Whether you’re a casual runner or a hard-core racer, you’re missing a trick if you haven’t tried using isotonic energy gels to give your performance a boost.

According to the team at Top 10 Supplement Reviews, these packets of energy are designed to top up your system with simple carbohydrates, which your body can access quickly and efficiently. And they can make a massive difference to your results and enjoyment.

What are isotonic energy gels?

Isotonic energy gels are energy gels that are designed to be consumed without water. Isotonic is one of those phrases you may have seen but not understood, especially when it is describing an energy drink.

If you’ve poked around any blogs or books about exercise you will probably come across the term “isotonic” being used in two ways. The first is a way of describing a type of exercisein which the muscle continues to work as it gets shorter.

But when it comes energy gels, the most important meaning of isotonic is that it is a solution which has the same salt concentration as blood.This makes it easier for you to digest.

Do I need to take isotonic energy gelswith water?

Isotonic energy gelsare designed to be taken without water, compared with ordinary energy gels, which need to be taken with water. The isotonic option is great for runners for two reasons.

First, you don’t have to fuss about with having a drink and a gel at the same time if you’re on a run. The water in the gel enables your body to process it, although it isn’t enough to top up your hydration levels.

The second advantage is that athletes usingisotonic gels lose less blood volume during exercise than if they use just water. As a runner, even tiny changes in blood volume can affect your performance.

So, what does the gel actually deliver?

Isotonic energy gels don’t mess about with protein or fats, they focus on getting simple carbohydrates into your system. These carbs are in the form of sugars, which your body absorbs and converts into glycogen as an energy source.

Many isotonic energy gels also have caffeine to help rev up your system, as well as electrolytes, all those minerals and salts that your body needs and uses up while you’re exercising.

Why should I use isotonic energy gels?

Your muscles need a carbohydrate called glycogen for physical activity. Every runner will burn glycogen at a different rate, this depends on your body type and the demands of your run, including the terrain, pace and distance.

If you run low on glycogen then your performance will drop off, so you need to top it up before your body runs too low.

One sure fire way to know whether you are low on glycogen is if you smell a bit like ammonia, or if you get a metallic taste in your mouth. This happens when your body runs low on carbohydrates and starts burning protein as fuel, producing ammonia as a by-product. The ammonia is usually converted to urea and passed out as urine, but if your body can’t do this fast enough it sweats it out instead.

How long does it take for gels to start working?

If you want to usethese energy gels, do test runs with them to gauge their effect before you do a race in which you plan to rely on them. Everyone’s body is different, and individuals report noticeable effects anywhere from three to 15 minutes after ingesting one.

For runs under an hour you might not actually get any benefit, because your body is unlikely to have run through its carbohydrate stores. However, if you notice that ammonia smell after even a short run then you know you are low on carbs.

They key is to know when your levels will drop low enough to need topping up, so you can have a gel in time. Don’t wait until your body crashes; give yourself long enough to absorb it and top up your glycogen before you start to struggle.

How do you choose the best isotonic energy gel?

You can choose from dozens of isotonic energy gel products on the market, and we recommend shopping around to find the one that suits you best.

Some runners don’t want any caffeine in their supplements, while others prefer gel-sweets to drinkable gels. Each product comes with different flavours and consistencies, so it really comes down to your personal preference.

Always check the amount of carbs per dose, to make sure you get enough and don’t get too much by accident. You should also consider the size and shape of the gels, as some may be uncomfortable or awkward to carry depending what sort of kit you wear.

Overall, isotonic energy gels are a brilliant and simple way to keep your body topped up with carbohydrates, especially on long runs (or walks, or rides) as you deplete your glycogen stores. If you haven’t tried them before, then you should definitely give them a go.

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