It's really no secret as I have been using a gel flask for the past few years and if you read my race reports you will notice that I keep my fueling regime as simple as possible. Simple so that I can properly digest and absorb my liquid sport nutrition which is planned based on my racing duration and intensity. Above is me running the fastest run split of the day at Branson 70.3...fueled with 2 gels in my gel flask, topped with water and then consuming water at aid stations. On the bike for longer races and training, I have 3 cages (2 on my frame and 2 in the rear but 1 cage is used for my tubular tire and CO2) with 3 bottles of sport drinks. Because I plan to refill my bottles with water or powdered sport nutrition (Hammer) I like to carry a gel flask with 1-4 gels topped with water for sipping as needed. In both scenarios (bike and run) I stay hydrated with 20-28 ounces of water but use my sport drink and/or gel for carbohydrates and electrolytes.
I have been fueling with Hammer Nutrition for years (picture is from Hammer Nutrition) as my no-fail sport nutrition company but no matter what sport drink or gel you want to use, the gel flask makes it super easy to take in gels (or sport drink powder) consistently during training and racing to meet your electrolyte and carbohydrate needs. There are many strategies to obtain your fluid and energy needs in racing (Ex. aid stations) so whether you are training or racing, it's important that you prioritize your fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates to keep your nerves firing to contract and relax your muscles and to keep your liver from emptying stored carbohydrates in order to keep the muscles consistently fueled and energized. Oh and to keep your brain focused and alert.
I got this idea from Karel who was using a gel flask for his cycling races (when races as a Cat 1 a few years ago) as it was hard for him in crits or road races to handle gels due to all the acceleration and attacks. Also, he needed something calorie dense to just take a swig of with his sport drinks as neither of us like to take in solid food during training to meet our nutritional fueling needs. Karel introduced me to the gel flask and then when I found out Hammer had a flask that was easy to hold I knew it was a no-brainer to help me with my fueling regime in triathlons and running races. Thankfully, the gel flask has kept me from bonking and feeling well-fueled without GI distress for many years.
Here are a few great benefits of a gel flask:
-it makes it easy to stay hydrated and fueled when running off the bike in training, even for those 20-30 min "Short" brick runs.
-it is a nice way to supplement additional calories to your sport drink regime, especially on the bike.
-it eliminates wrappers during training and racing which can help you properly fuel without having to spend a few minutes with only one hand on your bike.
-it is easier to take a swig of gel (or sport drink) every 10-15 minutes to help postpone fatigue from a flask than to consume 1 full gel every 40-50 minutes.
-you always have nutrition with you and you can easily refill in training and racing.
-the GI system will find it easier to tolerate a little gel or sport drink every 10 minutes especially in the case of experiencing a high HR in certain parts of training and racing.
-if you don't find a fuel belt comfortable (although I recommend trying to get use to it as I find it a very helpful way to stay fueled/hydrated during long runs or in races with your own nutrition) this can be an easier option to carry with you during training/racing.
-you don't have to worry about wrappers and losing gels from pockets (but always plan back-ups!).
It's also convenient, easy to use, makes training more flexible to meet your consistency needs with the taste of gels (ex. diluting with water), you have less waste and things to carry on the bike and during running (and travel) and less mess.
My favorite Hammer gel is Huckleberry - I was a looooong time vanilla fan but when Huckleberry came out I thought it would be too sweet but I love the taste!
I feel that the best strategy for consistent energy, to control blood sugar and to help reduce risk for injury, burnout and fatigue is to consume sport nutrition at consistent intervals during training and racing. Certainly your ability to tolerate, absorb and digest sport nutrition will affect this strategy but you should not convince yourself that your body can not tolerate sport nutrition as this is a necessity and not a negotiable when it comes to being an athlete. I consider it disrespectful to the body to not consume fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates with well-formulated sport nutrition drinks/gels when the body is under extreme intentional stress.
Still not convinced you need sport nutrition or feel that consuming just 1 gel an hour or eating a few jelly beans during a long race is enough for your body?
Consider your daily diet. Do you eat at 3pm because you feel tired? Do you eat a snack right after dinner? Do you feel shaky or lethargic when you go several hours without eating and then end up overeating because you went too long without food? Now ask yourself how often you prioritize sport nutrition during training? To give yourself a dessert after a meal or to wake yourself up with a snack around 3-4 in the afternoon but to not feel you need consistent energy intake during a workout or race makes no sense. Fuel your body throughout the day with nourishing food and give a little respect to the body by fueling consistently to keep the body in optimal condition during training and racing.
Any questions - send me an email @ Trimarnicoaching@gmail.com
I was not paid or encouraged by Hammer Nutrition to write this blog. However, I work with many athletes (including my own Trimarni athletes) on training and nutrition and I have found great success with myself and other adopting a more realistic and easy fueling regime. I am always excited to share with others what has worked (or hasn't worked) with me......if you are interested, Hammer Nutrition has a special going on until 3/21/13. Mention code HG13 when you buy a Hammer Gel jug to receive a free gel flask. For additional products, email me if you have questions on any sport nutrition products and if you are ready to order Hammer Nutrition, feel free to use my product code for a discount on your first order (see link on right of blog page).