Over the last 40 years in competitive sports, energy gels have gained popularity as a convenient and quick source of energy for athletes trying to reach their maximum potential. But the question often arises, “Are energy gels bad for you?” The answer is not as simple as a yes or no. When used wisely and in moderation, energy gels can be a beneficial addition to your fitness routine.
In this article, we’ll explore the potential drawbacks of consuming energy gels, discuss how to choose the right product for your needs, share tips for safe and effective energy gel consumption, and even suggest some alternatives for fueling your performance. So let’s dive in and find out if energy gels are truly friend or foe.
Energy gels can give you a quick and convenient energy boost, but they also come with some potential drawbacks that you should be aware of. We’ll go over three main concerns: upset stomach and dehydration, the importance of using gels sparingly, and the risk of becoming too reliant on fast sugars.
Selecting the perfect energy gel can be a personal and subjective process, as every individual has unique preferences and requirements. Luckily, Runivore Will wrote a really informative article on the subject. He highlights four main criteria to consider when choosing an energy gel: activity type, ingredients, flavor, and packaging.
It provides a thorough analysis of these criteria, offers insights on various aspects of energy gels, such as carbohydrates, electrolytes, natural vs. artificial ingredients, and the role of caffeine, among others. Definitely give it a read. Also remember, practice and experimentation are key to finding the perfect energy gel for your specific needs and preferences.
The most important tip is practice using energy gels during training to familiarize yourself with their taste, ensure they don’t upset your stomach, and gauge how many you’ll need for the event.
Also, remember to consume energy gels with water and avoid mixing them with sports drinks or other foods, which can disrupt the balance of nutrients and potentially cause irritation.
Other considerations include familiarizing yourself with the packaging – even this can be tricky sometimes. I put together a little guide on this topic that goes into a little more detail here.
Let’s say that you follow our advice, and while you try to find the right gel for you, you still can’t find anything that suits you. Maybe your stomach is just too sensitive. Maybe you’re diabetic and just can’t consume fast sugars. Maybe you don’t like highly processed products.
Don’t worry there are alternatives, and we’ve covered them in some of our recent reviews:
The alternatives above are meant for events where you’re moving at fast speeds. When going at a more leisurely pace, you may also consider nuts, trail mix, or other real food alternatives to fuel your adventures.
In our opinion, the answer is absolutely not. Just make sure to not over use these power packed helpers. Always try them first in practice before using them in battle (PR race or other important event). This way, you’ll know exactly how they work with your body, ensuring a harmonious partnership on your journey to greatness.