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What are carbohydrate gels?

Carbohydrate gels, or energy gels, provide a concentrated source of energy that can easily be digested to meet fuel targets quickly. Energy gels are commonly used in endurance exercise where depleted muscle glycogen stores are a key cause of fatigue. The amount of carbohydrate usually present in gels is ~20-25g.

There are a number of energy gels on the market to choose from, each of which have differing characteristics. These include the amount and concentration of carbohydrate, the mixture of carbohydrates, the flavour and consistency of the gel and the presence of other active ingredients such as caffeine. It’s well worth trying a variety of brands to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Gels should be consumed with water or other fluids immediately before, during or immediately after exercise. Energy gels are most effective during exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes and when a convenient supplement is required, such as during cycling or running.

Although gels are well tolerated by most people, some may suffer from gastrointestinal upset. This can be reduced with the ingestion of water with the gel and practicing the use of using gels in training prior to competition. Be cautious not to consume an unnecessary number of gels. Over-reliance on gels may lead to a reduced vitamin and mineral intake and should not be used when regular food choices are available. They are not designed to be a general snack!