Why are sports nutrition and supplements needed and how to use them

This is the very first installment of a series on supplements and nutrition for athletes. There are many of them and even experienced runners aren’t always aware of the negative effects or efficiency of different methods. In this set of guides, we’ll aid novices to navigate the world of nutrition for athletes and show others how, what, and when it’s effective (spoiler that not all of it works).

We’ll start with the nutrition needed for events (the season is, after all) In subsequent issues, we’ll discuss minerals and vitamins amino acids, as well as herbal remedies.

What time do you require food during the course?

It’s much easier to know which ones to avoid If the total run time of fewer than 90 minutes then the pace is slow, and you’re not hungry when you begin.

In any other situation (a long run, only a little of carbs in your food or a fast pace, they didn’t consume food prior to the start) You can make an area to store gels or other snacks.

Carbohydrates are the primary sources of energy and are particularly important during intense exercise like sports competitions. These are stored glycogen that is stored within the liver, muscles, and blood. In average, this reserve is sufficient for a period of about 3 hours of running, based on the person’s level of training and the extent to which the metabolism of fats can be “pumped” into him.

Additionally, glycogen stores are depleted, blood sugar levels fall and we hit a similar “marathon wall” – it is difficult to run, and dizziness and weakness develop heart rate increases but the pace decreases. The body begins to use fat, but it is slow as it requires greater oxygen. A lot of runners at this point stop and take a step back or quit the race. To avoid this occurring, gels or other carbohydrate-based nutrients are utilized in long-distance races.

Which is better, gels or bars?

It is dependent on the circumstances. The aim of both items is the same, to give you nutrition when you are working out for a long time. However, the form for submission differs from the other forms:

  • the gel is a type of carbohydrate that begins working rapidly and can be finished fairly quickly. Apart from carbs, the bars are also a source of proteins, fats and fiber and are a lot more nutritious than regular food. They absorb more slowly as well as they consume more calories and require energy for digestion.
  • The gel is an extremely thick and fatty liquid the bar is solid. It is not everyone’s cup of tea when running.
  • Scientists claim that the strength is greater when gels are used, and nausea, abdominal discomfort, and feeling full in stomachs are more likely to happen when you drink bars.

Bars are best for long-term low-intensity, long-term exercise or for those who can relax and consume food. Gels are best for fast-paced activities, in which you have to be able to burn calories quickly and in a hurry.

Does composition matter?

Yes! The main components of the gels are glucose, fructose and maltodextrin.

Glucose is actively absorbed directly from the intestines by special carrier proteins, immediately enters the bloodstream and from there into the cells.

Fructose absorbed passively, i.e. slowly. Cells cannot use fructose itself – it is either converted to glucose in the intestines or broken down into a usable form in the liver. Therefore, it is absorbed longer, extending the period of carbohydrate intake.

For this reason, pure fructose can cause digestive problems, but when consumed together with glucose, it is absorbed faster and more completely, reducing the risk of unpleasant effects.

Maltodextrin – a set of carbohydrates of different lengths, consisting of several (from 2 to 20) glucose molecules. A starch derivative. It stimulates peristalsis, so that it enters the intestines very quickly, where it breaks down into glucose – and enters the blood and cells just as quickly. It has a higher glycemic index than pure glucose. The fastest carb.

The main difference between the gels is in the ratio of glucose, fructose and maltodextrin.

For example, in this review, the most effective ratio is 0.5 to 1 part fructose to 1 part glucose or maltodextrin (compared to consuming one type of carbohydrate).

Here, the 0.8:1 ratio (in beverages) was found to be the most effective.

On the other hand, during long loads, such as triathlon, there is almost no difference in the results and sensations of the gels with and without fructose.

In general, scientists are inclined to believe that the combination of glucose (or maltodextrin) and fructose allows better absorption of carbohydrates and with a minimum of unpleasant sensations.

How to choose a bar and a gel?

Pay attention not only to the ratio of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, but also to the composition, and in gels – to the ratio of glucose and fructose:

  • The fiber (dietary fiber) in the bars takes a lot of energy to break down. It is desirable that a bar contains no more than 3 grams of fiber.
  • Sweeteners allow manufacturers to add a cute “Sugar Free” label. They are safe, but if you do not consume them regularly, they can cause digestive problems. In addition, sugar is an additional source of fast carbohydrates, for which everything is launched.
  • green tea extract, guarana and other forms of caffeine improve performance but increase calorie expenditure. And not all of them are well tolerated. Start with a small amount of caffeine (about 25mg) and increase as you feel comfortable.
  • pay attention to the amount of carbohydrates in the gel. For a slow run, 30 grams per session is enough, for a fast run, 45-60 are needed.

How to use?

  • be sure to try the gel in training! Sometimes they want to leave you right away. Their regular use for at least two weeks helps to accustom the body to the gels and reduce discomfort.
  • eat the gel in small portions, try to mix it as much as possible with saliva.
  • eat the first gel 30-40 minutes after starting and eat one every 30-40 minutes. Do not wait for hunger – then the gel will no longer help.
  • drink the gel with water. Ideally, you should drink a few sips of water before the freeze and more after. But in real life, it’s convenient to eat a gel when you see a hydration point approaching where you can drink.

Is it possible to replace them with something or do it yourself?

Enough. As a substitute, you can take fresh or dried fruit (bananas are everything for us), but again – if you feel comfortable chewing them on the go. Another good alternative is liquid-filled jellybeans like Mad Bee.

For comparison – the (slightly reduced) composition of Carbosneck and jelly candies:

Carboneck: water, glucose, maltodextrin, taurine, glycine, xanthan gum thickener, malic and citric acid, flavoring, beta-carotene coloring.

Bee: starch syrup (aka maltodextrin), sugar (glucose + fructose), sorbitol, gelling agent carrageenan (vegetable), citric acid, flavors, vegetable fat, colors. 79 grams of carbs per 100 grams of candy is nearly equal to 2 Carbosnecks. 5 candies = 1 Carbosnack.

Gummy Bears: molasses (maltodextrin), sugar, gelatin (protein, and even useful for the joints), water-retaining agent sorbitol syrup, acidity corrector: mixture of lactic and citric acids, concentrated juices, flavorings, colorings. 75 grams of carbohydrates per 100 gr. sweets – almost 2 Karbosneck.

Gels and energy bars for runners

Snickers or other chocolate bars will not fit. They are absorbed slowly and cause blood to be redistributed from the muscles to the digestive system for digestion.

Do it yourself – it is quite possible, if you wish and have free time. Regular honey will already get you to the finish line, but it only contains glucose and fructose, and we also want maltodextrin. Minerals contained in honey are also not enough – to compensate for losses, add sea salt or rehydron powder.

We can get maltodextrin by adding molasses (also called molasses) to our mix. This will have to be a bit confusing, it can’t be found in supermarkets, but olx is full of advertisements. You need molasses for cooking (there are technical varieties, they are not tasty at all). A bonus in molasses is a lot of potassium, which is also useful to us.

Gels and energy bars for runners

In total, we mix:

  • 7 ⅓ tablespoons honey
  • ¾ teaspoon molasses
  • a pinch of salt or rehydron (about 1 gram or 1/10 teaspoon)

And we figure out how to take it with us (a relatively convenient option for an example is small bags with a zipper). Recipe taken from here.


Energy gels are a convenient and affordable source of carbs for runs lasting more than 90 minutes at a fast pace.

It is probably best to choose gels with a combination of glucose and fructose.

Accustom the body to gels gradually, no less than 2 weeks before a responsible start. It is difficult to predict which gels are suitable for you, experiment.

Eat the gel in small portions and drink water.

Do not wait for hunger pangs during intense exercise – eat one gel every 30-40 minutes.

The bars contain fibre, protein and fat, take longer to digest and are better suited for long runs like ultramarathons.