workout. As a rule of thumb for long multi-hour events, wait until you are 50% through your workout before starting Quick Energy.
Quick Energy is your friend and will help you finish your workers stronger. They will also let you push yourself harder for longer and get an even better training effect (i.e. you will see more fitness gains) post recovery from having pushed your limits harder than you could have without the addition of Quick Energy.
There is one exception to the rule above on gels & chews, and that is Spring Energy Gels. While these are in a gel package, they are actual real whole food. They are actually an ideal food source to use early in a long workout as they provide slower burning, sustained energy, in the convenience of an easy to consume gel pack.
Should I use Gels or Chews?
Both function the same way. It is personal preference which one you want to use. I tend to go with Chews as I can regulate my dosage more (and the used wrapper is less sticky).
How many Chews to take at once?
I like to use 2 individual chews at a time and take them every 15 minutes or so. This provides me even consumption of quick energy without every getting to big a spike.
Your goal is even energy consumption. If you are doing are trying to do a fast two and half hour marathon you would be consuming a gel every 15 minutes. But for us mere mortals, aim for a maximum of every 20 minutes (3 per hour) to every 30 minutes (2 per hour). I'll admit that in slower, longer workouts I might push this to over 45 minutes per gel, but if I go beyond that I can feel my energy levels dropping.
Do I need to drink along with my Gel?
It depends on what kind of gel you are using. There are two kinds of gels to choose from, the classic gels like Clif Shots, Honey Stinger Organic Gels , and Gu Energy Gels are top of that list. These gels require that you also have some hydration with you and take a sip after you use the gel to aid in digestion. The other kind of gels don't require hydration and are consider "hypertonic" the leader in these gels is Maurten Gel 100 and SiS Go Gel is also a really popular hypertonic gel.
What is my favorite gel?
I tend to mix up my Gels so I don't get too bored with one type. If I had to pick, I would go with Maurten Gel 100 as my top favorite, then Clif Shots Citrus, or Double Espresso (both caffeinated) is my next favorite. If it's colder outside, I've been known to also go with the more natural Maple Syrup Gel from Untapped, it is just pure 100% Vermont Maple Syrup and works like a charm.
What are my favorite chews?
I like all sorts of chews and do try to mix them up between brands, but for a big important event, I'll likely go with Clif Bloks. As much for the convenience of the package (the tall stick is easy to carry and get the chews out of). But for pure taste, then Skratch Chews are hard to beat.
On the caffeinated side, Clif Bloks Black Cherry is a winner (and the most popular Chew we sell). I'm also partial to Tropical Punch. If it is hot outside, nothing beats the salty & sweet combine of Margarita Bloks. When you try the first one, you are like no-no-no. Then all of a sudden you are craving a second one. What's really intriguing to me is that the Margarita Bloks taste is 10x better when you are hot, sweaty, and a bit dehydrated.
Let's talk about Caffeine...
Caffeine is your friend. Many athletes are surprised to hear that caffeine doesn't have the fall-off, or "bonking" type effect as simple sugars, so you don't need to worry about maintaining caffeine nearly as much as Quick Energy. It reaches a peak level after 45 minutes from consumption and then is about 50% effective (half-life) at approximately 3 hours.
The trick to caffeine is that you have to take much more of it than you probably assume (especially if you are a regular coffee drinker) in order to tap into the performance benefits. Start with 100mg at the start of/before your workout. For short workouts, increase this to 200mg. For longer workouts, try to consume 300mg total in the first 2.5 hours.
Maurten Gel 100 CAF 100 is a great Caffeinated Gel to consider.
But I'm trying to be low carb?
There is a time and a place for low carb or fasted training. It can be really beneficial for weight loss and improving your metabolic flexibility (i.e. the ability to use both fat and carbs as fuel sources).
At the risk of stating the obvious, don't use Quick Energy during a low carb or fasted workout. Instead, save low carb for your lower intensity workouts and don't do these kinds of workouts exclusively. You need to also have some fast, intense training, and in these workouts use Quick Energy to the maximum training benefits.
Why The Feed is the best place to buy gels and chews.
We are the only online store that has every gel and chew available in single servings. So you aren't forced into buying a box of 12 or 18 and then find out you are sick of the flavor before you are halfway through the box. At The Feed, you get just what you need and can mix and match flavors and even the brands of gels and chews so you have more variety.
Plus when have proven that when athletes have more variety, you look forward to fueling during your workout, and as a result athletes are more consistent with their fueling.
Have a great workout!