Anyone who has ridden a bike over a long distance knows the feelings of the dreaded bonk. Luckily, a strategically used gel can save your ride and be the difference between a pleasant ride and a hunger knock that turns your ride into an unnecessary struggle. There are a wide-range of energy gels that are sure to keep your rides safely in the easy zone. Knowing exactly how to and when to consume these products can be slightly confusing but will ultimately keep your rides pleasant and bonk-free.
What is “Bonking”
“Bonking” or “hitting the wall” is an experience that all cyclists dread while training or racing. These “bonks” happen when you haven’t properly fueled with enough carbohydrate before or during exercise and when you’ve used up most of the stored carbohydrate (glycogen) within your body. Many cyclists don’t consume these carbohydrates due to the difficulty of eating and digesting solid food while riding. Gels solve this issue by making it incredibly easy to consume these necessary macronutrients during your ride. This will go a long ways towards helping you avoid a dreaded bonk. Fortunately, the variety of gels Science in Sport (SiS) offers make it easy to take on these necessary calories during a workout. Their Isotonic gels are incredibly easy to carry and consume on the go and keep those dreaded bonks at bay.
What Is An 'Isotonic' Gel?
Unlike a hypertonic solution (common of the thicker, more concentrated gels on the market) , which has a higher concentration than the fluid in your body, or a hypotonic, which has a lower concentration than the fluid in the body, Isotonic simply means that the gel has the same concentration of dissolved particles as your body’s cells ensuring you are delivered the energy exactly when you need it..
Why This Is Important?
If a gel has a higher concentration than the fluid in your body, water particles will have to be pulled into your gut from the rest of your body to help absorb and balance this concentration. This slows down the availability of the energy from the gel and can bloat your stomach throughout the ride and ultimately compromise your performance along with significantly lowering enjoyment. You also need to take in a considerable amount of water to help these gels digest and avoid this discomfort. Conversely, if a gel has a lower concentration than the fluid in your body, you won’t have to dilute it with water, but it will empty quickly from your stomach and fail to provide significant energy.
Benefits of Isotonic Energy Gels
The Isotonic formula is key to unlocking the potential of the gel due to its ability to transfer quickly and easily into energy since little fluid needs to be drawn into your stomach to dilute the gel, providing fast and easy energy.
What this means to you is that with an isotonic gel, you won’t have to consume water to help it digest, but will still get a critical nutritional boost. This will minimize the risk of feeling bloated that occurs when you are forced to over-drink with traditional gels. You’ll also be able to digest and process isotonic gels without compromising precious energy. This will come as great news to any cyclist who has lived through the experience of the bloated discomfort after consuming a copious amount of water and industry-standard, non-isotonic gels.
Why You Need Isotonic Gels
Your internal glycogen stores will last around 90 to 120 minutes of prolonged exercise, varying slightly depending on intensity. You should use gels at strategic points during long rides of over an hour and a half to reduce reliance on your stored glycogen. This will maintain steady carbohydrate supply to your muscles. Additionally, taking regular carbohydrates during your workout reduces the perception of effort. So not only will you be able to push harder during the end of your ride, it will feel easier.
When to Use Gels During Your Ride
For rides or races scheduled under 90 minutes, take a gel—preferably one with caffeine—before you start the event. This will ensure that you have glycogen stores to draw from during your ride. If your ride last longer than an hour, an isotonic gel at the hour mark will help top up energy stores and make sure you have enough power to cruise through the last half hour, or more importantly, to beat your friends to the post-ride coffee shop.
If you are participating in a ride or organized event that is over 90 minutes, plan to take in 60 grams of carbohydrates, or 3 gels, per hour. Since your body can only store enough carbohydrates for 90 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise, you should try to consume at least one gel every 20 minutes. Once you are hungry, it is already too late. Therefore you’ll want to make sure you eat a gel as early as the 20-minute mark, which is well before you’ll feel the need to eat. This will give you a chance to build up valuable glycogen stores that you’ll use later during your ride. If you have one saved up, the last part of your ride is a great time to use a caffeinated gel. It will help deliver mental stimulation to push you through to the finish line. Sticking to this schedule of taking in carbohydrates in the form of isotonic gels will guarantee you have plenty of power at the end of your ride.