Do energy gels come with a hidden cost?
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,