Running Gels, Energy Jelly Beans & Chews

Running gels, Energy packets, and sports gel are as effective as sports drinks in sustaining energy in endurance events.
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Emerging science shows energy gels are as effective as sports drinks in maintaining energy levels during endurance sports, like marathon races.

If you’re training for an endurance event, whether it be a marathon or a long-distance cycle, keeping your energy levels high are critical for achieving your performance goals.

It’s widely accepted that carbohydrate intake during endurance events can enhance performance and delay muscle fatigue.1 Carbohydrates are used as fuel during physical activity. Many athletes depend on energy gel, chews, or running gels for carbohydrates during endurance events.

The ability to maintain physical activity for over an hour is dependent on two factors: efficiency of the cardiovascular system and sustaining sufficient levels of glycogen.2 Consuming carbohydrates provides an energy boosting effect as they work to maintain glucose concentrations and may have a glycogen (energy) sparing effect in the muscles.1

What is Energy Gel

Energy gels are single packet portions of gel substance that are designed to replenish carbohydrates depleted during physical exercise. These gels are typically a mixture of sugars, electrolytes, maltodextrin (carbohydrates), fructose, taurine, fruit juice or herbal extracts.3 Sports gels are made of simple sugars that are high on the glycemic index, allowing the body to break them down and absorb energy quickly.4

Running Gels for Marathon Energy

In scientific studies, gel packs for runners have been noted to deliver comparable performance and physiological results as consuming a carbohydrate-only beverage.1

Before the advance of runner’s gel, previous studies focused on the benefits of consuming a carbohydrate-only sports drink. Data from previous studies has observed that when athletes consume sports drinks containing high concentrations of glucose and fructose (>10% carbohydrates) in high doses they boost carbohydrate oxidation (rate of metabolism). 1,6

However, it’s problematic that the average commercial sports drink contains 4-8% carbohydrates, lower than what’s been clinically observed to enhance performance. Athletes would have to consume 1-2.5 liters rather quickly to achieve the same effects.1 Often this is not a viable solution for runners looking to boost their marathon energy.

Running gels separate the carbohydrate content from the fluid. This benefits athletes because they can then control how much water is taken with the semi-solid energy gel, maximizing the effect of the carbohydrate contents.1 Athletes can also mitigate the digestive stress associated with consuming large volumes of food or drink during endurance events such as marathons.

When Should I Take Running Gels?  During physical activity, the body uses stores of glycogen for fuel. After 60-90 minutes these stores become depleted and your body turns to other sources such as fat for fuel. To maintain optimal performance during your event, it’s important to start re-fueling before you crash.22

Depending on your intensity, you should reach for your first gel 45 minutes to 1 hour into your event, possibly sooner if you’ve missed a pre workout snack or have a limited carbohydrate intake. According to the position statement from the American College of Sports Medicine, for events lasting longer than 60 minutes, athletes should ingest 30-60 grams of carbohydrates an hour. They suggest that intake should continue throughout the event in 15-20 minute intervals.22

Cycling Energy Gels

Pro Tip: Always try a new running gel during training to find out what variety works best for you.11

Recent research suggests that the use of an energy gel during long distance cycling, may improve both performance and blood glucose levels.

In a 2011 clinical study, researchers examined the performance of 10 endurance trained cyclists (5 males and 5 females) after supplementing with a power gel. Researchers evaluated the efficacy of timed ingestion of the energy gel by conducting three trials where the gel was consumed every 30 minutes, every 45 minutes or only once 15 minutes prior to starting exercise. Athletes cycled for 2 hours followed by a 15-minute fixed gear time trial, performing both at 70% VO2 max.7

Power gels and energy gel packs enhance cycle distance.
Taking energy gel enhances cycle distance from 4.16 to 4.70 miles in trained endurance cyclists, according to study.

Results indicate that blood glucose levels were significantly higher at 60-minute interval in the groups that had consumed an energy packet at 30 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively. Athletes were also able to cycle a farther distance (4.70 mi vs. 4.16 mi) in the 15-minute trial when supplementing with the energy gel packets, compared to those who didn’t.7

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Energy Jelly Beans

Did you Know: VO2 max is the highest amount of oxygen an individual can intake from the air during maximal exercise. VO2 max is achieved when there is a decline of oxygen consumption as exercise intensity increases.8

Liquid sports gels are not for every athlete. If you’re looking for something that feels more like a snack, there are options available to boost you out of your mid-race slump.

Jelly Belly Sport Beans are the leading brand in this category of energy supplements. Ideal for cycling, running or hiking, energy jelly beans come in a variety of flavors and are best consumed with water.9 From the makers of Jelly Belly, Sport Beans transform the jelly beans from your childhood to help you fuel for athletic performance.

Sports beans come with 25 grams of carbohydrates in each pack plus electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to restore fluid balance. The beans even contain small amounts of Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and Vitamin C,10 to help break down the carbohydrates and support muscle function.

Energy Chew

Energy chews are fast-acting, carbohydrate gummies that work to replenish glycogen stores. As a light-weight snack, energy chews offer comparable nutrition profile as gels, just in a solid form. Energy chews are often quite flavorful, easy to pack and hassle-free, and there’s no chance of getting sticky gel on your hands.12

Energy Gel Types

Gels offer athletes an easy, portable form of energy. For athletes engaging in long bouts of exercise, energy gel packs are light-weight and more convenient to carry over long distances than a standard sports drink. With a growing demand for energy supplements, a variety of gels exist in the market today to suite different tastes, preferences or activities.

Organic Energy Gel

For endurance athletes sticking to an organic diet, you won’t need to compromise when it comes to energy packets. Many brands have been designed with the health-conscious customer in mind. Brands that are organic, may also be gluten free, all-natural and vegan.

Vegan Energy Gels

Many energy supplement brands have made the conscious effort to produce supplements that are cruelty free. A vegan is an individual who consumes an exclusively plant-based diet and avoids consuming animals or animal by-products, such as milk, eggs or honey.14

In terms of restoring energy, vegan energy gels deliver the same level of carbohydrates to propel you through your work out. Brands may also be soy free, nut free or gluten free and may be a good option for athletes with other allergies or dietary restrictions.

Energy gel packs with litter leashes can help reduce waste.
Litter leashes can help reduce waste from energy gels.

Looking to reduce waste while you run?

Some vegan brands, such as Clif, even offer a litter leash to prevent the corner of the packets from becoming litter on trails.15

Natural Energy Gels

For athletes looking to keep their energy all natural, many brands utilize natural ingredients to deliver energy gel products. Many popular brands use all-natural ingredients with no artificial colors of flavors.16 Select packets can contain up to 27. 5 grams of carbs. For comparison, that’s just a few grams short of the carbohydrates found in an English muffin.17

Gluten Free Energy Gels

When it comes to energy gel, gluten free athletes don’t need to comprise. While Supplement Analyst encourages readers to always check the label before you purchase an energy supplement, many of the well-known brands are gluten free.

Energy Gels with Caffeine

As the popularity of energy gels rise, more and more flavors become available on the market. In recent years, energy gel packs have begun to add ergogenic (performance enhancing) ingredients like caffeine or nitrate to potentially boost performance.19,20 Gels may contain up to 50 mg of caffeine, which is approximately equivalent to ½ a shot of espresso.21

GNC Energy – And Other Retailers

Wondering where to buy energy gels?

Energy gels, chews and jelly beans can be purchased from supplement stores. GNC energy supplements include a variety of power gels, chews and jelly beans to match any sport.

For athletes who do not live near a GNC or supplement store, energy products can easily be purchased on Bodybuilding.com which offers affordable, international shipping.

Energy Gel Reviews

Click here for the latest Official Supplement Analyst energy gel reviews.

COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE



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  2. Rietschier, H. L., Henagan, T. M., Earnest, C. P., Baker, B. L., Cortez, C. C., Stewart, L. K.(2011). Sun-Dried Raisins are a Cost-Effective Alternative to Sports Jelly Beans in Prolonged Cycling. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(11), 3150-3156. DOI: 1519/JSC.0b013e31820f5089
  3. Diamantini, G., Pignotti, S., Antonini, E., Chiarabini, A., Angelino, D., & Ninfali, P. (2014). Assessment of antioxidant capacity of energy drinks, energy gels and sport drinks in comparison with coffee and tea. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 50(1), 240-248. doi:10.1111/ijfs.12615
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  8. Medical Dictionary: The Free Dictionary. (n.d.). VO2 max. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/VO2+max
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  10. (n.d.). Jelly Belly Sports Beans- Lemon Lime. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from http://www.gnc.com/Jelly-Belly-Sport-Beans-Orange/product.jsp?productId=41886696&kwCatId=&size=32&ppg=32
  11. Fieseler, C. (2013, October 30). Do I Need Energy Gels for Long Runs? Retrieved September 27, 2016 from http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-the-doctor/do-i-need-energy-gels-for-long-runs
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  13. Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC). (n.d.). Honey Stinger mango orange energy gel. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5047-123/Mango-Orange-Energy-Gel
  14. The vegan Society. (n.d.). Definition of veganism. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism
  15. Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC). (n.d.). Clif shot energy gel raspberry. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5025-015/Energy-Gel-Raspberry
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  20. Diamantini, G., Pignotti, S., Antonini, E., Chiarabini, A., Angelino, D., & Ninfali, P. (2014). Assessment of antioxidant capacity of energy drinks, energy gels and sport drinks in comparison with coffee and tea. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 50(1), 240-248. doi:10.1111/ijfs.12615
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