Hydration and Proper Energy Gel Usage
The key to optimum performance with energy gels
Before building an energy gel into your training and competition program, it is critical to understand the importance of proper hydration.
Water – Don’t Gel Without It
Water is the key to proper gel usage, whether you are using e-Gel or one of our competitor’s products. Gels are absorbed in your small intestine, and water is the transport vehicle that allows this to occur. If you fall behind on your water intake during longer workouts, you run the risk of dehydration, delayed benefits from the gel and possible stomach irritation.
When ever you consume energy gel you should follow it with enough water to properly flush it down. Usually a few swallows is sufficient. However, it is important to understand that each pack of e-Gel will take approximately 14 ounces of water along with it when it enters your cellular system. If you are properly “pre-hydrated” before your workout you will have 20 to 30 ounces of available water in your stomach and intestinal tract. This water can be used to assimilate the gel. If you fail to replace this water over time then you will become dehydrated and your performance will suffer as a result.
Translated, in workouts where you are using multiple packs of e-Gel, we strongly recommend that you drink 14 ounces of water before you rip open your second pack (and so on). For example, if you down your gel with 4 ounces of water, you should consume an additional 10 ounces over the course of the next 30 to 60 minutes before moving on to your next gel pack.
If that seems like a lot of water, you’re not alone. The majority of endurance athletes fail to drink sufficient amounts of fluids during competition to remain properly hydrated. Nutritionists typically recommend drinking 16 to 32 ounces of water per hour. Studies have shown that even moderate dehydration can negatively impact your performance. Therefore, it is recommended that you learn to drink during long training sessions and competition – whether or not you are using an energy gel.
What about Sports Drinks?
Most leading sports drinks (including e-Fuel) are designed to provide hydration, energy and electrolyte replacement. While these products can work great alone, they can cause problems when used in conjunction with energy gels. When a gel is mixed with a typical sports drink, the combined solution is more concentrated than your body fluids (hypertonic). This can result in delayed gel absorption and potential dehydration and stomach irritation. If you want to use a sports drink and energy gels during the same workout, we strongly recommend that you also consume plain water to adequately dilute your gel. One alternative is to use gels and water during one stage of the workout and then a sports drink later in the workout.
Depending on the concentration, an ingested fluid can be either hypotonic, isotonic or hypertonic:
a solution that is less concentrated than your body fluids
Hypotonic solutions such as water do a good job of hydrating your body. Unfortunately they bring very little, if any, energy and electrolyte replacement benefits into the cellular system.
a solution that is approximately equal in concentration to your body fluids
Isotonic solutions can also provide rapid hydration, and they have the potential advantage of bringing significant energy and electrolyte replacement benefits into the cellular system.
a solution that is more concentrated than your body fluids
Hypertonic solutions can have several times more energy than isotonic solutions depending on their concentration level. All energy gels, including e-Gel, are extremely hypertonic. Hypertonic solutions need to be diluted down at least to an isotonic concentration before they can be absorbed.
What this means if you use energy gel
If you don’t ingest water (or another hypotonic solution) to dilute the gel, then your body will dilute it for you. It does this by drawing upon available water in your stomach and intestinal tract. If necessary it will also draw from your cellular system (that’s bad). The result is potential dehydration, delayed benefits from the gel and possible stomach irritation.
Isotonic and hypertonic sports drinks can not by themselves dilute an energy gel down to the required isotonic state – the combined solution will remain hypertonic. Therefore, to ensure optimum performance with energy gels, proper water consumption is critical.