Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gels for the Long Haul

After racing Kansas, I learned a lot about nutrition and holding fuel for 5+ hours. Too bad I didn't learn this beforehand, because I failed at holding it together well. But, like any competition, you live and learn. In the months leading up to Kansas I tried so many supplements, gels, and drinks it could make your head spin. Some of them made mine! But here would be my picks for a long race/training day.
Every product listed contain the same sort of ingredients, and claim (unless noted) to have the same effect. It's really down to personal choice when it come to nutrition, so here are mine.

1. GU Original chocolate and vanilla: With a hint of caffeine, but equally important, a good taste and consistency, these are a good go to option for a 2-3 hour day. Worth noting these are the only two flavors of GU I actually like, having sampled quite a few. Stay away from blackberry and strawberry-banana and you're golden.
2. Hammer Nutrition raspberry: No caffeine in this one, but I love the flavor. Hammer misses the mark with their vanilla and chocolate, vanilla is sickly sweet and chocolate is too bitter for my taste, but nail the raspberry and other fruit flavors. A little thicker than GU, but still easy to get down with a pleasant texture.
3. Powerbar strawberry-banana: This is my third and final pick. It's not a perfect gel by any stretch of the imagination, for me it's too sweet, but it's the only flavor of Powerbar I can stand. The reason I have it listed is because the consistency is so much more thin that I find when I'm struggling, this is my go-to because I can "drink" one relatively easily.

1. Skratch Labs raspberry: For me, this is the ultimate drink mix. Everything claimed about Skratch has proven true, time and time again. It's not overly sweet, it's not syrupy, it's just...well, perfect. The flavor is wonderfully refreshing, simply because it's almost underwhelming. With products like Gatorade or Ironman Perform (made by Powerbar) what often occurs is called "flavor fatigue" where athletes no longer want to ingest a product because the flavor has become overwhelming after the athlete ingests large amounts. Skratch has a light flavor profile. It's also easy to drink a large amount without bloating or other GI distress because Skratch focuses on sodium levels and keeping them regulated during exercise. It's not a calorie drink, however, it's an electrolyte drink, so bring something else to fuel with.
2. Powerbar (Ironman) Perform orange: This is on almost every Ironman event because well, Powerbar is a major sponsor. But it's also one of the only other things I'll drink and stomach okay. It's also ideal because it has a 6:1 carb to protein mix (Orange is designated as the "recovery" Perform), which your body needs after around 1.5 hours of exercise. I like it because it tastes a helluva lot like Tang, too.

Let's be honest: These things are basically expensive fruit snacks. In fact, I'd bet that I would run better with fruit snacks than these name brand chews. I also despise them for their texture, difficulty to eat, etc, but nothing personal, they might work for you.

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