Getting The Most From Your Energy Gel

Want to maximize the ‘pick-me-up” boost you get from an energy gel?  Here’s how to make sure you get the most out of that little packet of goo:

1. Don’t gulp down the whole thing in one swallow.  Take two or more swigs.  Here’s why: recent studies at places like University of Birmingham (England) have revealed that the brain can sense the presence of carbohydrates in your mouth.  When the brain detects the carbs, it sends signals throughout the body telling the muscles that “good stuff is on the way.”  The muscles respond by increasing their output because they ‘know’ that more glycogen-building substances will be arriving soon. If you gulp down the whole packet in one swallow, you are not allowing your brain to prepare the rest of your body for the coming infusion of energy in the form of sugars.

2. Move the gel around in your mouth before swallowing.  Make sure the gel covers your teeth and gums and gets under your tongue.  Now you’re probably thinking: “That’s gross!  Why would I want to do that?” Here’s why: the membraneous surfaces inside your mouth (tongue, gums, roof of your mouth, underneathe your tongue) are packed with chemical sensors and absorbers.  One of the quickest ways to get something into your bloodstream is through your mouth.  Every energy gel is loaded with sugars, minerals, and other electrolytes.  By coating the inside of your mouth with the gel, you are: 1.) allowing the chemical sensors to transmit “here comes the carbs!” message to the brain (see #1); 2.) enabling the rapid transport of electrolytes and caffeine contained in the gel into the bloodstream; 3.) giving yourself that beautiful “I’ve got a mouthful of goo” face.  You will appreciate the energy boost; everyone else around you will appreciate the face you make.

3. Wash it down with a sip, not a mouthful, of water.  Most energy gel makers suggest downing their products with eight or more ounces of water.  This is too much water.  Drinking too much water while consuming sugary products like energy gels, gummies, and bars can result in gastrointestinal distress.  So, only take a short swig from your water bottle to wash down each mouthful of gel.  Use the water to rinse the excess gel off of your gums and teeth.  But, it’s okay to leave a bit of the gel in your mouth as the presence of the sugary substance will actually accelerate the production of saliva (i.e no more dry mouth!).

4. Put empty packet in pocket.  Don’t drop it on the ground.  Be a conscientious athlete and don’t litter. Plus, if you experience a sidewall blowout or massive puncture during your ride, that empty gel packet could come in handy as a hole or tear-covering tire liner. Yup, that’s right — the empty gel packet could actually be useful.

So, there are the four easy steps to maximizing the benefit of an energy gel.  Enjoy!  And, if you follow these steps enough times, your “I’ve got a mouthful of goo” face will disappear and be replaced with “I’m gonna rip your legs off on this next climb” face.


About The Author


Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team.  A 25-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.

Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work.  He has even won a bike race or two.

Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at:

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