Do en­ergy gels come with a hid­den cost?

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Health & Fitness -

At this time of year al­most ev­ery­one seems to be pre­par­ing for a marathon of some sort, be it Brighton, Paris or Vi­enna, Greater Manch­ester or Lon­don. Mass par­tic­i­pa­tion events such as th­ese are al­ways eclec­tic; all hu­man life is here, as pro­fes­sion­als run the same course as char­ity en­trants. But there’s usu­ally one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor: glyco­gen de­ple­tion. Put sim­ply, that’s when your body runs out of fuel, which, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, cre­ates a sense of gen­eral malaise; men­tal and phys­i­cal ex­haus­tion. Ex­actly when it oc­curs de­pends on how fu­el­ef­fi­cient we are, which means how good our bod­ies are at util­is­ing the fuel they al­ready have – and that, ap­par­ently, is a train­able feat. The av­er­age Joe, how­ever, will need some glu­cose to keep run­ning. That’s why, at all marathons, you’ll see run­ners’ waist­bands packed full of en­ergy gels. Th­ese over­glam­or­ised packets of sac­cha­rine, chem­i­cal gunk are eas­ily opened and sucked down, of­fer­ing the mus­cles a much-needed hit of en­ergy, usu­ally in the form of var­i­ous types of sugar. I say over-glam­or­ised, not be­cause en­ergy gels don’t give you en­ergy, but be­cause, in my ex­pe­ri­ence and the ex­pe­ri­ence of many con­sumers I’ve spo­ken to, they of­ten snatch it away soon af­ter. Yes, there’s an ini­tial surge, but it’s quickly fol­lowed, all too of­ten, by sick­ness and stom­ach up­set. Be­lieve it or not, many ex­perts now be­lieve that load­ing up on en­ergy gels can cause a re­duc­tion in per­for­mance, mak­ing you a worse ath­lete in the long term. “Hard train­ing in­creases the lev­els of acid­ity and in­flam­ma­tion in the body, and places more stress on your di­ges­tive and im­mune sys­tems,” says en­durance junkie and sports nu­tri­tion ex­pert War­ren Pole. “And guess what? The four is­sues ex­ac­er­bated by pro­cessed prod­ucts [such as cheap en­ergy gels] are acid­ity,

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