Sports Gel 101 - Everything You Need to Know

Sports Gel 101 - Everything You Need to Know

First things first, what is a sports or energy gel? Simply put - a compact source of carbohydrate (carbs) allowing us access to fast energy while on the go.

Interestingly this energy isn’t limited to working muscles but also feeds the brain which is ideal for those mind over matter challenges race day can throw at us.

Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of your gels. 

  • Why do we need to use gels? To get energy quickly during exercise. Gels have simple carbs in the form of maltodextrin, which is absorbed easily and quickly and is used as fuel for muscles. Be aware some gels have different mixes and forms of carbs and/or additives. Fructose can be more likely to cause stomach upsets.

  • When do I use gels? During exercise. Gels are a great option anytime you need to fuel muscles while exercising which is generally endurance exercise over 90 minutes or shorter duration high-intensity exercise. Most gels contain around 25 grams of carbohydrate which for the majority of us equates to approximately one third to half of our carb needs per hour.

  • Make sure you test in training. Many athletes save gels for race day, this is a big gamble and breaks the golden rule of practicing race day nutrition in training. So use your long sessions to practice with gels, this should include varying flavours, timings, quantities and inclusion of caffeine to make sure you feel comfortable using the gels and they work for you.

  • Start ahead of the field, start your fuelling early. Gels are commonly used 10-15 minutes before the start gun sounds to elevate blood sugar levels and spare stored muscle fuel.

  • Spread the load. Our bodies can only absorb so much carbohydrate at once, so figure out how many you plan to use and spread them out (and other carbohydrate sources) evenly over each hour.

  • Don't forget to hydrate. Gels are predominantly a carb source. Although these are usually taken with fluid you still need to hydrate especially during endurance events over 90 minutes.

  • On-the-go caffeine. As much as we would all love a wee latte break during our race, gels provide a fast and practical way to get some caffeine into your nutrition plan. This tends to be required towards the business end of the race but be sure to consume 30-45 mins before you need it or spread it out over the course of the day. It may be handy to note selected PURE gels contain 30mg of caffeine, which is approximately one-third of a single espresso shot. So the good news is on race day you can swap your latte for caffeinated gels! 

  • Do you have higher carbohydrate requirements. For durations over 2 hours or high intensity racing you may benefit from aiming higher with your carbohydrates. PURE Performance Plus Race Fuel is designed as a multi source of carbohydrates and supplies 90g of carbohydrate per serve. 


 Duration Carbohydrate Target Comments
<30 minutes Not required
30 – 60 minutes Small amounts including mouth rinsing
  • The main benefit from rinsing with carbohydrates comes from the interaction with the CNS (Central Nervous System) and brain to reduce perceived effort (Burke, 2010).
60 – 120 minutes 30 – 60g per hour
  • Aim to consume carbohydrates during this duration.
  • There is no need to mix the type of carbs, but a higher glucose concentration will increase blood sugars and increase availability to energy.
120+ minutes  Up to 90g per hour
  • Higher intakes are associated with increased performance
  • Carbs need to be from mixed food sources for intakes greater than 60g per hour. Gels can be taken in addition to hydration, chews or other foods
  • PURE Performance Plus Race Fuel is a mixed carb option providing 90g carbs per serving
  • Caffeinated gels, (rinse and swallow) prior to an intense part and training or racing, will be beneficial with increased intensity
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