How To Choose The Best Running Gels

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

Running Gels should be easy to ingest. The purpose of a running gel is to provide immediate energy for working muscles in order to sustain and enhance workout performance. These not only come in handy during a typical 5 plus mile run, but in the middle of a sports event such as soccer, football, track, or just about any sport which requires demanding energy for an extended period of time. These shots are small in volume and dense with macro nutrients. The first step in choosing an effective running gel is to look for the carbohydrate amount. Carbs should typically fall within 20-30 grams per shot. This number is important because too little carbs and it doesn't fully impact your run. Too many carbs and you risk indigestion during your run which can be very uncomfortable and can actually hinder your run.

Step 2

After targeting the carb range, look on the ingredient deck to see what type of carbs they are. When running you do not want solely complex carbohydrates. Look for mainly simple carbohydrates with a portion of complex carbohydrates (20-30%-sometimes this is hard to find based on the label). Simple carbohydrates sources are dextrose and maltodextrin. Both of these digest rapidly and will provide immediate energy with little stress on the digestive track. Simple carbs alone won't be enough. Also look for slower digesting carbs to help sustain your workout activity. This is very important to keep your run strong for an extended period, because the body will break down these sources of carbs more slowly than dextrose or maltodextrin. More complex sources are Fructose, Trehalose, and even sugar. Sugar, actually has a G.I (glycemic index) that is moderate (around 60)- meaning that it won't break down and be absorbed in the blood stream as quickly as other sources explained above. To summarize this step, look for two sources of carbs: either dextrose or maltodextrin, and sugar,trehalose or fructose in a running gel

Step 3

Have you ever had to end a workout short because a muscle was cramping up? The next area to look for (and very important one) is the electrolyte content of the running gel. Electrolytes are powerful ions which ensure proper muscle contraction and relaxation. Without enough electrolytes, your workouts come to a screeching halt. Electrolytes include potassium, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, and calcium. All of these minerals work together to provide an optimal environment for maximum muscle performance. Running gels will typically contain potassium, choline (in the form of potassium chloride) and sodium. You should make sure the running gel contains these two minerals- since they are the two most likely to become depleted during the run. The amount doesn't have to be large- only 60-100 mg of both sodium and potassium is a good number to go by. Ideally, you want to find one that also contains some magnesium and calcium (but can be hard to find). I would suggest you take magnesium (400 mg in divided doses daily) and calcium (1 g in divided doses daily) to ensure you will be covered during your activity with all essential electrolytes.

Step 4

The last area which should be considered when choosing a running gel is the caffeine content. Most gels in the past have not included this, however recently products have adapted and are including a small amount of caffeine with these running gels. I personally have had great results with the caffeinated version of the gels while doing alot of outdoor activities. The caffeine will give a small boost in workout performance and prevent fatigue more so than only carbs and electrolytes alone. However, the caffeine amount should not be high as excessive caffeine can be dehydrating to the body- especially during a run. Look for 25-50 mg of caffeine per shot for that extra boost. I found that to be just the right amount to keep the run or activity going strong with out the excessive stimulation.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

Most of these gels work best with some water taken after them. If possible, drink 8 oz. of water to help assimilation the nutrients.

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I have a neighbor who is an avid runner who swears by running gels to keep his run going strong and lasting. I was recently talking with him in how he keeps his 10 mile runs going strong and consistent. He runs just about every day so his body needs to be able to recover properly for his next session. Until recently, he never decided to use running gels to keep his pace up, however, after he used them, he noticed an increase in his running stamina- and claims it to be a key aspect in keeping his runs strong and recover consistent.

When did you first do this & how did you get started?

I've worked with running gels for the past few years- both professionally and on a personal level.

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