Thursday, August 11, 2016

An introduction to energy gels and chews

Energy gels and chews for endurance athletes are available in many different flavors and are manufactured by several companies.  You may need to try several brands and flavors to figure out what will fuel your runs best - and which ones won’t bother your stomach.  Just like with your properly fit running shoes, it may take some trial-and-error to figure out what works best for you.  Fortunately, energy gels and chews have a much nicer price point (at $1-$3 per pack) than your latest pair of shoes.

I would suggest trying nutrition on some of your early training runs, totaling 8-10 miles total, taking in one packet mid-run.  I enjoy sipping on a gel or consuming chews over an entire mile, then following that up with several drinks of water.  I store all of my nutrition in my handheld water bottle, but there are also hydration packs and waist packs that work great for this purpose.

It’s best to come up with a plan during your long training runs and then stick to that plan during your race.  I prefer eating a packet of chews pre-race at the start line.  Then I consume only gels, water and sports drink during the race itself.  For races (a marathon, for example), I consume a packet at miles 5, 10, 15, 20 and then keep an extra in case I need it later on.  Gels are a pudding-like consistency and don’t always go down the easiest the first time you try them.  But, if you find it difficult to chew before or during a race, this may be your go-to option.

Some of my favorite energy gel flavors include:  orange creamsicle, salted caramel, salted watermelon, mint chocolate, and coffee varieties.  I tend to have a hard time stomaching berry flavors.  They are too sweet for my taste buds.  My favorite energy gels are made by Honey Stinger and the consistency of these gels is exactly like honey.  Plain gels also are available, for those that find the other flavors to sweet or sour.  I like the consistency of Gu gels versus Power Bar.
Chews and chomps are similar to a gummy bear or fruit snack.  They vary in shape and size.  If you prefer to chew your food and don’t like running on an “empty stomach”, then this may be the best option for you.

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