Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sport Drinks, Bars, and Carbohydrate Gels : the facts, what should you look for and who really needs these

Renee Gosselin, MS MBA RD
Nutrition Instructor/Professor

In general, we see so many different drinks, gels and bars that the public can sometimes become confused and who needs these or what to select/look for. There are some basic guidelines that an individual can look for when selecting these. 

Sports drinks can provide great fuel for those who continually do aerobic exercise lasting from 90 minutes to several hours. The majority of sports drinks provide a mixture of sucrose, glucose, fructose, and galactose. There has been some noted research that utilizing glucose and sucrose rather than using just one single carbohydrate source provides better results. When utilizing a sports drink, keep in mind 1½ cups to 4 cups of sports drink per hour is usually sufficient for intense exercise (however, this varies per person). Fitness waters are an option to keep hydrated; however, they do not provide sufficient carbs when doing intense exercise.  

Carbohydrate gels are also an option for endurance athletes. Gels are easy to carry and usually provide sugars and maltodextrins. It is important that an individual reads the label when consuming gels as some have caffeine and provide stimulation and possible jittery and nervousness. On average, carbohydrate gels provide 25-100 grams of carbohydrate in each package. Dependent on activity, 1-3 packages can be consumed every hour (this is generalized information, not a recommendation).

Carbohydrate bars can also provide carbohydrates that can for energy during a long term workout. On average, bars provide 70% of their calories from carbohydrate. Sucrose and grains such as brown rice syrup provide carbohydrates to those who utilize these. Carbohydrate bars in general are absorbed at different rates due to the amount of fat and protein present in each bar. Bars with 25-40 grams of carbohydrates are generally recommended. Bars that are high in fat should be avoided during exercise as digestion will slow down. A general recommendation is to eat a bar 1 per hour before a long workout.

Lastly, food such as fruit can be utilized for fuel during long endurance exercise. A serving of dry fruit provides is about ¼ cup and is well digested. An individual in general should try for 1-2 servings before the workout and 2-3 servings for every hour running.

Overall, long endurance athletes must prepare and pick which form of carbohydrate is best for them and the type of endurance they are doing.

American College of Sports Medicine. (n.d.). Advancing health through science. Retrieved from


Stephanie Butler said...

Athletes have their own sports drink and sometimes they sponsor one.

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