You may have seen cyclists sucking on sachets during a race and wondered what they are taking. The cyclists are sucking on energy gels, a nutrition product now seen as vital to any cyclist’s performance.
What are they made of?
Energy gels are a thick liquid substance made up of simple carbohydrates, such as fructose and glucose, as well as electrolytes and often with added caffeine. They are easily broken down by the body and provide a quick source of energy.
What do gels do for you?
When undertaking exercise the body burns carbohydrates for fuel, however the body can only store enough carbohydrates to last around 1 hour. Given most races last upwards of 3 or even 5 hours, if a cyclist cannot replace these carbohydrates they will fatigue and performance will drop. To stop depletion of carbohydrate stores it is recommended a cyclist should consume around 30 – 60g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise.
As energy gels are broken down more easily than solid foods they are the perfect way of topping up your carbohydrate stores whilst exercising. The electrolytes play a role in maintaining body function and mental performance. Caffeine acts as a slight stimulant, helping increase alertness and reduce tiredness. Generally you can feel the energy gel working within 15mins of consumption.