But when should you use an energy gel and when an isotonic sports drink? Should you use both or stick to one?
In this blog, we explain when to use the energy gel and when the isotonic sports drink to optimize your fueling strategy during intense endurance exercise.
The energy gel
The energy gel is the fundamental supplement for endurance athletes due to its effectiveness and practicality.
There are many different energy gels available, and if you are not sure which one to pick, check out our top 3 recommendations!
The energy gel has significant benefits:
- High energy content per volume
- Easy to carry in large numbers
- Great source of fast energy
But there's also a small downside to energy gels. Namely, they lack fluid, which in combination with minerals is essential for proper hydration during exercise.
That's where the isotonic sports drink kicks in.
Choose the energy gel when consuming water is not essential, when carrying a sports bottle doesn't work for you, and when you need a lot of energy.
Isotonic sports drink
The isotonic sports drink is another fundamental supplement for endurance athletes due to the fact that it's able to provide everything an athlete needs during exercise in terms of nutrition.
Protein? You don't really need that, but if that's your thing, check out this bad boy!
Which brings us to the benefits:
- Complete fuel during exercise
- Allows for optimal hydration
- Easy to dose and measure
Again, the nutrients an isotonic sports drink provides depend on the specific product, but the goal is to intake a good combination of carbohydrates (glucose only is not best) and the correct concentration of minerals (avoid too much magnesium).
And yet, there's a downside to the isotonic sports drink, too. First of all, you need a sports bottle, which might not always be practical. Second, its energy per volume is lower compared to an energy gel. Third, the intake of energy requires consuming water, which is not always best.
And this leads to our main question.
Choose the isotonic sports drink when consuming water is essential and when you don't need excessive amounts of energy.
Energy gel or isotonic sports drink?
The answer is the one a little kid would pick when choosing between a vanilla ice cream and a chocolate fudge.
But only if the situation allows it.
In case carrying a sports bottle doesn't work for you, which is often the case for runners and even more so for swimmers, then relying on an energy gel as your source of energy might be best.
But when you can, try to combine the energy gel with the isotonic sports drink to get the best of the two worlds.
What are we talking about?
Personal preference aside, it really all comes down to hydration!
The energy gel provides the most efficient source of energy, but it lacks fluid. The isotonic sports drink is similarly efficient in terms of energy, but fluid is mandatory. And this is a double-edged sword.
What do we mean by that?
It's simple. Yes, water is an essential component of hydration, but drinking too much water can be equally detrimental as drinking too little of it. And if your only source of energy is an isotonic sports drink, you won't be able to intake more energy without consuming water as well.
That's why a combination of energy gels and isotonic sports drinks works best, as it allows you to regulate the amount of energy and the amount of water you consume.
Let's look at it with a practical example.
In hot conditions, you might need more fluid and drinking 2 servings of an isotonic sports drink per hour might be best.
But in other conditions, you might not need that much water and consuming 1 serving of an isotonic sports drink and 1 energy gel is a much better option.
Lastly, when water is not needed, consuming 2 energy gels per hour is the best option.
That's why many fueling strategies include a combination of energy gels and isotonic sports drinks.
If you want to adopt an optimal fueling strategy, learn to combine the energy gel with the isotonic sports drink.
What energy gel and isotonic sports drink work best together?
If there is one brand specialized in allowing you to mix and match their products, it's Nduranz.
Their fueling products are based on the Nrgy Unit System, which is intended to simplify your fueling and combine different products while still preserving all the optimal ratios your body requires during intense endurance exercise.
Specifically, we are talking about:
Both products pack 45 grams of carbohydrates per serving with an advanced mix of electrolytes meant to replace only the electrolytes you actually lose in your sweat — this means less magnesium, which might cause digestive issues, and more sodium chloride and potassium, which you lose most of during exercise.
All Nduranz products are designed in such a way to allow the highest absorption rates without causing digestive issues, and they are becoming a household name among top-level endurance athletes, who have lately been achieving amazing results at endurance events with Nduranz products.
Nrgy Unit Gel and Nrgy Unit Drink by Nduranz are designed to be used in tandem during intense endurance exercise.
The energy gel is the most-energy packed supplement, but it doesn't provide fluid.
The isotonic sports drink is another great source of energy, but it requires a sports bottle and its intake always requires the intake of water.
For best results, use both the energy gel and the isotonic sports drink based on the amount of water required.