Gel or Bar: Which is better for a bike ride?

2023-11-08
energy bars or gels
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Whether you’re an amateur cyclist or a professional, you’ll know that maintaining energy during a bike ride is essential to avoid fatigue and enjoy the ride. Two of the most popular nutritional supplements in this field are gels and energy bars. But, which is best for your routes?

EVERYTHING IN CYCLING NUTRITION

Factors to Consider

Energy Demand

Physical exercise, especially cycling, demands a significant amount of energy from our body. The glycogen reserves in our muscles act as the main fuel source during exercise, and their consumption is directly proportional to the intensity and duration of our activity. During the first 2 hours of sustained exercise, the body generally requires about 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour. However, beyond this period, the demand triples. This means that, to maintain the same performance level, it’s essential to increase carbohydrate intake, whether through food, gels or energy bars.

Practicality vs. Natural Nutrition

The choice between gels and energy bars can also be influenced by the convenience of consumption on the move. Natural energy sources, such as fruits, can be excellent in terms of nutrition, but their consumption in the midst of intense physical activity may not be practical. On the other hand, gels and bars are formulated to be easily ingested, even when you’re in full effort. Moreover, their composition is usually a calculated mix of nutrients and energy, specifically designed to meet the body’s needs during exercise.
energy bars or gels

Type of Exercise

Each cycling discipline has its own specific characteristics. Mountain routes may present steep climbs followed by technical descents, demanding short but intense efforts. On the other hand, a long, flat course will require a steady pace. This variability in the activity profile means that nutritional needs change. For more explosive and short efforts, the quick energy provided by a gel can be ideal. In contrast, for more prolonged efforts, an energy bar, which offers a slower and more sustained energy release, may be the more suitable option.

EVERYTHING IN CYCLING NUTRITION

The choice between gels and bars will largely depend on the duration, intensity, and nature of your bike ride. If you’re planning a long and steady ride, an energy bar may be more suitable due to its sustained energy release and ability to satisfy hunger, allowing you to maintain a steady pace for longer.
On the other hand, during high-intensity moments or when a significant effort is anticipated, a gel may be the best option. Its quick absorption provides an immediate energy boost, ideal for sprints or steep climbs.

Gels vs Energy Bars

  Energy Gels Energy Bars
PROS
  • Quick absorption
  • Ideal for high-intensity moments
  • Can contain stimulants like caffeine.
  • More constant energy release
  • Satisfies hunger
  • Suitable for prolonged efforts.
CONS
  • Do not satisfy hunger
  • Must be consumed with water.
  • More difficult to consume on the move
  • Some can be heavy on the stomach.

It’s essential to consider the practicality factor. In situations where it’s difficult to chew or if you need a quick dose of energy, the gel has the advantage. However, bars can be more satisfying during more tranquil routes or when you feel hungry.

Other tips for your final choice

After weighing the pros and cons of gels and energy bars, and considering all the factors mentioned above, it’s time to make an informed decision. However, here are some additional tips to guide your choice:

  • Read the labels: Ingredients and their proportions vary. It’s essential to know what you’re consuming.
  • Train your digestion: Just as you train your muscles, train your stomach. Try both products during your training to see how your body reacts.
  • Personalize your intake: Experiment and adjust according to the demands of your body and the type of route you’re undertaking.

energy bar or gels

Conclusion

Cycling, whether recreational or professional, requires proper nutritional preparation to maintain energy and optimize performance. Both gels and energy bars play a fundamental role in this regard. While gels offer quick energy absorption, ideal for times of high demand or to prevent an imminent energy decline, bars provide a more sustained energy release, making them ideal for prolonged efforts.
The choice between them depends greatly on the nature of the exercise, the duration, the intensity, and personal preferences. It’s essential to experiment with both during training to understand how your body reacts and which benefits you more in different scenarios.

Finally, it’s crucial to remember that, regardless of the product you choose, you must complement it with proper hydration and a balanced diet. Only this way, you’ll ensure maximum performance on your bike rides. Pedal with energy! 🚴‍♂️🌟

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