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Old 10-25-10, 10:47 AM   #1
Yen
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Gel vs. food bar

My go-to food of choice during rides has been food bars such as Nature Valley granola or This Apple Walked into a Bar (from Trader Joe's - similar to Fig Newtons but in a choice of flavors - apple, strawberry, fig, blueberry). Or cookies, banana, etc.

I went on two challenging rides this month led by one of the stronger/faster riders in our group. On the first ride (62 miles), after we finished a long 6-mile climb he rewarded me with my first Gu energy gel -- 'Espresso Love' -- and said "eat this". On the second ride (75 miles), he gave me another one. On both rides, I also took my usual nutrition (food bars) plus a little O.J. in the water.

I expected to feel pretty beaten up after the 75-mile ride; however, I felt amazingly good that night and the next day. I just felt like I had done a lot of something.

It's hard to know for sure if the Gu gels made the difference. Has anyone noticed a difference in your performance on a hard ride with energy gels vs. regular high-carb foods (bars, cookies, candy, etc)? What about candy like the orange-slice gum drops, or gummy bears.

A new product I tried last week is Honey Stinger energy chews -- like gumdrops but not sticky, easy to eat, easy to chew, taste great, and come in a variety of flavors. We found them at a small bike shop in Palisade, Colorado.
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Old 10-25-10, 11:17 AM   #2
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Gels do work but they come with a proviso. Take plenty of water with them and the boost they give is only for a limited time. They also do not start work immediately so if you have bonked- then if you take one it does not give you energy straight away.

There are quite a few on the market- all with different characteristics- and you have to find the one you like- and the ones that like you. I always carry one in my wedge- just in case- but luckily not used one for a year. I get by on my usual ride snacks of High Carb with some sugar and a bit of protein in the way of cheese. Variety suits me but I do know of riders that on a 65 mile ride will only take gels. They have no problems but neither do I.
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Old 10-25-10, 11:21 AM   #3
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I tried Gu gels when I started ride.
Never felt anything from them.

Now I just use peanutbutter and jam folded over on a slice of bread.
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Old 10-25-10, 11:33 AM   #4
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Whatever I eat, I prefer anything I can easily reach, easily open, and eat in bites. I plan ahead but if I can't stop to open a gel pack (I know, I know, you can tear it with your teeth but who wants to do that in heavy traffic where drivers see how close they can get to you and blow their horns, and there's gravel/glass/etc. in the bike lane and no where to stop). I'd rather reach into my bento box and take out a piece of non-sticky whatever and pop it in my mouth --- no effort and I don't have to take my eyes off the road.
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Old 10-25-10, 11:43 AM   #5
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I'm a little sceptical of the culinary characteristics of food bars
however, if you get lost, they can be used to start a fire.
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Old 10-25-10, 12:18 PM   #6
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One advantage of the gel is that you can mix it with water. What I do is to calculate how much gel (how many carbs) I should take during a given ride, and then mix that quantity of gel into one of my water bottles. I then consume that bottle evenly throughout the ride, in addition to the unadulterated water I'm drinking for hydration. For electrolytes, I pop a capsule every 15 minutes or so. Since I started using this approach, I have been much stronger on rides; the biggest difference being my ability to recover after an extreme effort, that in the past would have cooked my goose for the day. Of course, the longer rides I have been doing plays into as well - you need both the training and the nutrition - and the degree to which they are linked was something I had initially underestimated.

I based my regimen on articles on the Hammer Nutrition site. Clearly they are written to sell product. I found them helpful however, and what they say appears accurate, at least for me at this point on my learning curve. Rather than choose something that tries to combine everything you need (like Gatorade, HEED, Perpetuem, etc.) I decided to keep the components separate: capsules for electrolytes, gel for carbs, and bars or real food for protein, which I only use for a ride over 3 hours. The information they provide about how many calories you can take in vs. what you can expend, and what is going on in your digestive system that limits your intake, is very interesting. As I understand it, you want a lot of glycogen when you start your ride (hence the value of carb-loading), and to replenish it as much as possible during the ride (which isn't enough to offset what you are burning) and you want to get enough protein to avoid cannibalizing your muscles. Having the carbs available in your system to be processed to the fullest extent possible seems to be a key, at least for me. And if I forget to pop the electrolyte capsules, I can tell in the way I feel thirsty no matter how much water I drink.

There is sooooo much info out there, and so many theories, that your brain gets twisted into knots. Some of it is no doubt lacking a scientific foundation. Sorting it out is tough.
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Old 10-25-10, 12:34 PM   #7
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If you're used to the bars, then I would stick with the bars but perhaps supplement with a gel every so often. At a slower pace, solid food is probably the best choice but once the pace gets more aerobic and sustained solid food takes more time and energy to process. So for me, on a hilly metric, I use an energy drink and gels along with electrolyte caps. It's easier on the stomach and the results are more immediate. Test what works best for you.
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Old 10-25-10, 01:02 PM   #8
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I swear by Hammer gel and GU gel. I'll start my rides with a P&J before I leave home.
Eat/drink whatever works for you.
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Old 10-25-10, 02:02 PM   #9
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I use mostly Hammer Perpetuem but will suppliment with Hammer Gel before a long and/or steep climb.

Nothing wrong with food bars though, and while I usually eat Clif brand, whatever works for you is good for you, so test different ones on training rides, i.e. before real/event rides.

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Old 10-25-10, 03:48 PM   #10
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I'm guessing you're increased training is starting make itself known--which is a very good thing. I have not noticed any effects of different foods on a ride, but I have noticed the effects if I got more dehydrated. Maybe eating the other stuff you're hydrating a little more??? I have noticed a big difference the next day if I drank a recovery drink immediately after a ride-R4, chocolate milk-something with a lot of carbs over protein.

Be careful and don't experiment too much with different food types on a ride. Make sure you go with stuff you know your stomach will easily digest-usually the simpler the better.
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Old 10-25-10, 04:33 PM   #11
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I use both gel and bars and I find the gel to be faster acting. I am guessing it is easier to digest but I am not sure, the liquid intake might be a reason as well. But I don’t use the gel pack I use the squeeze bottle. Pull it out of a jersey pocket; pull up the top just like a water bottle. One squeeze is most often one serving, put it away. I only eat the bars when I am stopped.
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Old 10-25-10, 10:42 PM   #12
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I use mostly Hammer Perpetuem but will suppliment with Hammer Gel before a long and/or steep climb.

Nothing wrong with food bars though, and while I usually eat Clif brand, whatever works for you is good for you, so test different ones on training rides, i.e. before real/event rides.

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+1 I use Perpetuem for 3+ hour rides, and use gels (Accelerade, GU, etc.) before long climbs or heavy exertion. Cliff bars for that 'growling stomach' problem. Endurolytes, Sport Legs, and Potassium+ for electrolytes. Lots of water--Camelbak and an extra water bottle. Recovery drink-Recoverite, within 30 min. of end of ride. Working good so far.
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Old 10-26-10, 04:51 AM   #13
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I use a mix in my water and on longer rides I tend to eat a bar at the first stop and then gels after that.

I find that espresso gels taste ok and the cafine gives a good boast.
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Old 10-26-10, 06:59 PM   #14
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I prefer gels while riding, since they're much easier to open. When stopped, a Clif bar is fine, and Pro Bars are even better. On organized rides, I substitute bananas and PB&Js for the bars.

For drinks, on long rides it's Perpetuem, for shorter rides I use Heed. I always carry a bottle of plain water as well.
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Old 10-26-10, 07:54 PM   #15
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Quote:
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I'm a little sceptical of the culinary characteristics of food bars
however, if you get lost, they can be used to start a fire.
Usually by rubbing two of them together.
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Old 10-26-10, 08:15 PM   #16
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I use the original energy gel, honey. I found a supply of honey in pouches like those used for ketchup at fast food places. They get me up the mountain.

Also, I eat Clif Bars, Cashews, peanut butter/cheese crackers, and dried apricots on longer rides. I carry Powerade Ion4 drink mix in small plastic bags, one bag per bottle of water. Endurolytes to keep the cramps away. Yes, I eat a lot and drink a lot on rides. Through various and sundry experiences, some good, some bad, I've found that this is what works for me. I was, for all intents and purposes, self sufficient on my last century earlier this month. All I needed was to reload with water at the stops.
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Old 10-26-10, 09:37 PM   #17
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I've had stomach issues for years and gels have always made it act up. Saturday I was on a long climbing ride and had done well with my eating all day and I was offered a gel at the last rest stop. I ate about half of it and started getting nausea on the next climb. Fortunately I had part of a sandwich with me and that helped me get back to normal.
I think I willl never try another gel.
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Old 10-27-10, 05:19 PM   #18
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Have you ever tried real food?: fresh fruit, dried fruit, bagels? I have found that the energy I get from any of these is all I need, plus these foods are cheaper and taste good. I do eat granola bars occasionally because they are easy to grab and stick in my pocket, but dried fruit is my favorite.
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Old 10-28-10, 05:20 AM   #19
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I like bars up to about 70 miles or so. After that it's hard to eat solid food. I save the gels for the home stretch.
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Old 10-28-10, 06:10 AM   #20
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Yen,

As others have said gels work pretty well. I now use Hammer gel in a flask, I like that because it is cleaner and I can take a smaller amount than a whole pack. I also like it because it is easier to open when riding and you don't have that little tab to dispose of. I use the gel when I am just beginning to feel fatigued, I usually eat a Kashi trail mix bar with it, I figure one for the quicker kick and the other for the longer sustain energy. There are a lot of alteranatives to the prepackaged gels, but they are convenient. Lots of good nutrition products out there now, good luck!
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Old 10-28-10, 06:17 AM   #21
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The main advantage of gels over food is they are light weight, take very little space, and don't go bad. So its easy to take several with you in your jersey or saddle pack and you are prepared. If you don't use them, keep them for future rides.
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Old 10-28-10, 09:42 AM   #22
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I am partial to Payday bars:

1. They are cheap and easy to find (I buy them by the box at Costco)
2. 240 calories packed into one of those bad boys
3. A nice combination of salty and sweet that I find easy to eat even when I don't feel like eating
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Old 10-28-10, 10:56 AM   #23
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On longer rides, I might take a bottle of whatever I've got, usually Gatorade, or V8. Then at about the two-thirds point I'll stop at a pub and have a burger and beer. I believe in enjoying the ride, since I'm no longer "training" for anything (other than 2011 PBP).

For snacks, though, I love the Honey Stingers. Like Real Fruit Gummies, easy to handle, once you figure out the best way to open the package while riding. I've gotten tired of the taste of Power Bars, and Clif Bars are too "thick." But I don't think it much matters what you eat or drink on a ride. I like Eddy B's idea of bread dipped in red wine with ham. Or even ham and jelly sandwiches. Sometimes for a long randonneur brevet, I'll start off with a Subway ham sub in a back pocket.

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Old 04-09-11, 09:26 PM   #24
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I bought a box of accel gels bc on sale at LBS. well don't think I'll even finish them. today I was thinking ok eat even if you're not hungry. I was feeling great at mile 30 of a 50, ate the gel and immediately started having problems with lactic acid. thought maybe I didn't drink enough water and so drank some more. seems like same thing everytime. all they do is make me burn, and then maybe after 5-10 minutes I feel strong for about 10 minutes, then my legs feel dead. anyone else experience this? guessing just too much sugar for my system, peak then crash. going back to electrolyte drink and cut up power bars/dried fruit in a baggie, less messy, easier to access.
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Old 04-10-11, 10:12 AM   #25
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If you're doing a long strenuous ride and trying to keep up with 25-45 gm of carbs/hr, it starts getting tough to chew and choke down the bars and gels can be easier to consume. 1/2 banana, figs, etc are also good alternatives.
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