Sports Gels: A new development
Packets containing the above ingredients have been marketed in the past few years. Seattle sports nutritionist Heather Nakamura describes their purpose as, "to provide a portable energy source for endurance athletes during prolonged activity. Most contain electrolytes, which can be beneficial during longer events and for individuals who tend towards greater sodium losses. Some manufacturers have introduced energy products similar to gels, but in a solid form. Many athletes like these products, as they are easier to dispense and consume in smaller amounts during a long workout".
Energy gels should be taken with 6 to 8 ounces of water per pack, or they end up as thick syrup sitting in your stomach, and delay gastric emptying. In prolonged endurance running one gel pack can be taken every 30 to 60 minutes. These packs contain about 100 calories.
How does water compare with sports drinks?
A typical non-running adult may require about 2.5 litres of water per day. But, while running, water loss may be as much as 2 litres per hour, so runners clearly need to drink more water than electrolyte drinks. A solid body of research consistently shows that runners fed carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement drinks outperform runners fed water only, in lab tests, field tests for time to exhaustion, and time trials over various distances.
What are the problems encountered with Sports Drinks?
There is no need to overload on sports drinks - runners can from suffer nausea, vomiting, and fatigue if they drink excessive amounts, or mix sports drinks in super high concentrations (from powder).
Fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit, has been found to be a problematic additive for about 15% of the population. One study found that a pre-exercise fructose feeding actually reduced the rate of glycogen utilization during sub maximal exercise, while other studies found that adding > 60 grams of fructose caused stomach upset, nausea, bloating and diarrhea in some subjects. Fructose should be avoided.
General advice for taking Sports Drinks
• Generally you only need sports drinks for events lasting more than one hour. Above all, water should be taken if nothing else is available.
• Experiment with sports drinks months before your big race - don't find out the hard way by throwing up during your big race of the year. If a particular drink upsets your stomach, try another, until you've found what works best for you in terms of palatability and energy supply. You can dilute a sports drink to make it easier on your stomach.
• Runners need at least 100 gm/carbohydrate within two hours of their workout. High glycemic index foods/drinks are best. If carbohydrate and protein are combined after exercise, carbohydrate storage is increased significantly.
• A ratio of 5:2 carbohydrates: protein, or 4:1, appear to be the most effective, if taken immediately after your workout.
• Certain fruit juices are great sports drinks, if diluted to about half strength - but experiment with them to find what settles best in your stomach. Avoid acidic fruit juices like orange juice.
• The high sodium content in certain sports drinks make them contra-indicated for people with high blood pressure. Consult your sports medicine physician about this.
• Before running, drink 14 - 20 ounces of rapidly absorbed fluid 15 minutes before exercise.
• While running, drink 3 - 8 ounces of fluid every 10 - 15 minutes to replace sweat losses and maintain blood volume. One gulp equals about one ounce of fluid. Larger amounts are more desirable, but most people feel nausea or discomfort running with a nearly full stomach, so drink smaller amounts more frequently. If your training run, or race, is longer than one hour, start drinking early in the race. You'll need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate every hour, which amounts to 14 to 20 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes, in a single cup serving.
• After running completely restore your weight loss. For every16 oz of fluid lost, drink 20 oz of fluid. Studies show that runners tend to drink more sports drinks than water after long running sessions. For maximum effect and synthesis of carbohydrate drinks after running, they are best taken within 15-30 minutes after running.