When we talk about sports performance gels, we refer to a practical supplement that can support the athlete in long-lasting training or competitions. The peculiarity of these products is to be able to provide energy in the form of carbohydrates with rapid absorption but gradual release, which favor a constant, quality and prolonged performance.

Every athlete, during their performances, must be able to understand when the right time is to rely on these precious allies. These supplements are in fact essential to guarantee the body the right energy during the entire duration of training or performance.

Types of gel on the market

Gels are generally divided into two broad categories, based on some particular components added to the mixtures:

  • Stimulating gels, that make use of the support of active ingredients capable of stimulating the nervous system such as caffeine, ginseng or guarana.
  • Gels with amino acid addition, which serve to counteract fatigue while preserving muscle integrity (they fight post-performance muscle catabolism).

During a workout longer than 60 minutes, carried out not at maximum effort, all the natural reserves of glycogen are consumed , which are the basis for giving the body energy during physical activity. With increasing effort or duration of training, these stores completely deplete, making it necessary to replenish glycogen through the use of external sources. Here, the gels thus become a fundamental support for maintaining clarity and coordination, favoring the success of our sporting activity, without getting exhausted and exhausted in the end.

When to take them

We can identify three main moments in which it is useful to take gel in sports performance:

  • Before;
  • During;
  • After.

Now let's see in detail, moment by moment, the usefulness of these supplements, trying to focus on the benefits they can guarantee to the athlete.

Before a race or a long and demanding physical effort, you need rapidly absorbed sugars that release immediate energy and remain lasting over time, without however creating gastrointestinal disturbances (typical side effects of the consumption of glucose, fructose and sometimes even maltodextrins, which are often present in this type of supplements, making them not suitable for everyone).

The choice, therefore, must focus on a correct isotonic balance paying particular attention to the type of carbohydrates chosen and consumed. To this then we tend to add a stimulating active ingredient, to give a sprint "in starting the engines" and proceed with maximum reactivity.

During our performance, on the other hand, the choice must be based on a gradual release carbohydrate component, but with the addition of branched amino acids, which serve in particular to preserve the muscles from the catabolism that is normally induced by this type of training, counteracting fatigue. and also the onset of joint inflammation.

Finally, at the end of our performance it is necessary to integrate an isotonic gel , always based on rapidly bioavailable sugars, which favor the restoration of hepatic and muscular glycogen stores, counteracting the rise in cortisol and adrenergic factors. In this phase, however, it is important that our gel also contains precious electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and chlorine in the form of citrates for better absorption, thus ensuring a physiological hydrosaline rebalancing, necessary after activities that require significant sweating.

What is meant by isotonic gel?

We have used this word to define a particular category of performance support products. But what does "isotonic" mean? It is a term used to describe the concentration of dissolved particles in a solution, be it a drink or a gel.

A gel is considered isotonic when the solution that composes it has the same concentration of dissolved particles as those contained in the blood plasma , with a typical tonicity of 290/310 mOsm / l.

This concentration, in fact, influences the transport of water and carbohydrates through the cell membrane, favoring their complete absorption. It is therefore quite clear how an isotonic gel is actually able to induce tangible benefits both before and after sports. On the market we find gels based on glucose, fructose, maltodextrin or mixtures of all these sources of carbohydrates.

These " old generation " gels , due to their side effects, often instead of being of help become a real limitation for the sportsman who uses them. This happens due to the unbalanced osmolaritythey create: an excessive concentration of solute is formed in the stomach and intestines, causing nausea, swelling, cramps and dysentery. Furthermore, the choice of carbohydrates contained in the mixture should not be underestimated because these also determine the functionality of the supplement: if the sugars contained are not low glycemic index and gradual release, the risk of incurring energy drops is very high. This problem limits some consumers who, not knowing which gels to choose, tend to avoid them directly, in order not to risk compromises during the activity or side effects.

How to choose the most suitable gels?

Starting from the assumption that the main feature must be to have an isotonic solution as a base , to ensure greater effectiveness and absorption without the risk of side effects, let's move on to the choice of the carbohydrate part. It is essential that it is based on ISOMALTULOSE: a carbohydrate defined as "intelligent", of natural origin and which provides energy like all carbohydrates (4kcal / g), but in a balanced way thanks to its particular glycemic index.

Among its peculiarities, the improvement of fat oxidation during physical activity stands out, thus further prolonging the energy yield.

This molecule is a disaccharide that derives from the sucrose of sugar beet, obtained through the enzymatic rearrangement of a particular bond between glucose and fructose, thus differentiating it from sucrose (what is commonly called sugar).

Thanks to this link, his digestion is slowed down, and this translates into the fact that the athlete will be energetically supported in a constant and prolonged way, with a wider glycemic curve and balanced blood sugar levels.

Another latest generation carbohydrate that is characterized as a support for endurance sports are CYCLODEXTRINS: highly branched glucose polymers that have a very low osmolarity, a quality that results in rapid gastric emptying and equally rapid gastrointestinal absorption. Their advantage is to provide long-lasting energy support without incurring glycemic crashes or excessive insulin spikes.


In closing, we can say that not all carbohydrate-based supplements are the same and that the correct choice and use of these becomes essential for the success of a workout or competition.

Thus avoiding glycemic peaks, digestive or gastrointestinal problems and introducing an amino acid part, we are sure of having a complete and fully functional supplement.



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