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Gels vs. Sports Drinks

Posted by Rehab United on May 6, 2010 2:00:10 PM

Gels vs. Sports Drinks

Justin Robinson, MA,RD,CSSD,FAFS,CSCS
Registered Sports Dietitian


In physical therapy and sports performance training, the Physical Therapists and strength coaches at Rehab United Sports Performance Center always come back to the "principles of function" when deciding how to treat or train a client. This means we utilize our knowledge of physics, biomechanics, physiology, and anatomy to determine which course of treatment and exercises will be most effective for that particular client.


Similarly, when deciding which fuel sources to bring with you on a long run, ride, or race, begin by recognizing the principles (or simple truths) of endurance exercise. A few simple truths:

  • We sweat
  • We burn stored fuels/energy
  • We will only consume products that do not upset our stomach
  • We will eventually fatigue - and all we can do is prolong the inevitable by consuming the proper fuels and fluids in the proper amounts


Based on these truths, anything that provides water, electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and energy (carbohydrate and a some protein) will allow us to maintain a constant energy output for an extended time period. Thus: water + gels/blocks = sports drinks.


It truly comes down to which fuels and fluids your stomach prefers - which is, ideally, a combination of sources. And, like muscles, you can "train" your stomach to tolerate higher amounts of fuels and fluids.


To summarize:

    1) Know the simple truths about your sport, how your body reacts to that sport and how it tolerates various fuels and fluids
    2) Practice your nutrition during training (even try whole foods such as pretzels, dried fruit, and sandwiches)
    3) Find something that works for you - racing more than two hours while only sipping water is just plain silly


Dialing in your nutrition plan is essential to experiencing your ultimate race!

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