Training for a triathlon is not all about swim, bike and run. Nutrition is just as important and without it, you’re not going to get very far with your training or in your race. Without the right fueling and hydration during the race, you will not perform your best, and you may not be able to finish your event.
The important thing to remember here is, just like running shoes or bike saddles, what is good for one person is not necessarily good for another. It’s a good idea for you to practice and test many different products to find out what works best for you. Take a look at this comparison of gels and sports drinks to give you a head start on which products you may like to try.
When you are training or participating in a race for more than 60 minutes, you must replenish the calories you are losing. Gels are the fastest and easiest way to do this.
Most gels are made of mostly simply sugar, which is what your body needs as fuel during exercise. If a gel has both glucose and fructose carbohydrates, it will absorb quicker into your body. Many also have electrolytes (which are crucial on long runs); and some have caffeine which can give you the boost you need at the end of the race.
Here are a few of the most popular gels available:
- GU Energy Gels – GU Gels are a favorite among runners because they are quickly and efficiently absorbed into your body. They come in a ton of different flavors – many unique – make it easy to enjoy them year round (ie. s’mores during the winter and watermelon in the summer).
- CLIF Shot Energy Gel – The CLIF gels are made with all natural and organic ingredients—no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives which come in a variety of flavors. Every gel packet features a Litter Leash® that allows the tear tab to stay attached to the bottom of the packet after you’re done so that you do not litter.
- Hammer Gel – Hammer includes complex carbs, all-natural ingredients (real fruit!) and branched-chain amino acids which help prevent muscle tissue breakdown while reducing fatigue. All these ingredients help the gel digest easier than other gels. It has very little added sugar which means it has a slower, more consistent burn to help you fuel your energy needs during a race.
- PowerGel – The PowerGel is more on the sweeter side if that’s what you prefer. It’s suggested to have a chaser of 150mg water after consuming the PowerGel. There are also plenty of flavors to choose from and all feature the very compact PowerGel packaging.
Sport drinks have become very popular among athletes. Although water should be your beverage of choice, sports drinks do improve performance with long continuous exercise or training. That’s because most sports drinks provide the carbohydrates as energy for your body and helps prevent dehydration.
Here are a few of the most popular brands:
- Gatorade® – Gatorade uses several carbohydrates for additional efficiency – which are all 100% simple sugars. It comes in a wide variety of flavors and is readily available at most stores. Although it does have a high sugar content, it has a higher sodium content to help replenish sodium lost through your sweat.
- Powerade®: Powerade includes the same four important electrolytes, in the same ratio, that is lost while you sweat. With zero calories, it is also readily available at most stores, but unfortunately has a high sugar content.
- NUUN – NUUN is great for long training or races for people with gastric distress. This drink will help you stay hydrated and fueled without worry. The precise ratio of electrolytes and carbohydrates gives you a drink that can be more fully absorbed during your race.
- Vitamin Water – Many think Vitamin Water is too sweet, but there are no calories in this drink and it also includes a healthy dose of B5, B23, C.
- Accelerade – What’s different about Accelerade is its added protein (5 grams per serving) and a heavy dose (21 grams) of carbohydrates. The company claims this 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein helps “re-energize muscles during exercise and helps them recover after.” However, with that added protein, it could cause some gastric disturbances, so use with caution.
- Cytomax – Cytomax includes multiple carbohydrates energy sources – including Alpha-L-PolyLactate – to provide energy faster and longer than other sports drinks. This also helps eliminate burning and cramping while training and reduces muscle soreness after training.
- Propel – Propel water has the same level of electrolytes as Gatorade, zero-calories and is sugar-free. As flavored water, it’s much lighter than Gatorade or Powerade, but still gives you all the minerals your body needs to replace while working out and sweating. Available in four flavors, it is also packed with vitamins C and E.
If you need some help in structuring your training program and learning which gels and sports drinks are best for you, please contact me. I can help set you up for success!
Train Right, Tri Right!