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Energy Gels

Because Food Becomes You

For comparison tables, go to Energy Gels Comparison page.

or To Order
Clif Shot
by Clif Bar - - - not rated
by Cytosport - - - not rated
Fireball - - - - not rated
GU - - - rating: 4 stars!
Hammer Gel
by Hammer Nutrition - - - not rated
Jogmate "intense muscle
nutritional contents on - not rated
Pocket Rocket - - - - not rated
by Powerbar - - - rating: 4 stars!
Powergel Double Caffeine
by Powerbar - - - rating: 4 stars!
by Gatorade - - - rating: 4 stars!
by Leppin - - - not rated
Ultragel - - - - not rated

Note: Data above is based on manufacturers' information.

Most gels currently on the market are almost 99% carbohydrate, with some other ingredients added for performance or marketing enhancement. The carbos maintain optimal blood sugar levels and prevent glycogen depletion. The absence fat, protein and fiber in gels helps rapid digestion/absorption so carbos can be rapidly and efficiently transported to the muscles.

Depending on the brand, the carbos may contain maltodextrin or simple carbohydrate (as brown rice sugar).

Maltodextrin, a glucose polymer, is a chain of glucose molecules of short to medium length. It more expensive to produce, and created by taking starch (long chains of glucose molecules) and chemically breaking it by hydrolysis into shorter chains of glucose. Glucose polymers are sized in-between a small glucose molecule (a simple carbohydrate) and a large starch molecule (a complex carbohydrate). Maltodextrin has a lower osmolality than glucose. Molecules of maltodextrin are larger than glucose', so gel with maltodextrin will have a few large particles compared to a gel with glucose. The number of particles determines how much water it will hold. The more molecules of smaller sized glucose in the gel, the more water will be pulled into the intestine than the maltodextrin-based gel. Makers of maltodextrin-based gels claim that since their gels don't pull as much water into the intestine, it is absorbed faster into the bloodstream.

Brown rice syrup contains both complex and simple carbohydrates.

Another component often found in the gels are electrolytes. Usually sodium, potassium, and chloride can be added to help combat electrolyte imbalances in the body (due to the long exercise in the high temperatures and/or high sweating rate). Electrolytes are ions (electrically charged molecules) that are present in all of the body fluids. They maintain the body's chemistry and allow the body to perform all its essential to life functions. As the body cools itself via sweat evaporation process, it secretes primarily water and electrolytes. As minor electrolyte imbalance occurs, there are symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, and mild mental confusion.

Some gels also contain branched chain amino acids (BCAA). During the endurance exercise, as muscle glycogen becomes depleted, it has been suggested that muscles turn to amino acids as fuel for exercise. The resulting lower blood level of BCAA had been hypothesized to increase the sensation of fatigue. Contrary research indicates that the ingestion of BCAA does not enhance performance, probably due to the negligible muscle usage of BCAA.

Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, which also helps to release free fatty acids from body fat stores into the blood to provide fuel for muscles. This, as some believe, spares the limited supply of muscle glycogen. It seems to be a performance enhancer, as many athletes after ingesting caffeine feel less fatigue while performing at higher levels of work. The known diuretic effect of caffeine is unlikely to cause significant dehydration due to the common water intake with gels.

Antioxidant vitamins C and E help the body deal with the natural oxidative stress of metabolism. As exercise increases oxidative stress, antioxidants may provide long-term benefits.

Acid Buffers can help to neutralize blood PH (acidity). As a result of exercise, there is a buildup of lactic acid and blood becomes slightly acidic. Some believe that acidic blood is inducing muscle fatigue.

Herbs are considered by some to be a marketing ploy, they had made inroads to the gel formulations by claims of being energy enhancing and anti-inflammatory. Whether they are helpful or performance enhancing, chamomile, ginseng, cola nut, and others can be found among the ingredients.


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