Gel good, Bars bad

I did a little experiment today. I went for a little muni ride on Tiger Mountain (Preston RR loop). It’s a loop that usually takes me around 2.5 to 3 hours and 3 or 4 energy bars. Today I did the ride fueling myself with carbo gel instead of energy bars.

The result was that I felt better at the end of the ride than I do when feeding on energy bars. With the energy bars I end that ride with no energy left in the legs and barely able to ride the muni on the trail. With the gels I felt fine at the end and could have gone on to ride more if I had wanted to.

What’s interesting is that the carbo gels only have 100 calories to 110 calories each. While the energy bars have 200 calories to 240 calories each as a mix of carbo, fat and protein. For the ride I sucked down 310 calories vs. 640+ calories if I was eating energy bars. I took in fewer calories but felt better. The gels do better for fueling during an intense ride.


I’m a big fan of gels, myself. My fave is Power Gel…any of the fruitty flavours. I’ve learned that anything health/nutrition that comes in chocolate should be avoided!

One of the leading benefits to the gel, is that you reap the benefit’s from it much quicker. I’m not sure of the numbers, but it’s something like 20 minutes with gel, to 45 minutes with bars.

Oh, and one big gulpful, a swich of water, and it’s gone.

2 thumbs up on gel

Does it desolve in water? If so, it could be taken in as you hydrate.

What… uh… is it, anyway? I used to do Gatorade- until descovering it contained a form of MSG; I certainly don’t whant to repeat that.

Thanx for the info,


it has the consistency of margarine. don’t worry, it’s very tasty. however, try picturing a mouthful of maragine and trying to swallow it while you’re out of breathe!

the water doesn’t dissolve it, but it breaks it up as you swish the water around in your mouth, swallowing everything down.

New to gel? Try 1/2 mouthful the first time. drink prior to (so your mouth is moist), then gulp and swish.

It’s actually fantastic.

Here’s the only brand I’ve tried. Lime and tropical fruit are my faves.

I know you all probably get sick of my comments regarding subjects like this, but here it goes again. I was a fan of gels when first introduced about 6 or 7 years ago. Now I have figured out that I am better off without them.

Whenever I felt like I needed an extra boost of energy during long endurance bicycle rides I would reach for one. Almost immediately I would feel the added boost. However, looking back I think what I was feeling was a combination of sugar and caffeine contained in the gel because the boost didn’t last very long. I realize some of the gels do not contain sugar or caffeine, but nevertheless one is way better off eating and drinking sensibly, not only during the ride but prior to it as well.

Training your body to burn fat for energy is important for successful endurance riding and often overlooked. In my opinion using gels prevents this from happening. At moderate to intense (aerobic but rarely anaerobic) efforts typical with endurance riding, whenever one starts to feel lousy his or her body is switching from burning glycogen to fat. Staying away from gels allows this transition to occur. At first it feels like you are not going to make it, then over a period of 10 or 20 minutes you feel much better. Fat becomes the primary fuel source. With practice one can identify his or her primary source of fuel at any given time during the ride. One can ride for days on fat and only a few hours on glycogen.

This does not mean you do not eat during an endurance ride. You do but with more sensible foods like fruit, quality power bars, corn nuts, or whatever.

With that said there is a need for gels in endurance rides but not as a primary source of fuel. You see pro bicycle riders use them, but sparingly. Late in a ride or whenever they need a quick boost before something they ate earlier starts to kick in.

Two weeks ago, I did 58.2 miles in 5 hours and 10 minutes on my Coker (riding time) stopping once at the halfway point for 15 minutes. I ate 1 banana and a diet coke (not for the caffeine, my dry mouth likes the carbonation)

I don’t know this foreshore but I will go out on a limb and say that Lance Armstrong himself rarely uses gels if ever. As detailed as he is, he probably recognizes that he is better off without them unless he is in dire straights.

My 2 cents


What form of MSG does gatorade contain? I’m intrested. I don’t like MSG at all.


OT: Gatorade

In the US, some natural forms of MSG and items with simmilar qualities don’t have to be labeled; specificaly free glutamates in general do not have to be identified, nor does straight up MSG if it isn’t considered an additive but a core ingredient (contrary to recommendations of the FDA). Wierd. Corn byproducts are a common source- as may be the case in Gatorade.

The folks that manufacture Gatorade do not have to list the ACTUAL ingredients- only what they are forced to by local law. They refuse to comment on MSG or MSG like ingredients in the product.

You can find an interesting summery of the product developement of Gatorade here:


I was interested in how the consumption of large quantaties of Gatorade might contribute to head pain.


Well flipping heck. I thought this was going to be a thread about the relative merits of fitting a gel saddle or some form of bars to a MUni!

Yeah, me too. Something along the lines of I think a piece of lead pipe with duct tape on it would be an improvement. Mounted horizontally, that is. Mounted vertically it would be a toss-up. - John Foss talking about Savage seats

Back on off-topic…

If you don’t like MSG (or if MSG doesn’t like you), there are some good reasons. Many people are actually allergic to it.
Originally, it was cultured from Cornynebacterium glutamate, a cousin of the diptheria bacillus. Now, it’s synthesized. It was first produced as a food additive in Japan, and the inventor named it (and his company) Aji no Moto, which translates roughly as “Origin of Flavor”. I used to teach a company class at Ajinomoto’s headquarters in Osaka. My students (salesmen) told me that for many years, the company marketed MSG throughout Asia as “brain food”. “We know now that it’s not really good for you, but…”

Lance and the rest were definately eating gels at the foot of final climbs in the TDF mountain stages.

They’re definately good for the “final push” at the end of a long ride.

Both our teams at the Red Bull 24 hour race were using 1 or 2 gels per lap. We were trying to run on carbohydrates for the 10 mile laps, hoping to recover in between.

For longer rides power bars flapjacks and fruit are better.

In all cases carry water - you need it to process carbos (and even more to process fat?).

Leo White

I think I’ll be staying far away from this… ‘stuff’- it contains ingredients that would make my head explode- caffeine, kola nut extract, and ginseng (well, at least the Powerbar brand does). I can’t imagine why a legitimate supplement would include caffeine. I wonder why they left out amphetamines?

I predict that next year all the big names will be munching down a mixture of Marmite laced with Pop-Rocks. Everyone else will be spreading it on toast to keep up.


Re: Gel good, Bars bad

Is there more than one form of MSG? It’s just monosodium glutamate.
MSG is a white crystalline compound, COOH(CH2)2CH(NH2)COONa,
used as a flavor enhancer in foods. The bad part of it is the sodium, the
same thing that is bad about salt, sodium chloride. All the tales about it
being bad for you is just old wives tales. Some people will get sick on
water if you tell them there is something in it that is bad for them.

It has a salty taste and that is the main flavor addition it gives foods.
Most canned soups are loaded with salt, Campbells and the rest of
them according to Consumers Reports. Your body requires salt, but
not in the amounts that are in most processed foods. If any food
contains MSG they should list it on the label.


----- Original Message -----
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Sent: Monday, August 19, 2002 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: Gel good, Bars bad

> What form of MSG does gatorade contain? I’m intrested. I don’t like
> MSG at all.
> topside
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> topside - Big Beast
> What’s THIS bulljazz?
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That is the reason that I have been avoiding gels. I did my road cycling 10 to 15 years ago before they had gels. I was doing fine with the old energy bars and other more regular food during my rides. I did a cross-country bike ride and never needed gels. I’ve still got some of that old school in me which is why I have not tried gels until now.

But I’m older now and I don’t train as much (got a desk job now). My body is no longer very good about jumping to fat reserves. When the carbos run out I’m done for.

On my muni ride I was taking one gel about every 45 to 60 minutes. I know the carbo boost doesn’t last more than an hour so it is necessary to suck one down every 45 to 60 minutes.

My muni rides are more intense and longer (time wise) than my Coker rides. I’ve never worn myself out on a Coker ride like I do on a muni ride. On the Coker rides I pack a few power bars and enough water and I’m good.

With the gels I can ride hard without worrying about bonking at the end of the ride. The energy bars don’t kick in for me on the last half of my rides. I may do another experiment starting with an energy bar for the first half of the ride and switching to gels for the second half. I think that combo would probably work out OK for me too.

The gels tasted better than I expected them to. And they were easier to gulp down than I expected. I tired GU, Power Gel, and Cliff Gel during my ride. They were all fruity type flavors.

I’m now convinced gels are a good thing.


MSG (monosodium glutamate) is not just “a white crystalline compound used as a flavor enhancer in foods” (the Encarta definition), nor is it just like salt. It is a synthesized amino acid (so is aspartame), and you don’t need it; it’s not a nutrient. So why do they put it in food?

It’s interesting that most of the “reports” that pooh-pooh the problems with MSG are either from companies that produce it, add it to their products, or from institutions set up to support them (i.e. the FDA). The FDA does not require that manufacturers disclose the presence of MSG in food.

If you don’t want to injest MSG, stay away from processed foods. Period.

Re: Gel good, Bars bad

In article <>,
dan <> wrote:
)Training your body to burn fat for energy is important for successful
)endurance riding and often overlooked. In my opinion using gels
)prevents this from happening. At moderate to intense (aerobic but
)rarely anaerobic) efforts typical with endurance riding, whenever one
)starts to feel lousy his or her body is switching from burning glycogen
)to fat.

Sugars in your bloodstream are the primary fuel for cycling, but
that’s glucose, not glycogen. A small quantity of glycogen stored in
the muscles is used for energy during extreme exertion, but this is
not your primary energy source unless you’re lifting heavy weights.

Yeah I was poking around last nite and found some cool things about MSG. Some processing involved in making food (canned, etc) can create low levels of MSG as a by-product that is left in the food. I don’t mind MSG, as an allergic type of reaction, but I’d rather not eat it. I was really suprised to find out that gatorade has MSG in it also.


Re: Re: Gel good, Bars bad

You are confusing glycogen with small stored ATP reserves within muscle cells. Ones body would call on these reserves during extreme anaerobic efforts, or as you say lifting weights. Glycogen on the other hand, is up to 2000 calories of “stored glucose”, which becomes ones primary energy source once moderately intense levels are reached. The following quote from Arnie Baker’s book titled Smart Cycling, 1995 will help clear it up:

"The limited amount of stored ATP, creatine phosphate, and anaerobically produced ATP found within cells is sufficient for work that lasts up to 30 seconds. Further energy must be obtained from the aerobic metabolism of the break-down products of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Ingested carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, principally glucose. Glucose may be formed into long carbohydrate chains within cells, a storage form of sugar called glycogen. When needed, the glycogen within cells can be broken back down to glucose. Fats and proteins can also be converted to simpler substances to provide energy.

Although protein can also be converted to energy, the body tends to use proteins for another purposes-for example, mule structure, enzymes, and transportation. Protein is used last as an energy source.

Up to 2,000 calories of carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen. Beyond that, excess carbohydrates and proteins are chemically converted to and stored as fat.

At relatively low intensities of work, most required energy is obtained from fats. As prolonged efforts become more intense, additional needs are met from glycogen.

As stated, the amount of energy stored in the body as glycogen is about 2000 calories. Normally, this is sufficient for hard work lasting up to 2 or 3 hours. But very-high intensity work can use up these calories sooner. About 50,000 calories are stored as fat in the average individual.

Once work reaches a moderately intense level, roughly the same number of calories from fat are used regardless of further training intensity. The additional calories required are supplied by glycogen.

Since bicycle racing is a high-intensity sport, an important element to success is the maintenance of glycogen stores through the ingestion of sufficient carbohydrates"


The word “mule” in the 4th paragragh of the quote should be “muscle” I apolagize for the typo.


I’m not sure if they’re healthier than the alternatives, but for other endurance sports I use “Clif Shots”, which is a goo made by the folks who make Clif Bars. They tend to use natural ingredients and avoid the fad supplements of the week. Here’s the ingredients on the raspberry flavor:

"Brown rice syrup, raspberry puree, natural flavors, sea salt, potassium citrate, magnesium oxide. "

Works good for me as quick fuel, and it beats the taste and effort of gnawing on an energy bar.