Muscle cramps are a common occurrence during intense endurance exercise, and athletes try various methods to prevent them. One of these methods is consuming energy gels. But do energy gels really prevent muscle cramps?
Energy gels can prevent muscle cramps. While the exact mechanism of muscle cramps is still disputed by science, fatigue and dehydration seem to be two common causes. Thus, consuming minerals and carbohydrates during exercise is an efficient way to prevent muscle cramps.
In this blog, we talk about energy gels and muscle cramps.
What causes muscle cramps during exercise?
As said, the exact mechanism of muscle cramps in the body is still relatively unclear and further research is needed.
In the past, muscle cramps have been linked to several causes, such as electrolyte imbalance, loss of fluid, and environmental conditions.
These days, all fingers seem to point at muscle fatigue. Since ultimately muscle cramps are caused by a malfunction of the nervous system, it makes sense that the chance of such malfunction increases as the muscles grow more tired.
But of course, this doesn't tell the whole story. Until we get definite answers from science, athletes are still left to experiment what works best for them, and genetics also play a huge role in the occurrence of muscle cramps. Some athletes are simply more likely to experience muscle cramps than others, and there seems to be no way around this fact.
Nevertheless, there are ways to prevent or at least delay the occurrence of muscle cramps.
The main cause of muscle cramps during intense exercise seems to be muscle fatigue.
How can you prevent muscle cramps during exercise?
Since muscle cramps seem to be caused by muscle fatigue, the best way to prevent or delay muscle cramps during exercise is to avoid muscle fatigue.
But how can you do that?
Obviously, the most important aspect is your endurance. The more endurance you have, the longer and harder you can exercise without experiencing muscle fatigue.
Many athletes don't experience muscle cramps during training, but on race day their muscles give out. That's because the intensity of their training does not match the intensity of the race.
Knowing this, you can greatly decrease the chance of muscle cramps by increasing your endurance. To do this, you can use one of our training plans or consider some strength exercises. For best results, do both.
While endurance is key to prevent muscle fatigue, proper nutrition during exercise seems to go a long way in delaying or even preventing muscle cramps.
Finally, since muscle cramps are at least in part also linked to environmental conditions, which might hasten the onset of muscle fatigue, wearing for the occasion is a minor, but possibly relevant way to delay the occurrence of muscle cramps.
You can try to prevent or delay the occurrence of muscle cramps by increasing your endurance, follow correct nutrition during exercise, and reduce the influence of environmental conditions by wearing proper clothing.
How can an energy gel prevent muscle cramps?
One supplement that may contain all these ingredients, or at least minerals and carbohydrates, is the energy gel.
A good energy gel contains the correct combination of carbohydrates (glucose and fructose) and the correct concentration of minerals. By consuming these nutrients during exercise you can greatly decrease muscle fatigue and consequently the occurrence of muscle cramps.
One thing to note is that magnesium, which is still praised as one of the best ways to prevent muscle cramps, may cause digestive issues when consumed in large quantities due to its laxative effect. Its efficiency in preventing muscle cramps is actually heavily disputed by many studies, which attribute the occurrence of muscle cramps to muscle fatigue and not a mineral imbalance.
As a matter of fact, studies have found that among endurance athletes dehydration and mineral depletion were not directly linked to the occurrence of muscle cramps.
For this reason, the best energy gels contain low quantities of magnesium, focusing instead on the minerals you actually need to replenish, such as sodium chloride and potassium, and delivering an efficient combination of carbohydrates that provide high levels of fast energy without causing digestive issues.
The energy gel may prevent muscle cramps by providing minerals to sustain hydration and carbohydrates to delay the onset of muscle fatigue.
What's the best source of carbohydrates to prevent muscle cramps?
The best source of carbohydrates to prevent muscle cramps are fast-acting sugars, such as glucose and fructose.
What you aim to do with an intake of carbohydrates is delay muscle fatigue, and to do that, you need an external source of energy, as depleting your glycogen stores will quickly lead to fatigue and consequently muscle cramps.
The reason why fast-acting sugars are best is that during intense exercise, your digestion slows down and you need a source of carbohydrates with a very high glycemic index, which allows your body to absorb it and use it as energy, slowing down the depletion of your glycogen stores.
But there's another very important factor to consider when consuming carbohydrates during exercise, and that's digestive issues. You can read more about energy gels and digestive issues here, but the gist of it is that a combination of glucose and fructose allows the highest intake of energy without overburdening your digestive tract and causing digestive issues.
Note that many energy gels use maltodextrin instead of glucose. There is this funny thing that although maltodextrin is a derivate of glucose, a simple sugar, maltodextrin is technically not considered a sugar.
For this reason, many supplements sport the 'low sugar' label, but this can be deceiving, as for all intents and purposes, maltodextrin and glucose are the same. If anything, maltodextrin carries a bigger punch. Which is also why it's preferred to glucose during intense exercise.
So, when you are choosing the best energy gel to prevent muscle cramps, be mindful of the sources of carbohydrates it contains. And if you want to learn how to read product labels correctly, check out this blog.
The best source of carbohydrates to prevent muscle cramps is a combination of glucose and fructose.
What is the best energy gel to prevent muscle cramps?
There are several energy gels on the market that can get the job done. If you are interested in choosing the best energy gel for you, check out our top recommendations.
But if there is one energy gel we have to recommend to prevent muscle cramps during intense exercise, it has to be Nduranz's Nrgy Unit Gel.
The reason is that Nrgy Unit Gel contains a combination of maltodextrin and fructose in the optimal 1:0.8 ratio and a concentration of minerals that matches as much as possible the concentration of minerals you lose with your sweat during exercise.
Nrgy Unit Gel also contains 45 grams of carbohydrates per gel and is optimized to reduce the chance of digestive issues. This is why it's the best energy gel for top-level and professional athletes, who need extremely high intakes of carbohydrates to fuel their performance.
Finally, Nrgy Unit Gel uses the Nrgy Unit System, designed to simplify your fueling and allowing you to mix and match different Nduranz fueling products while still hitting the optimal carbohydrate intake per hour to optimize your energy intake and hydration without causing digestive issues.
Nrgy Unit Gel is the best energy gel to prevent muscle cramps during intense exercise.
Muscle cramps are a common problem among endurance athletes. While there are several factors linked to the occurrence of muscle cramps, such as mineral imbalance and loss of fluid, studies increasingly confirm muscle fatigue as the main factor.
To reduce muscle fatigue, increase your endurance, try to reduce environmental impact, and consume carbohydrates to fuel your exercise.
A very efficient way to consume carbohydrates during exercise is with energy gels, which also provide minerals to sustain proper hydration.
The best energy gel we recommend to reduce muscle cramps during intense exercise is Nrgy Unit Gel.