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Sports bars, sports drinks and gels

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Sports bars, sports drinks and gels
June 25, 2010 11:28PM
June 23, 2010, 12:01 am
Do Sport Bars and Gels Provide the Energy of Sports Drinks?

According to a study published this spring in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, people who exercise for more than about two hours at a time can benefit from sports drinks. Most of us know that, of course. The carbohydrates in the drinks provide immediate fuel, which allows our bodies to avoid dipping into its own energy stores, meaning that, theoretically, you can exercise longer or more intensively before running out of fuel. But few people, in practice, can or will drink enough calories during a long workout to benefit significantly, the study authors suggest. The volume of fluid needed is, to say the least, daunting. Achieving the ideal “carbohydrate-intake rates,” the authors write, requires toting and stomaching about a half gallon of a typical sports drink every hour. Good luck with that.

Instead, it seems to be common practice today, the researchers write, for many athletes to turn to more-concentrated and portable forms of carbohydrates, like sports bars and those frostinglike little packets of sports gels that are ubiquitous at running and cycling races.

... To examine those questions, a group of Swiss and English scientists undertook an ambitious series of experiments recently, the results of which were published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine).
... What the researchers found was that the carbohydrates from the gels and the sports bars were being metabolized as quickly and as efficiently as those from the sports drink.

... The scientists also used sports drinks, bars and gels that were sweetened with a combination of the carbohydrates glucose and fructose, in a 2-to-1 ratio, which, Mr. Jeukendrup says, provides the “most energy.” Few mass-market sports-nutritional products contain that precise carbohydrate mix, however. To find the most-comparable products, read labels carefully. Glucose often is listed as “maltodextrin.” High fructose corn syrup, although questioned in some nutritional contexts, “contains both glucose and fructose,” Mr. Jeukendrup says, and may be useful in sports products. Be wary of products that contain only fructose. “Fructose on its own can cause gastrointestinal distress,” Mr. Jeukendrup says.

... If you’re exercising for an hour or less, “the amount of carbohydrates you need are minimal,” he says. If, on the other hand, you’ll be working out for more than two hours, “you may want to increase your carbohydrates to about 60 grams per hour,” the equivalent of about one bar and a gel; or two and a half gels; or a half liter of a sports drink plus a gel packet or some other combination thereof. “When you engage in endurance exercise of 2.5 hours or longer,” Mr. Jeukendrup adds, “I would recommend a higher intake (up to 90 grams per hour),” making sure to find drinks or bars that utilize both glucose and fructose.

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