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bluerider
07-17-2012, 03:33 PM
I was wondering where this group comes down on the use of energy gels during long ride. A few months ago on one of the first hot days, I went for an 80 mile ride. About half way I started feeling less fresh than usual so I turned around to head home. On the way back I started having serious leg craps on hills and whenever I would put on leg down to stop at road crossings. I stopped Carolina Brothers for some lunch and Gatorade but continued having legs craps to the point I wasn't sure I would make it home. I consumed almost 3 liters of water along the way as well. So I figured I would try some gel supplements to add nutrients water can't replace. Last weekend, I successfully completed a 100 mile ride in the heat without leg craps. However, I used two gel packs for the first time (GU Energy, Peanut Butter). Maybe its was a placebo effect but it seemed like it helped. That being said, the research seems to fall in the two categories: those paid for or by the energy drink companies (energy drink/gel = good) and those by doctors and dietitians (certain natural foods while riding are better and don't rot your teeth. (energy drink/gel = bad or at best unnecessary) Thoughts?

Maybe I will try another 100 mile ride with only nuts, beef gerky, bananas (which I hate) and water to see what happens.

Tim Kelley
07-17-2012, 03:38 PM
Most gels have lots of sugar, which are a fast form of energy. Carolina Brothers (MAC & CHEESE!) probably took a little while longer to digest and for the energy to hit. With cramping, be sure to get lots of salt and electrolytes--most gels don't have these.

Personally, I like gels as a supplement to plenty of other food options while out on the road. So, if you find a gel that you like and can stomach, go for it, but also take in the other stuff your body needs.

DaveK can probably tell you about his experiences this past weekend.

mstone
07-17-2012, 03:40 PM
I use electrolytes in my water, and food for energy. No need for electrolytes and sugar in one liquid.

KLizotte
07-17-2012, 03:47 PM
A 50/50 mix of water and coconut water is very good. I like it better than sports drinks, but then again, I'm not doing 80-100 mile rides in this heat either.

Tim Kelley
07-17-2012, 03:51 PM
Pete hasn't been around today, but he would say: http://www.skratchlabs.com/

KelOnWheels
07-17-2012, 04:33 PM
Back in my marathoning days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth chasing after slow-moving runners, the theory was that endurance sports limit the blood flow to your digestive system (since you're using it all for running or cycling or what have you) so eating solid food could be... problematic. That said, some people seem to do fine with it.

Other theory was that too much sugar is also tough on the digestion / can dehydrate you, so we always cut our sports drinks 50/50 with water. We'd also toss some salt in there on really hot days.

I always liked the Carb Boom gels myself. It is however my personal opinion that HEED sports drink is made from powdered Satan.

Tim Kelley
07-17-2012, 04:36 PM
It is however my personal opinion that HEED sports drink is made from powdered Satan.

Friends don't let friends drink HEED. Tastes like dish soap!

KelOnWheels
07-17-2012, 04:51 PM
Friends don't let friends drink HEED. Tastes like dish soap!

Maybe it's supposed to be cilantro flavored! ;)

mstone
07-17-2012, 04:55 PM
Other theory was that too much sugar is also tough on the digestion / can dehydrate you, so we always cut our sports drinks 50/50 with water.

If I drink too much sugary sports drink I feel sick. I can cut it with water, but then I don't get the electrolytes. I'd rather just separate the two things; the amount of water+electrolytes I can go through when it's 100+ degrees would include a coma-inducing amount of sugar if I were drinking that much gatorade.

KelOnWheels
07-17-2012, 05:00 PM
If I drink too much sugary sports drink I feel sick. I can cut it with water, but then I don't get the electrolytes. I'd rather just separate the two things; the amount of water+electrolytes I can go through when it's 100+ degrees would include a coma-inducing amount of sugar if I were drinking that much gatorade.

I always prefer water myself, sometimes I'll throw a little Gatorade powder in just for some flavor. Water gets boring.

ShawnoftheDread
07-17-2012, 06:30 PM
"Electrolytes! It's what plants crave."

KelOnWheels
07-17-2012, 06:42 PM
"Electrolytes! It's what plants crave."

Oo, what flavor is MiracleGro?

PotomacCyclist
07-17-2012, 07:36 PM
For shorter rides (and runs), perhaps anything under 90 minutes, I don't eat anything. If it's hot, I'll bring a bottle of water on the bike.

Once I start getting over the 90-120 minute mark, I'll bring some carb chews. They're basically the same as gels but not as messy. You can eat half a packet of carb chews (one serving), fold up the packet and put it back into a bento box or a rear jersey pocket. Then you can finish off the 2nd serving later in the ride. You can store the empty wrapper in the bento box/jersey pocket until you come across a garbage can.

Gels are a mess to eat while on the bike, at least for me. There is also the problem of storing the empty gel packets. Gels are a little easier to deal with on the run. But even on the run, I usually bring carb chews instead of gels. If I get tired of carb chews, I'll try sport beans once in a while. But those have a higher sugar content, so it could bother people who don't tolerate simple sugars so well. When at rest, my stomach can be sensitive to sugars (unless eaten with fiber and protein). But once I've warmed up in a workout or race, I can handle most sports drinks, gels, carb chews and sport beans.

I like to split nutrition and hydration, meaning that I won't use sports drink for calories. I tried doing that in a cold-weather long race (near-Half Ironman triathlon) and paid for it. Because it was cool (low to mid 50s), I wasn't drinking much at all, maybe one half or a full bottle for a 56-mile hard bike leg. (Lots of steep hills, one after another.) I wasn't sweating but I was still burning up a ton of calories. I felt good going into the run. But after just a mile or two, I completely bonked for the first time ever. It wasn't fatigue. I had completely run out of glycogen because I had barely taken in any calories at all on the bike. Nothing hurt. I just couldn't pick up my legs. My heart was OK. Nothing wrong there. I massaged my lower legs to see if I could somehow get some glycogen down there, somehow. That actually worked, sort of. Instead of being stationary, I was now able to shuffle along at 20:00 to 22:00 pace (per mile). Runners know that is a painfully slow pace. That's all I could do for the next half mile or so. I made it to the next aid station. I loaded up on everything I could find, from gels and carb chews to a banana and sports drink. All those quick-absorbing calories did the trick, sort of. Once you bonk, you will never be able to get back to your usual race pace that day. But you can resume a slow and steady pace. I finished the majority of the half marathon run at about 12:00 pace. Still slow, but at least much better than 20:00 pace. I kept eating a lot at every aid station. While I continued to run very slowly, I didn't have any more problems.

After the race, I loaded up on more food, from sports drink to a burrito... and a beer. (That last item was a mistake.) I felt OK once I started to restore my glycogen supplies. However, I learned that if you bonk, you may not tolerate alcohol so well. Normally one beer isn't a big deal for me. But after bonking on a near-Half Ironman (70.0 miles), that beer had an exaggerated diuretic effect. Without getting into too many details, I had to go to the portapotties every 10 minutes, even though I didn't really NEED to. It was the alcohol, and it was just one beer, or maybe half a beer. That has never happened to me. I didn't feel sick at all. I simply had to... go. Number one only.

Anyway, I use water and drink to thirst. On longer workouts, I bring carb chews. Clif Shots and GU Chomps have a mix of sugars and slower-absorbing carbs along with antioxidants and electrolytes. GU Chomps also have some amino acids, which can help with carb absorption and muscle repair during long rides. I've been OK with just carb chews and water.

I will never use Accel gels again. I tried those out my first year. They have a very high protein content. Protein means a powdery and chalky taste, and a thick consistency. Very difficult to eat during a workout or race, at least for me. Some people may like them but I can't stomach them in mid-ride.

DaveK
07-17-2012, 08:44 PM
Most gels have lots of sugar, which are a fast form of energy. Carolina Brothers (MAC & CHEESE!) probably took a little while longer to digest and for the energy to hit. With cramping, be sure to get lots of salt and electrolytes--most gels don't have these.

Personally, I like gels as a supplement to plenty of other food options while out on the road. So, if you find a gel that you like and can stomach, go for it, but also take in the other stuff your body needs.

DaveK can probably tell you about his experiences this past weekend.

SALT.

EAT MORE SALT.

I was doing my normal one bottle HEED to one bottle straight water and eating Clif bars and Lance waffles, but without a real lunch stop I didn't think to eat real food. Real food has salt in it. I started cramping pretty bad around mile 80. A pit stop for Combos and a regular Coke sorted me out for the 20 miles to get home. For future rides I'll make sure I eat plenty of salty snacks so that doesn't happen again.

jopamora
07-17-2012, 09:19 PM
"Electrolytes! It's what plants crave."

Brawndo is quality stuff.

PotomacCyclist
07-18-2012, 01:46 AM
Scientists have actually never been able to determine what causes cramping. There may even be various causes, from muscle fatigue, pushing far past one's usual limits, electrolytes, etc. Some modern researchers and coaches think that muscle fatigue has more to do with cramping than electrolytes do.

There is also a scientific debate about the effect of electrolytes (sodium) in sports drinks and other liquids:

http://sweatscience.com/electrolytes-and-overdrinking-noakes-vs-gatorade/


Here's a free podcast interview with Dr. Timothy Noakes:

http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2011/12/tim-noakes/


I don't have an advanced science background so I can't provide any expert commentary. But I think this is something to consider. Dr. Noakes is a well-known scientist and researcher in exercise and sports science. He is the author of "Lore of Running" as well as an avid marathoner and ultra runner.

JimF22003
07-18-2012, 04:31 AM
I don't think energy gels are meant to address cramping. They're just quick-acting carbs (i.e. sugar.)

I usually bring a Gu or two on a long ride. Most times I don't end up using them. I tend to go with a combination of energy bars (Clif, Powerbar) and what passes for "real food" at whatever country stores I find along the way (bananas, bags of chips, fig newtons, or even a Snickers bar.)

Toward the end of the ride I find it hard to take in solids. The idea just doesn't appeal, and I get a little queasy, especially if it's hot. Then I might have the Gu on the last leg of the trip just to give me a quick hit for the home stretch.

bluerider
07-18-2012, 07:40 AM
Thanks for all the input. I think I will experiment a little more and see what works best for me.

Tim Kelley
07-18-2012, 08:40 AM
I like to split nutrition and hydration, meaning that I won't use sports drink for calories. I tried doing that in a cold-weather long race (near-Half Ironman triathlon) and paid for it. Because it was cool (low to mid 50s), I wasn't drinking much at all, maybe one half or a full bottle for a 56-mile hard bike leg. (Lots of steep hills, one after another.) I wasn't sweating but I was still burning up a ton of calories. I felt good going into the run. But after just a mile or two, I completely bonked for the first time ever. It wasn't fatigue. I had completely run out of glycogen because I had barely taken in any calories at all on the bike. Nothing hurt. I just couldn't pick up my legs. My heart was OK. Nothing wrong there. I massaged my lower legs to see if I could somehow get some glycogen down there, somehow. That actually worked, sort of. Instead of being stationary, I was now able to shuffle along at 20:00 to 22:00 pace (per mile). Runners know that is a painfully slow pace. That's all I could do for the next half mile or so. I made it to the next aid station. I loaded up on everything I could find, from gels and carb chews to a banana and sports drink. All those quick-absorbing calories did the trick, sort of. Once you bonk, you will never be able to get back to your usual race pace that day. But you can resume a slow and steady pace. I finished the majority of the half marathon run at about 12:00 pace. Still slow, but at least much better than 20:00 pace. I kept eating a lot at every aid station. While I continued to run very slowly, I didn't have any more problems.

For racing long distance you need to come up with a nutrition plan based on the conditions and stick to it. One helpful tip is setting an alarm on your Garmin to beep at you every 15 minutes, which is your reminder to eat/drink.

5555624
07-18-2012, 09:16 AM
Back in my marathoning days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth chasing after slow-moving runners, ...

I'm glad my marathoning days were over by then -- pre-dinosaurs, we didn't have to worry about being chased by anything!

When it comes to sports drinks, I go with Powerade Zero, getting the electrolytes and skipping the sugar.

SteveTheTech
07-28-2012, 09:53 AM
This has become one of my favorite topics to couch research.

-First Endurance EFS powder and liqui-gel
-Stinger waffles
-Clif shots w/ caffeine

Without as traumatic an experience as PotomacCyclist had but one bad main event inspired me to evaluate the effects nutrition can have on a 180lb auto tech. I a, a heavy sweater and am on my feet all day so by the time I get to a workout I'm pretty beat. Having a fairly consistent workout schedule I was able to track my RPE and heart rate on the spin bike and add cadence and speed over the course of a repeating group ride.

After trying several products, started with Nuun, very simple, with a mild flavor, low sugar...but not carbs and very low sodium. Worked ok but I would notice my heart rate would steadily decrease as my RPE increased at the 30:00 mark on the dot of zone 3.5+ interval training. I still use them for running and swimming outside and in my water bottle at work on really hot days.

Then I switched to Gatorade....that lasted for 1 workout. The amount of sugar made me feel ill immediately at full strength. I did a 1:1 split once for a metric century (I left my prepared hydration in the fridge at the hotel) and although not what I had trained with it worked fairly well but I had a backup EFS to take a pull off if needed. I did end up leaving with two new Trek of Raleigh bottles to add to my collection.

I tried Hammer for a few weeks. I too did not care for Heed and the consistency and sodium content of their gels.

The poor results I experienced with what I thought was the best product on the market (according to the enthusiastic athletes on TV) led me hunt for something to meet my needs. I started using First Endurance after reading some of the independent research on their products and found it to match my sweat output and sodium needs better than the other products out there at that time. It has a mild taste and dissolves easily, it tastes like it has less salt than Heed. Each serving contains about a hundred calories and 24g of carbs and 300mg of sodium per serving. Every hour of an extended ride I supplement with either 1/4 of a bottle of EFS shot or a waffle (alternating). I also carry a 100 calorie pack of plain almonds for protein.

And always chocolate milk afterwards 1+hr or a workout of any length over 85 degrees. I feel like without that I would be useless on work days following particularly hard efforts.

PotomacCyclist
07-28-2012, 03:20 PM
For racing long distance you need to come up with a nutrition plan based on the conditions and stick to it. One helpful tip is setting an alarm on your Garmin to beep at you every 15 minutes, which is your reminder to eat/drink.
That was my first ever long race in cool conditions. It was also my first year of longer races. I figured out the mistake: not enough calories because I relied on sports drink. I just wasn't thirsty that day so I didn't drink much.

I've noticed that I don't drink that much nowadays. So I will continue to rely on carb chews or gels for calories during long workouts or races. I stick to a schedule with the carb chews and drink to thirst. (More coaches and scientists are beginning to recommend that athletes drink to thirst instead of trying to force in a specific amount of liquid each hour.) On cool days, I've gone 3 or 4 hours on the bike and barely finished off half a bottle of water, but I still keep to the calorie schedule. The only adjustment is that on less intense rides, I don't need to take in as many calories as during a hard workout or race.

I don't have any long bike races this year so bike race nutrition isn't as vital for me in 2012. Other than the Crystal Ride this summer (which went well), my longest bike race is going to be the Nation's Triathlon. I'll be riding relatively fast and hard but the bike leg isn't going to be that long. I'll try to take in carb chews every 20-30 minutes, which means 2 or 3 times during the ride. I'm not going to bonk during an Olympic triathlon at this point.

Then next year, I'll see what my schedule looks like. I have no idea right now what races I'll do next year. I'll be interested to see if they try to start the National Harbor 70.3 over again. 70.3 would likely be my longest race distance next year. Shouldn't be a problem if I find an appropriate race.

As for the rest of this year, fueling for the Marine Corps Marathon will be foremost on my mind in terms of race nutrition. I can't eat as much on the run as I can on the bike. I'm already used to longer runs, so I'll follow what I've been doing already. Maybe 100 calories about every 25 minutes. (I don't weight that much so I don't need to eat as much as a bigger athlete.)