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Energy Gels: A Great Tasting Way to Sustain Energy

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Energy Gels: A Great Tasting Way to Sustain Energy

Energy Gel Introduction

Many endurance athletes are discovering that energy gels are a better way to receive the carbohydrates needed to sustain their energy levels during endurance activities. Energy gels are easy to use, quick to digest and with great tasting flavors like CarbBoom!'s Vanilla Orange, Apple Cinnamon and Grape Pomegranate, there is no need to compromise on taste.

Energy Gels Overview

What are energy gels?

Energy gels are best described as a hybrid of sports drinks and energy bars. Combining aspects of both, gels are power packed with a super concentrated dose of carbohydrates contained in a palatable and viscous consistency. Because of their quick absorption into the bloodstream, gels are preferred by many athletes since they are quick acting and are not “heavy on the stomach.” Energy gels are less likely to cause gastrointestinal distress which can sometimes be associated with drinks or bars.

The majority of energy gels are sold in 1.1 to 1.9 oz. flexible packets (CarbBoom! Energy Gels® are slightly larger at 1.4oz.). Depending on the brand, gels provide 90 to 110 calories per serving and between 20 to 28 grams of carbohydrates. Each serving of gel provides enough ‘fuel’ to supply about 30-45 minutes of energy during physical activity.

Energy Gel Comparison

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Fats and carbohydrates are the two best sources of energy found in the human body. Fat is the largest source, while carbohydrate stores lag behind significantly. Carbohydrates, however, provide the best and most readily available source of energy for the body during exercise.

A 150 lb. person with 15 percent body fat has a large amount of energy stored as fat. If a person of this size did not ingest any food during exercise and if fat were the only fuel used during exercise, stored fat could support physical activity for almost seven days! If however, we take the same 150 lb. person and if carbohydrates were the only fuel used during moderate exercise, carbohydrate stores would only support physical activity for about two hours.  Unfortunately, fat is not able to support exercise above a very moderate level (>60% VO2max) due to the slowness of fat mobilization and other limiting factors. Since most athletes train at intensities higher than this, a supply of fuel other than fat must be available to the body. This preferred energy source is carbohydrate.

Carbohydrate is found in the body in two main forms, glycogen and glucose. Glycogen is a highly branched molecule made up of multiple glucose units and is stored in muscle and liver cells. Glucose, the body’s preferred energy source, is found in blood. Because we have limited stores of carbohydrates and because carbohydrates are the best energy source during moderate to heavy exercise, it is imperative that carbohydrates be ingested during exercise in order to perform at the highest levels possible.

So how does carbohydrate ingestion improve endurance performance?

During activity lasting longer than 60 minutes, glycogen levels begin to diminish. There is a progressive shift from muscle glycogen over to blood glucose as the body’s primary fuel source. When muscle glycogen levels are low, the consumption of carbohydrate serves to maintain proper levels of blood glucose and delay the onset of fatigue. In addition to this mechanism, carbohydrate ingestion also exerts its benefits at higher intensities of exercise by delaying and/or preventing muscle glycogen depletion (otherwise known as glycogen sparing).

When should energy gels be used and how often should they be consumed?

Energy gels can benefit competitive athletes, recreational athletes, diabetics and anyone else looking for a quick source of energy. They are ideal for sports like triathlons, running, cycling, swimming, tennis, soccer, football….the list goes on and on. In order to gain the performance advantage of carbohydrates, it is recommended that ~30-60 grams be consumed per hour during physical activity. This translates into one to two servings of energy gels during each hour of exercise.

For first time gel users, determining the optimal timing and amount of energy gel to take can be confusing. As a general rule, it is recommended the following ‘dose schedule’ be used as a guide.

For activity lasting less than two hours:

Consume one energy gel 15-30 minutes prior to the start of the activity. Take a second energy gel 45-60 minutes into the activity (during half time of the soccer match, at the three to four mile mark of the half marathon, etc).

For activity lasting more than two hours:

Consume one energy gel 15-30 minutes prior to the start of the activity. Consume one energy gel one hour into the activity. Take subsequent gels every 30-45 minutes for the duration of exercise.

Tips and tricks to remember:

Find an energy gel and a flavor which tastes great to you since you'll be using them successively on sizzling hot, humid days, cold rainy mornings and every kind of weather in between. Look for gels which contain real fruit (like CarbBoom! Enery Gels) rather than just artificial flavorings because it makes sense to consume a gel your taste buds will enjoy as much as your working muscles.

Keep in mind that every athlete is different. You’ll need to experiment to find your body’s optimal regimen for gel intake. Pack energy gels with you on several training sessions and try taking them at different times and in different amounts to determine what system works best for you.

Water, water, water! With any type of exercise it’s very important to stay properly hydrated. Water helps replenish fluids lost from sweating and provides optimal absorption for the carbohydrates. Roughly 8 to 10 ounces of water should be consumed along with each serving of gel. Make sure to have a water bottle or time the consumption of a gel with a water source nearby.

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Prettiest - biased - 5K route in the country

Welcome to my route.  I am not a big runner, but I do run a fair amount.  When I am not training for something specific, I run exactly 5K about 4 days a week.  Always in the AM.  Swimming and biking on the other days.  Some days include two of the three.  I enjoy running - somewhat - but I also travel a lot and have come to realize I really don't like to run when I am out of town. More of a chore or a task than an enjoyable exercise. Although I have been running my route for many years it finally came to me in one of those "blinding glimpses of the obvious" that I get from time to time.   My daily route is really the prettiest and nicest 5K anywhere. A real joy that I am thankful to have.  Anywhere else I run is not nearly as nice and comes up short!  So I thought I would attempt to share it with you. (I of course " boom! branded" my route!)

I live in historic Gates Mills, Ohio - part of Western Reserve (Connecticut) first settled in 1796.  Nestled in the Chagrin Valley, my route runs along the Chagrin River and includes notable local landmarks such as the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club, Old Livery Tavern and St. Christopher By-the-River Church and includes the old mill race, horses, polo fields, split rail fences, stone walls and white picket fences protecting beautiful white Western Reserve houses.  "Downtown" Gates Mills, with the town hall, the post office, library and Sara's Place restaurant is just a treat.

A little challenging, the first 1.5 miles is mostly slightly uphill with the biggest problem keeping an eye out for the occasional horse manure on the road.  Very few cars, an occasional cyclist.  The last 300 meters or so is straight uphill to my finish line.  It is an out and back 5K, but there are a number of other places to go to easily turn this into a 8-10 mile scenic run. 

Thanks for watching (I'll do better on the quality next time) and feel free to show me your route!  Boom!

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Endurance Athlete Injuries and Prevention

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Endurance Athlete Injuries and Prevention

Injuries are scary to think about, so many of just don't think about them. But it's important to take the necessary preventative measures to make sure we're able to run, bike, and swim as long as our hearts desire. Here are the most common injuries endurance athletes experience and steps we can take to prevent them from happening. 

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Kinesiology Tape

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Kinesiology Tape

Have you been hearing about the tape fad? Kinesiology tape can be hugely beneficial for the endurance athlete, but it's definitely a science to be mastered. Here we explore the various benefits of adding this technique to your routine. 

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Transitioning to Triathlons

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Transitioning to Triathlons

Sick of just one sport? Ready to move on to the next level? Triathlons may be in your near future, but it's important to transition at your own pace. Read more to learn about transitioning to triathlons. 

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Jason McFaul Kona Training Camp

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It was time to run 13.4 miles, which included the Natural Energy Lab. The Natural Energy Lab is . . . HOT. 

One thing I learned from Keish is there's no dilly-dallying.  He parked his car on Palani, and before I'd activated my Garmin, he was already running up Palani toward the Queen K.  Perhaps it was the days of compounded training, or just the fairly oppressive heat, but I wasn't in the mood to run. 

Herein lies one of the benefits of a training partner. Keish was already halfway up the hill. I needed to catch him. 

The Queen K is essentially a highway bordered by black lava rocks. It is desolate. It is solitary. And if you dare look at the faces of the motorists driving past you, they have a look like "Why would anybody run right now?  It's hot. It's humid. It's windy". 

And therein lies the answer. August is the hottest, windiest month of the year. We are preparing for the Ironman World Championship. There is no better place, and no better time, than right here . . . and right now. 

It's about 5 miles from Palani -- along the Queen K -- to the Natural Energy Lab. These 5 miles are lonely, with long climbs and slow descents. It doesn't help to look forward, as progress doesn't reveal itself. And while there is a tailwind, the lava rocks refuse to lean forward like flowers and trees. So you feel something on your back -- it could be a push forward, or it could be a warning. 

I turn on my music. Try to find a rhythm. Work on the things I can control:  my breathing, my stride, foot strike, and cadence. 

I began with a full water bottle. I have half a bottle left with 3 miles to the Natural Energy Lab. 


I know there is a water fountain at the Visitors Center. I dig deep, but I also do so sparingly, as the Natural Energy Lab has a reputation for compelling people to dig deeper. 

My pace is reasonable. 7-7:30/mile as I make a left turn into the Natural Energy Lab. This place is legendary for zapping what strength remains from even the toughest competitors. A few years ago on the NBC Broadcast of the Hawaii Ironman, Andreas Raelert was featured in this section, described as "a hydration science project". Sweat didn't drop from his face. It flowed. Like a waterfall. 

I fill my bottle at the Visitors Center, knowing that I need to run approximately 1.5 miles (1 mile down to the ocean with a headwind, and then .5 mile along the beach until I reach the turnaround).  

 

I run on the edge of the asphalt, which is reputedly releasing heat in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Cars drive toward me, moving to their left in order to afford me extra space. A few give me the Shaka (hang-loose sign). I interpret this to mean I've been accepted as a temporary resident on the Big Island. Or that my shoulders are tense and I need to loosen up a bit. 

I get to the turnaround and prepare to do some real work. I squeeze an Apple Cinnamon carb-BOOM! into my mouth, chase it with a hearty blast of lukewarm water, and run toward the hottest one mile of the course. There is a crosswind coming from the ocean, but once I make the left turn into the heart of the Natural Energy Lab, it's one hot uphill mile. 

I look to the solar panels atop the Visitors Center. They do not appear to get any closer. So I count steps, try to find a rhythm, and compel myself forward with the promise of water when I complete this climb. 

The water finally comes, and after I fill my bottle, I turn right onto the Queen K for 5 miles. There is a fierce headwind, but it feels so good. My shirt is soaked. My shorts are soaked. The hot wind cools my body. 

The closer I get to Palani, the more emotional I become. I see Mark Allen and Dave Scott gutting it out during the 1989 Iron War. I see Rick and Dick Hoyt. I see Paula, Chrissie, Rinny. I see suffering and triumph.  

I'm almost to Palani when Keish pulls his car onto the shoulder. I know this is the right way to end today's run. I haven't earned the right to make that turn into town, where dreams are finally realized along Ali'i Drive.  

I'm hoping, though, that on October 11, I will make that turn.  And experience what many consider the greatest quarter mile in triathlon. 

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