Gels vs Sports Drinks – what does research say?

gel-vs-drinkA recent study of nine well-trained triathletes looked at the difference in exercise performance when taking either a carbohydrate-rich liquid or gel.   participated in this randomized crossover study. Each participant completed a 60-min swim, 180 min bike exercise, and a 60-min all-out run in a laboratory environment

In the randomized crossover study, each participant completed a 60-min swim, 180 min bike exercise, and a 60-min all-out run in a laboratory environment.

Although exercise performance, lactate levels, and respiratory exchange ratio remained the same regardless of whether the athletes used liquids or gels.

What was interesting was seven of the nine athletes reported gastric distress when using gels whereas no one had a problem on the liquid regime.

There are two significant findings that we can all take away from this.

  1. You won’t get a performance boost from a gel over a liquid or vice-versa assuming they are delivering the same amount of carbohydrate to you.
  2. It’s important to find what works for you. Clearly the gut issues most of the tested athletes were hit with indicate that it’s critical to find something that works for you.

I prefer to go with liquids, having tried gels in the past although that’s more a taste thing rather than because of any gastrointestinal issues.

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