Energy Gels and Signs of Spring

by Joanne on April 9, 2011

Energy Gels and

The first time I tried a GU I thought I would lose it. It was like a big wad of ….. (you don’t want to know) … in my mouth. I thought there was no way I would be able to suck those things down while running. How things change. I was determined to get used to energy gels since most runners I spoke to used them and they were easy to carry. So I adapted. BUT… I still make faces when swallowing that big glob of GU.


Do they work? From Crank Sports

…there are two halves in a marathon – the first 20 miles and the last 10 kilometers. One reason for this is that your glycogen stores (your primary source of energy) can only hold about 2,000 calories and the average person burns approximately 100 calories per mile. Do the math and you’ll see that your glycogen stores can only provide enough energy to take you approximately 20 miles. Fat can also be used for energy, but fat is a very inefficient fuel – you won’t be setting any speed records relying on fat alone!
Fortunately there is a third source of energy – blood sugar. The beauty of energy gels is that (when taken properly) they are rapidly absorbed in your small intestine, thus providing energy in the form of blood sugar that can supplement your glycogen stores. If you start consuming energy gel early enough in the race you can greatly reduce your body’s need to rely on fat as an energy source.

Running 26.2 miles requires a sufficient amount of fuel to get from point A to point B. You can’t run on a full belly since blood will be diverted from your “running” muscles to your digestive system and this is the cause for gastrointestinal distress (hence the reason for eating 2 to 4 hours ahead of start time). The gel packs work because they offer about 100 to 110 calories of easily digestible carbohydrate fuel (approximately 35 grams). You can get gels that have caffeine or without.


They come in a variety of flavors.


They must be washed down with water for easier and faster digestion. Plus, if you don’t wash them down with water, it’s more than likely a big clump of GEL will sit in your throat.  With crowds lining the streets, like at Boston, you don’t want to be hawking lugees along while you run…especially if you plan on planting your lips on one of those Wellesley girls. 

girl kiss boy

When and how much depends on the runner but generally 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour is sufficient. Key: Take the gel BEFORE you feel fatigued. Make sure to drink water and of course sports drink for electrolytes, especially it you sweat a lot or if it’s a hot day.

*If gels really don’t work for you, honey sticks are delicious! Here is a super suggestion from Running Fit:

First of all, all gels are not created equal. There are so many different formulas that change more than just the taste of the gel. During a marathon, if you have eaten healthy the days before, and properly hydrated before and during the race, it is possible to develop a sodium deficiency during the race. This could be causing an aversion to sweetness and a craving for pretzels. The good news is that some of the gels have added sodium to their product to prevent this. Powergel has 4 times the sodium of GU, and E-Gel has added electrolytes as well. Also some of the gels (like E-Gel) have more calories than GU, and you could take them less often.

Secondly, many people cannot stomach the texture of gels and have turned to alternatives such as Clif Shot Bloks, (they taste a lot like gummy bears) or sport beans (which are electrolyte infused jelly beans). The Margarita flavor of the Clif Shot Bloks is actually quite salty and may satisfy that craving.

Remember: Experiment before the race and NOT during.

Signs of Springs –  April 8th, a Friday early evening in Upstate New York



But look what was hiding in the trees…



Just a loving couple snuggled within the weeds


Two in yellow, the first of their kind, rising to the occasion of Spring.


The daffodils, not quite ready to open up and see the light


The flowing creek is back in action and has washed away all signs of winter.



Look Mom!  I found my ball!  It was buried ALLLLLL Winter. LETS PLAY!


Wonderful cool mornings and warm afternoons.  You just can’t beat that.

What are the early signs of Spring at your house?

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  • At 2011.04.09 10:51, claudia lamascolo said:

    just gorgeous pictures!

    • At 2011.04.09 11:28, the dawn said:

      you are so right….gels take some serious getting used to. but they can make or break the run itself. thanks for the reminder 🙂

      • At 2011.04.09 13:51, Theresa @ActiveEggplant said:

        I used to hate energy gels! But they’ve made their way into my regular fuel supply. For me the Gu brand is best (and I think they have the best flavors). So I don’t have to use just the gels, I also use Gu Chomps on my long runs – saving the Gels for mid-run, and then an extra one on hand if I need an energy boost as I’m getting close to the end.

        Your dog is absolutely gorgeous!

        • At 2011.04.09 20:36, Lori said:

          Those flowers are beautiful! We see the ground now, but the north side of the house still has a lot of snow on that garden bed.

          I just cannot do the gels. On long rides, I use dates and coconut water for quick energy. Of course, biking is much different than running and I have the liberty of stopping when I need to. We do tend to stop at certain mileages for snacks to make sure we don’t bonk.

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