WHEN SPORTS SUPPLEMENTS MATTER – Gels, Chews, and Bars
Q: Why Do We Need Sport Supplements?
A: The faster you run, the more you need replenishment of carbohydrates.
Proper sports nutrition matters. Your body uses two primary sources of fuel to feed the muscles when you’re running – fat and carbohydrates. Fat is an abundant resource, that slowly breaks down into useable energy, typically over long periods of time, and at low intensities – such as walking. When we’re running at higher intensities, our body demands energy quickly, preferring to use readily-available carbohydrates stored in your muscles as glycogen. Therefore, carbohydrates are your number one fuel source during a race. As a general rule the faster you run, the more your fuel will come from carbohydrates.
Sadly, we can only store enough carbs for about 90 minutes of running at half marathon pace and about 2 hours when running at marathon pace. That is why we need to be consuming fuel as we are running. When glycogen is digested, it goes through the intestinal wall and is absorbed by the muscles. Although sports supplements won’t inject glycogen directly into your muscles, these quick carbohydrates will make you feel more invigorated. This “second wind” feeling comes from your body having more readily digestible and useable energy in the bloodstream.
Q: How often should you use Energy Gels, Chews or Bars?
A: At least once every hour.
If you are running beyond 75 minutes, do not wait until you are already tired or hungry. By that time, your stomach will have already shut down and it will be tough to recover. The goal is to take in 45-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour of running, and take in some sort of energy supplement at least every 30 minutes. Start taking in fuel after 30 minutes of hitting the pavement and ingest a little more every 30 minutes. The idea is to keep your energy level steady and stop fatigue and hunger before it stops you. You do not want to intake more than one full gel every 45-60 minutes. Consider alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine energy gels too to ensure you don’t take in too much caffeine.
Should I take an energy supplement BEFORE a race? – Physiologically it is fine, but look for sources with low sugar contents to minimize a crash later on.
Q: What liquids should I consume?
A: Always-Be-Drinking-Water, sports drinks have too much sugar.
Be sure to wash down those carbs with a sip of water. Do not chase an energy gel, chew, or any carb-heavy fuel with sports drinks, which have carbs and sugars, too. Too many carbs into your gut at one time will send you dashing for the nearest toilet, and these simple sugars will be absorbed first into your blood stream as glucose, which will give you a sugar-high stomachache.
Q: What Energy Supplement should I use?
A: The most important part is to like what you are taking.
Don’t get oversold at the supplement store. The best supplements for you are the ones you respond best to. As you try out new nutritional supplements during your training runs, keep track of what you took and how you felt afterward. Did you get a burst of energy or feel sluggish? Did you hit a wall? Did your stomach get upset?
Each product has its own unique blend of sugar and other ingredients, so try several different flavors and brands, to determine which product gives you a boost without upsetting your stomach. It’s possible that your stomach shutdown during the latter half of the race, so try eating only a small portion of the gel, but in quicker intervals. For example, eat 1/4 of the packet every 20 minutes. If you’re training for a race, try the brand that will be offered at aid stations at the race to determine if that works for you.
- – Energy chews: Bite-size with about five grams of carbs per chew
- – Energy gel: Approximately 25g of carbohydrates = 45 minutes of running but taking two at a time doesn’t mean you’ll have 90 minutes of running, instead you’re likely to crash as your body attempts to process the sugar
- – Energy bar: 22 to 50 grams of carbs, plus some electrolytes and protein
Supplement ingredients to look for that help boost performance:
- – Electrolytes: Replace lost minerals
- – Caffiene: Open up your blood vessels, speeding up the delivery of nutrients and giving your mind and motivation a little boost too
- – Flavors: Can come from super-food sources like berries which are rich in antioxidants to help clear the muscles of waste products
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