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Energy Gels and Drinks?

mac220mac220 Posts: 53
Hi Everyone,

I was wondering if there was someone who reads these forums who might be able to provide a bit of input around energy gels and drinks. I was given some Gels the other week after not having really used them for a long time and was quite surprised at how good they were. So I thought I would get a large box to try and get a cheaper bulk buyer deal. After seeing how much they cost I started wondering what the active ingredient(s) were. So I had a look on a couple of the manufacturers web site's to see if they listed the ingredients, which they did. So I tried to work out which ones did something useful for your performance (would be really good to know if I've mis-categorised any of them).

Helps Performance:
- Water: Hydration (but very small amounts, the same as a couple of large sips from a bottle)
- Glucose (Maltodextrin): Sugars, needed to keep you going.
- Caffiene/Tea Extract (Contains Caffeine): Stimulant
- Sodium Chloride (sounds good!!) or just plain old Salt

Keeps it edible, makes it taste nice or something else:
- Fruit Juice: Primarily Flavouring, possibly colouring
- Acidity Regulators
- Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid)
- Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate)
- Flavouring
- Gelling Agents (Gellan Gum, Xanthan Gum)
- Sweeteners (Acesulfame K, Sucralose)

so as far as I can see the main things that might make a difference are:
- Dextrose which is essentially Glucose
- Caffeine
- Salt
- Water

I had a look around to see if there were any alternatives:
1. 454g of Glucose C from boots for £1.89, that contains the equivalent to about 18 gel bars below so about £0.10 per gel bar equivalent, this stuff dissolves into water.
2. 48 Boots Caffeine tablets (50mg caffeine each) for £3.41 which would give either:
- 48 gels (rounding up as I can't be bothered to cut a pro plus tablet get only 30mg of caffeine) at £0.07 per Gel
- or 16 Gels with 150mg of caffeine costing about £0.21 per gel
3. Salt, no cost I think its about £0.30 for 0.5kg from Tesco
4. Water, no appreciable cost

So using these very back of a packet calculations you can get the equivalent of a gel in terms of the active ingredients for between £0.17 - £0.28 depending on whether you go for 30mg or 150mg of caffeine. 150mg seems to be quite a lot as the Boots caffeine tablets recommend a max of 100mg a day. I probably wouldn't even bother with the Caffeine so this would bring it down to about £0.10 per gel equivalent.

So I got some Glucose C and mixed into one of the two bottles I take on a ride with a small amount of waterso I could get a similar the amount to a gel/peice of cake/banana etc relatively easily and found it worked really well. I generally put a small amount of Salt (Electrolytes) in my drinks anyway after reading Greg Lemond's book on training years ago.

My question is am I missing something here or can I get a good equivalent in terms of energy you are taking on to a Energy Gel etc for a fraction of the cost?

Posts

  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    No, you're not missing anything. Plus you don't have to shove a sticky gel packet in your jersey pocket afterwards.

    Entire sports nutrition market rumbled!
  • Yup spot on! I did try gels for a while but couldn't figure out a way to stop my hands getting sticky, and then my pockets getting sticky, horrible stuff. As you say it's just sugar, jelly babies will do the same thing? I wonder how many jelly babies is equivalent to one gel?

    Edit: 23g of carbs in a gel. 100g of jelly babies is 80g of carbs. In individual jelly baby has about 5g of carbs. So if I'm right 5 jelly babies is the same as one gel? And much nicer too! The main problem is I can't eat only 5 jelly babies at a time :shock:
  • mac220mac220 Posts: 53
    edited February 2015
    I used to use jelly babies and other jelly based sweets when I was cycling a while ago, however I think (and this is purely anecdotal) they are relatively slow to absorb due to the time they take to dissolve and you end up having to take on more water to compensate for the jellies. Which is why I was thinking Gels are quite good in that they probably have about the required amount of water to get the sugars into your system pretty quickly.

    Just had another thought about this would it follow the less viscous the thing you are eating is the more easy they are to absorb. I imagine that gels are made the thickness they are as if they were the same as water you would spill it everywhere when you tried to drink it from the packet. So do they compromise on absorption to allow for them to be easy to consume. If that's the case then a drink made with Glucose C may well out perform a Gel in terms of the time it takes to get it into you system.

    Again, if anyone knows better be really interested to hear.

    On the jelly based sweets had a look at jelly babies.
    - 250g Jelly babies are £0.89 from Tesco, so they are £0.45/100g of carbs versus £0.39/100g of carbs for the Glucose C so another very good option!!
  • I've just bought some cheap gels from W iggle (their own brand), seemed to do the job at the weekend. Not sure I agree with the whole sticky gel packet in pocket argument, when I have a gel, I'm pretty sure I have it all, then roll it up like you're getting the last bit of toothpaste out and stick it under your shorts or put it in pocket. No mess.

    Jelly babies are much more hassle imo, getting them out of a bag, and especially when it's warm they just stick together, easier to choke on too! :D

    I did read somewhere, that you need to have a real good gulp of water when having a gel to help it absorb into your system, I don't think many people realise this.
  • mac220mac220 Posts: 53
    I did read somewhere, that you need to have a real good gulp of water when having a gel to help it absorb into your system, I don't think many people realise this.

    If this is the case I could make my second bottle which has the optimal glucose/water ratio for absorption, this having another advantage over gels. I think I would find a bottle easier to drink than a Gel as its right there on the bike and easy to get at. Also, you could drink it little and often therefore giving you body more time to absorb the sugars into your system. There must be a maximum amount of sugars your body can absorb in a single go, which could well be the amount in a single Gel about 25g? Anyone have any idea of whether there is a maximum amount of carbs you can absorb and how much it is?
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    It's generally suggested 30 - 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour because that's as much as you can absorb.

    I'm sticking with my fig rolls, jelly babies and dilute squash with a bit of salt for my long rides.

    Sometimes I'll drop a Berocca in the drink too because a) it makes it taste interesting, b) it makes it look pro, c) I got them free from work and I'm trying to use them up cos the expiry date's passed, and d) it turns my pee a fetching shade of luminous orange.
  • mac220 wrote:
    I did read somewhere, that you need to have a real good gulp of water when having a gel to help it absorb into your system, I don't think many people realise this.

    If this is the case I could make my second bottle which has the optimal glucose/water ratio for absorption, this having another advantage over gels.

    I quite often have the sachets you dissolve into water always says something like 2:1 ratio. Generally one bottle with that in and the other bottle with water.
  • AK_jnrAK_jnr Posts: 717
    Gels are only used for racing for me. Sandwiches, fig rolls or flapjacks during training. Water in the bottles. No energy drink.
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    Have a look at this for receipes for home made gels:

    http://www.jibbering.com/sports/gels.html
    Rich
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