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The realm of sports nutrition is incredibly vast. Even a bit overwhelming. We rise to the challenge of bringing clarity to the vast array of sports nutrition offerings. What sports gel, bar or drink is best to take while exercising?

Which products are best during exercise?

Is it best to choose a sports gel, bar or drink while exercising? Let’s clarify that first. One is not better than the other. This depends mostly on your personal preference. So experiment during training so that on race day you know exactly what you are doing, which brands you tolerate best and, most importantly, which flavor you prefer. Don’t do it for us. But for your stomach, intestines and peace of mind.

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In Part 1, we shared mostly basic tips on nutrition before, during and after exercise. Now, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between the specific products you can take during and after exercise. We open the box of sports drinks, gels and bars and take out the magnifying glass.

Sports drinks: hypotonic, isotonic or hypertonic?

You have sports drinks in hypotonic, isotonic and hypertonic formulations. All three have a different main purpose. Thus, hypotonic sports drinks are especially interesting during (short) efforts in hot conditions and when restoring your fluid balance. Also useful when you want to train sober. They contain a relatively small amount of carbohydrates, but a lot of electrolytes. Consider the SIS Hydro Tabs.

In an isotonic sports drink, also called a thirst quencher, the particle concentration matches that of the blood in our body. This ensures rapid absorption of sugars. With 4 to 8 g of carbohydrates per 100 ml, an isotonic sports drink sits between hypotonic and hypertonic sports drinks. In addition to salts and fluids, this drink also provides energy. Ideal during efforts longer than one hour in normal weather conditions. Some examples: SIS Go Electrolyte, Maurten Drink Mix 160 and 4GOLD Carbo Electro.

In hypertonic sports drinks, energy replenishment is paramount. The concentration of carbohydrates is high so the body absorbs them more slowly. This makes an energy drink less suitable when replenishing fluids takes precedence, such as in hot conditions. If drinking opportunities are scarce during efforts of long duration, this drink is more appropriate due to its relatively high carbohydrate content. But pay attention: due to the large amount of carbohydrates, beware of gastrointestinal distress. So be sure to test these products on training before using them in competition, although this rule applies to all supplements. The SIS Beta Fuel and Maurten Drink Mix 320 fall under this category.

Energy bars: quick absorption or long saturation?

Energy bars can differ greatly from one another due to the amount of fats, fiber and protein. The less fats, fiber and protein a bar contains, the faster our body can call on its carbohydrates. Especially during high-intensity exercise, rapid absorption is important. A good example are the Clif Bloks, Lucho Dillitos Guava Paste a 4GOLD Plant Based Energy Bar. For low-intensity efforts, it is no issue that the fat and fiber content is slightly higher. Then, for example, we are talking about Oat Kings. They are absorbed more slowly in the body, but you have a much longer feeling of satisfaction from them.

Gels: Should I drink with my gel? Do I choose one with or without caffeine?

And then there remain the “gels”. Gels are usually absorbed after 10 minutes and contain between 20-30 g of carbohydrates. You mostly have the choice between gels with and without caffeine, but also between isogels, drinking gels and energy gels. The volume of isogels and drinkgels is already the first difference. Iso- and drinkgels are larger because water is added. As a result, the content is less viscous. In the case of isogels, you do not need to take them with water. Please note, however, toward hydration, it is still important to drink plenty of fluids during your extertion. Gels are not a moisturizer.

The viscosity in energy gels is much higher, which in turn creates a very different texture in the mouth. The SIS Go Isotonic Energy Gel and 4GOLD Isotonic gels are two examples of an isotonic sports gel. Looking for drinking gels? Then you end up with the Squeezy (Super) Drink Gel. The Squeezy Energy Gel and Maurten Gel 100 fall under the group of energy gels. Caffeine can cause gastrointestinal symptoms for some people. Preferably save the gels with caffeine until about 60 min before a difficult or race-defining moment. The mental boost can be more than welcome at such a time. For caffeine in your gel, you end up with the Maurten Gel 100 Caf 100 and the Squeezy (Energy) Super Drink Gel.

Coming up in part 1/2

In this second part, we took a closer look at the characteristics of different sports nutrition products. How many sports drinks, gels or bars should you take while exercising was covered in Part 1. As well as general nutrition tips on what and when to eat before and after exercise. You can find these tips here. Now that our sports nutrition offerings no longer hold any secrets for you, you can take a look at the web shop with a different perspective.