Poll: What Do You Think about Energy Gels and Supplements?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  191 comments   :  21,711 Views

I just finished the October issue of Fitness, which had a great article on Alternative Energy: Do Energy Gels and Supplements Really Work? It's a question we get on the Message Boards all the time. And while I'm not the one to ask about nutrition (I'll leave that to Tanya and Becky!), I do want to hear your opinion on the subject.

According to the article, the supplement and sports nutrition market is growing--and women are a big part of that:

"Thirty-year-old Patricia Murphy stumbles bleary-eyed into her kitchen at 5:30 in the morning. The Boston attorney groggily opens a cabinet and reaches for an arsenal of supplements lining the bottom shelf: four large canisters of protein powder, a small tub of green granules, individual packets of recovery drink concentrate, and a large pill bottle holding wafer snacks that regulate blood sugar. Reaching past the fruit basket -- empty of produce but brimming with Hammer Gels, Clif Shot Bloks, Sport Beans, and PowerBars -- Patricia grabs her Isagenix protein additive and mixes herself a shake, which she drinks on her way to the Sports Club/LA, where she'll work out for the next hour."

This article made me curious: Are you a fan of these supplements? If you use them, how much do you exercise each week? Do you use these products at every workout?

I'm no fan of food with ingredients I can't pronounce, but long workouts during yoga teacher training this spring and summer left me extra thirsty and tired. It's hard to chug water or eat too close to a yoga workout, so I often relied on coconut water and Luna Moons to fuel me before and between sessions. (I ate a healthy snack or meal as soon as I could!) These products seemed more natural than others on the market.

I'm not a hard-core athlete. In an ideal week, I run three times (between 3-5 miles these days), take two yoga classes and throw in a Spinning class and a few at-home yoga sessions, plus sporadic strength training. I eat a balanced diet, hydrate well, get a good night's sleep and avoid caffeine, so I don't think I need anything else to help my "performance." I really don't use them too much now, though I do choose coconut water as an occasional beverage because I like the taste.

I've noticed more and more people saying that they use sports drinks, gels and chews during workouts.

Like our own experts, the article advised:
trying to meet nutritional requirements the old-fashioned way first: a healthy diet and a daily multivitamin. Another safe bet? Getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, either through food (eating fish like salmon twice a week) or a supplement (1,000 to 2,000 milligrams daily).

So tell me: Do you rehydrate with something other than water? Chew on gummies and goos during a workout? Chug protein shakes for breakfast? Gnaw on bars as a snack? What good, bad and ugly products are out there? (I've asked a nutrition expert to write a guest blog post on this subject, so if you have any questions, post them in the comments and I'll pass them along.)

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    I do rely on these drinks, gels and bar when I'm doing a long ride and it's hot outside. I especially enjoy climbing, and you can really burn a lot of calories going up to 9200 feet from my home. The gels are also a lot less heavy in my stomach, so I like having those on the way up the mountain. The drink I use the most is Luna's Grapefruit powder, which has less calories than gatorade, but is a great electrolyte replacement. And for gels, I like the boost that comes with caffeine - I can always tell when that kicks in since I don't have much other caffeine in my diet. The rides where I use these usually are multi-hour (2-4 hours). - 12/7/2009   11:20:34 PM
    Right now, I'm not training since I have been in a car wreck and I am going through rehab. But I focused on my diet and creating homemade nutrition products as an experiments.

    In the past, I have used whey protein and glycogen replacements but my diet was ok so it was hard to tell if the replacements were making up for what was missing in my diet or if they worked.

    Many of the folks answering are hard-core amatuer athletes or semi-pro and have different nutritional needs than folks who are working out for health concerns. Also as Bill stated, it can be for convience and sometimes I use these products when I am short on time. - 10/29/2009   5:26:09 PM
    The only suppliments I take are ones recommended by my doctor. Glucosamine condroitin for my joints and high dose Niacin for my triglycerides. Other than that I get my nutrients from food.

    I used to really enjoy Clif bars but I thought them more as a snack or food. Now I really like Larabars. Cherry pie Larabars are so good! Larabars are vegan, gluten free, and all of them have 5 or fewer ingredients instead of the litany of ingredients in Clif bars. - 10/28/2009   2:29:57 PM
    I mix a whey protein drink about 45 minutes before anytime I am going to do more than an hour long working out (two water aerobic classes) back to back. Other than that I take what my diet lacks according to my chart. ex. calcium magnesium potassium. I'm fairly new but I think I'm getting there. - 10/24/2009   10:06:45 PM
  • 187
    I don't trust supplements; they are not regulated as strictly as food is. I often think that if these gadgets, gizmos and supplements really worked, there would be very few overweight people walking around. I know that sometimes people need supplements because their body may be missing some important nutrient. However, I would only take something extra if my doctor recommended it.
    So, I'll rely on food, properly prepared until I have scientific evidence that a supplement can improve my health. - 10/21/2009   3:46:51 PM
  • 186
    I drink spirutene powdered protein supplemnt in milk almost everyday for breakfast. It has a host of vitamins minerals and nutrients in it, and I just feel better when I drink it. also, it's only 200 calories in a cup of skim milk! - 10/21/2009   1:48:43 PM
    Personally, I have used gels and bars, but I question the use of nutritional supplements, etc. outside of sports/exercise and then only for those ultra-exercisers (e.g., running more than an hour at a time, muscle-building, etc.). For people like me who are struggling to return or attain their healthy weight I think these items should have a MINIMAL place in the diet. The whole way we got in this predicament is by not knowing what we were eating - nutrition bars, supplements just exacerbate that! As Michael Pollan suggests: if, when you look at it, you can't tell what kind of food it came from, it's not food - and food, not 'food' is what you should eat ("Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.") I DO think it's better to eat a Luna bar than stop by a fast food restaurant or eat a chocolate bar when you're really hungry, but the goal should be to get your nutrients from the food you eat. As well, nutritional epidemiology studies throw the whole idea of supplements, as in vitamins, etc. packaged into tablets, into question. It's not clear that increasing, say, your flavonoid intake by taking flavonoid tablets really does you any good. To get the benefit, it seems you need to eat the fruit/vegetables that contain the flavonoids. So, bottom line: NO to supplements with limited exceptions! - 10/21/2009   11:44:27 AM
  • 184
    As a Marathon Trainer, if you do not 're-fuel' during the length of the race.. The Lagwagon will run you over.
    I have found that re-fueling ever 6 to 8 miles in a 26 mile period works best.
    I have a 'fuel-belt' that holds three bottles of water, and one of Pickle Juice.
    And I use either Shot Blocks, Gu Chomps, or Sport beans.
    Do I eat these as common snacks, or to wake up in the mornings? Nope, because to me they taste awful. Like Flinstones' Vitamins.
    When my body 'needs' them, they taste just fine. Which I believe is what the Producers of these products was going for.
    I take a multi-vitamin and Omega Supplements. The rest of the time it is whole foods.
    - 10/21/2009   10:54:21 AM
  • 183
    The only time I used anything was in training for a half marathon, and for the run itself. I really believe in good nutrition to support my body. I tend to have low blood sugar and with running for a long period of time, I was afraid I would crash, so that is why I only added it then. The goo did give me a great boost when I needed it, but cannot imagine using it on a regular basis. - 10/20/2009   12:14:37 PM
  • 182
    I like to take an energy shot before I work out. It wakes me up and gives me the boost I need to put in my extra energy into the workout. - 10/20/2009   11:01:28 AM
  • 181
    I like caffeine and ephedrine, those are actual energy enhancing for any day.
    Protein bars are only necessary if you are in need of more protein than you can consume without getting sick. I don't eat them because they have animal derived products. I would not call them energy bars. - 10/20/2009   10:27:47 AM
    I usually have a banana before I run. I drink water for anything less than an hour and half powerade and water for anything more. The only time I will use a GU is if I am doing more than ten miles. I like to munch on pretzels for anything under ten miles. - 10/20/2009   8:46:03 AM
  • 179
    I used to be a competitive body builder; competed for approximately 3 1/2 years. Took 1st in the open division of my weight class 2x's (state wide competition--middle weight division); 1st in Age class (State wide competition: 45+...there were 15 competitors in that group..so it was not a cake walk) 3x's. Getting down to that 3-4% body fat range to be able to compete is very difficult. It might be possbile to do so with out the use of legal supplements, but I don't know anyone who was done it. So I used several types of fat burners to accomplish that task.

    My first encounter with ephedra was fine; my body metabolized it just fine. The first time I used it was in what is called a 'stack': a combination of drugs in a specific ratio. In this case it was the ECA stack: Ephedra:Caffeine:Aspirin stack. Worked ok but I think it worked by suppressing my appetite. Other than not getting hungry, it did not give me the jitters or any other symptoms that people can get. I got to 3.5% body fat using that (my 1st place finish the 1st time). I then tried a supplement from a company in Colorado Springs, Colorado that has a reputation for actually basing thier products on solid science as opposed to what seems to be the latest craze. That got me to 3%: again I think by suppressing the urge to eat.

    Each time, I lived on protein shakes for 6 meals with flax oil in each shake for fats....and approximately 50 grams of complex carbohydrates a day.....I can attest to the psychopathology which results somewhere around 1.5 weeks: that irressistable urge to rip the donut out of someone's mouth and eat it whole before they can protest and beat them up if they do!!

    Since I have given up competition, I just simply rely on basic vitamins, minerals, Condroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine for joints and Turmeric/Fish Oil for inflamation. I know that many nutritionists say that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will give you all the nutrition you need, but there are too many solid scientific studies supporting the theory that most soil in the United States has had the nutrients leached out by the use of fertilizers and chemicals. I understand that is a controversial statement, but the evidence is there....

    Other than that, I don't use much. I don't eat energy bars as the sugar simply metabolizes too quickly (sugars in them) although they are probably good to eat when doing long distance running (half, full and ultra marathons). Same with gels although I have never tried one. - 10/20/2009   5:10:10 AM
    I'm for the old fashioned and natural way - eat well, eat sensibly, get your vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. That way, it's yummy! My husband and I drink coconut water after our daily walk/jog. - 10/19/2009   10:16:36 PM
  • 177
    I have to drink gatorade or pedialite to rehydrate due to my body using electrolites to the point of dangerous dehydration. I drink 4 or 6 bottles of water a day and I have still ended up in the emergency room twice with a glucose IV sticking in my arm for about 2 hours due to being severly dehydrated. So Gatorade or Pedialite daily is a must have for me. - 10/19/2009   8:23:27 PM
  • 176
    I have a doctor who has a very busy practice. He lives on Red Bull. He drinks 8 to 10 cans a day. He is so hyper that he shakes and I think any day now, his heart will explode. Now he has discovered "hot shots" the super concentrated energy shots. So he does those in addition to his Red Bull. I hope I don't have to find a new doctor.
    Erin - 10/19/2009   6:39:18 PM
  • 175
    Yes I do use a few products.

    100% Gold Standard 1x before my workout
    Nutrazon 3 x times a day - liquid organic food supplement, with omega 3
    1 multi vitamin
    1 vitamin c

    I don't use stimulants at all, I used to drink the Monster drinks.
    trainertfitness.com - 10/19/2009   2:29:17 PM
  • 174
    I'm rather shocked and dismayed at the number of comments I'm seeing from people who think energy drinks such as Redbull would fall under the sports supplement catagory. I could not imagine using "energy" drinks or vitamin waters as fuel. These type drinks have no place in my diet, period! - 10/19/2009   1:59:19 PM
  • 173
    I am too old fashioned. I have a degree in Nutrition and still believe that the best way to nourish a body is by sensible eating using the food guide pyramid! Occassionally I will use Muscle Milk or Special K drink to supplement a missed meal or snack before or after a workout but generally it is 5-6 small meals a day for me - 10/19/2009   10:54:12 AM
  • FRANK3038
    I make my own protein bars using an Alton Brown recipe (foodtv.com). Way better than store bought and only contain what I put in them. - 10/19/2009   9:23:48 AM
    I'll often have a protein shake in the morning, if only to help keep me fuller until lunch time rolls around. But I fill the shake with other great ingredients: either regular milk or soy milk, sometimes a spoonful of almond butter, and almost always I'll throw in frozen fruits for a smoothie-like texture. I've tried Shot Blocks, but I don't normally work out hard enough to warrant buying and using them. But I'm starting some marathon training, so I may become more interested in those in the coming months. - 10/19/2009   7:22:52 AM
  • 170
    i use them especially when i've got a big run a head of me. i drink an energy drink before the race and have a banana and carry some jelly babies on me when i feel a bit weak in the middle bit. then have some thing to eat at the end of it. - 10/19/2009   4:34:51 AM
  • 169
    I like a bar once in awhile. I just grab something at the store. I usually end up not liking it, but eat it because I can't see wasting the money. I have found most are good just after a work out. I don't eat so much for dinner then. - 10/19/2009   12:49:04 AM
    i always take some kind of a quick energy bar with me when I go out for a long walk. Don't believe in the Red bull, etc, too much sugar - 10/18/2009   8:51:01 PM
  • 167
    Never used them regularly, because pretty much all of the ones I've tried have tasted horrible. - 10/18/2009   8:47:34 PM
  • 166
    I've tried Isagenix and a couple other meal replacement/energy boosting products. Can never stand the taste, no matter how great they're supposed to be for me. I'd rather do this the old fashioned way - whole foods, as much all natural eating as I can, and daily exercise... - 10/18/2009   7:43:27 PM
    I do not use any of these and stick to water and natural foods. - 10/18/2009   7:09:29 PM
  • 164
    i love the new crystal light packets that have energy in them! they work and flavor your water to taste amazing. they also have them for fiber, etc.. - 10/18/2009   11:53:49 AM
    I'll use sports drinks or gels on long/hard workouts. Anything approaching 90 minutes and beyond or Lactate Threshold efforts approaching an hour. I'll use a recovery drink after those workouts if I can't conveniently have a glass of chocolate milk. Right now I'm using a high protein meal replacement shake to boost my protein intake as my family doesn't eat a lot of meat or nuts. - 10/18/2009   10:00:05 AM
  • 162
    I usually don't use these products unless I'm doing a long . . . run, bike ride or attending an event of some sort. Ocassionally I'll try something out of curiosity to see if it "works".

    - 10/18/2009   9:10:06 AM
    The only thing that I have tried and sometimes drink are the energy drinks and protien bars. - 10/18/2009   8:57:34 AM
  • 160
    I find it funny how people consider, and equate, these supplements to be ''crap'' or trash. Whey is a pure form of milk protein - hardly trash or crap – and soy is a vegetable. But, instead of getting into a debate about mindsets and mentalities, the fact of the matter is healthy supplements (e.g. low sugar and or little to no aspartame) are very quick, easy and healthy ways to grab a ''fast-fix'' post-workout. I know, when I finish my workouts at the gym, or after cycling, the last I want to do is stop, on the way home, to pick-up something to eat. So, I take a Clif bar and some whey protein that I mix with some milk - very fast and easy - and it holds me until I get back home where I can get a healthy and nutritious meal. Otherwise, I hear the resounding calls of Krystal (White Castle for you mid-west\westerners) growing louder with each passing second I drive. - 10/18/2009   7:07:58 AM
    I think they are good in moderation- but I don't think it should be a daily supplement. - 10/18/2009   1:17:36 AM
  • 158
    I cannot eat that garbage. I am allergic to soy, whey and gluten. Learning about the gluten is fairly recent. My digestive system has been a problem for a long time. Until it is healed up I do not expect that I can take fish oil either. I tried vitamins earlier this week and this made me sick too. I was careful to make sure this time they did not have the things I knew I was allergic too, but I had a big problem with them. So I am left with only being able to take a few supplements that I know are safe and eating the right healthy foods. Progress is finally being made and I am getting healthier all the time. - 10/18/2009   12:31:00 AM
  • 157
    I use quite a few supplements along with my balanced diet and exercise:
    - Whey protein shake (breakfast, pre-workout)
    - 1/2 Whey, 1/2 Casein protein shake (post-workout)
    - Casein protein shake (immediately before bed)
    - Nitric Oxide shake (1/2 hour prior to workout)
    - EPA Fish Oil (3x daily)
    - Multivitamin - 10/17/2009   10:22:31 PM
  • 156
    Clif is my go-to company. Original Clif bars are a good fill-in when I can't get a real meal in. They are all-natural and have a good balance of carbs, fat and protein. I have to drink electrolyte drinks because I have dizzy spells, even without exercise or sweating. I have used nuun, cytomax (ick), Clif (quench, I think), and gatorade. I usually stick to gatorade since it is widely available and inexpensive. But I don't like the idea of the corn syrup and food dyes. I think most people misuse the products that are out there, and that far too many exist than may be necessary. These products are geared towards the more elite athletes that need that extra supplementation. It seems silly that the occasional/casual exerciser would feel compelled to use these products. - 10/17/2009   6:30:37 PM
  • 155
    I haven't tried any of those but have been thinking about trying them. Because for the pasted few months my snuis has been so bad that it really is affecting my sleep so I am so very tired all the time and will keep dozing off when I want to be awake. I have a ct scan for Monday to check if there are any blockage in my nose that is causing this. I am crossing my fingers that I don't need sugery. Anyone that read this do you think it would be a good idea for me to try any of the engery drinks to help me to stay awake?

    Rose - 10/17/2009   5:43:11 PM
  • 154
    When I worked certain jobs I used to keep protein mixes (yuck) - not the sports performance kind, protein bars (yuck) around in a pinch. Most of my life I've stuck to good nutrition, a multivitamin & mineral, and a b-complex for a boost.
    I do like some sports drinks and vitamin enhanced waters providing they are free of stimulants like caffeine, taurine, etc., and prefer the low calorie varieties for workouts or at other times in place of "zero everything sodas." But this is mostly a taste thing with me.
    The bulk of my fluids come from plain water. And nutrition comes mainly from food with multivitamin/mineral and calcium supplementation (as needed to fill in for things that are harder for me to get in on a regular basis). - 10/17/2009   5:00:09 PM
  • 153
    I drink water but I also use Monavie (acai berry blend) juice before workouts or use a Monavie Active gel. I like the taste and nutrients and it has no caffeine buzz/crash. The Monavie juice or gel does give me more energy, seems to also keep my body from muscle aches. It's a blend of fruit which covers a full nutritional range, but the acai has particular energy boost benefits which work well for my body -- better than pills or powders. - 10/17/2009   2:59:22 PM
  • 152
    I don't use them. - 10/17/2009   12:18:34 PM
  • 151
    As a distance runner I will use these for any run over 10 miles. Gu, Nuun, Rehydrate etc...I also have problems with my electorlyte balances, and I will drink a Nuun or other electrolyte replacement drink prior to bed most nights to keep from having leg cramps in my sleep. There is a proper place for fuel like these, but you need to know when you need them, and when plain good for you food is enough! - 10/17/2009   12:01:40 PM
  • 150
    Daily multi and occasionally a protein powder shake. It helps me to keeps the carbs in range (not above) and the protein in range (not below), and feeling full to avoid the junk. TBL is far too expensive. I just found some at Costco at a great price for canada prices. Never knew they carried it. It has the high % protein though I can't recall the name. - 10/17/2009   11:22:46 AM
  • 149
    I do have protein shakes often for breakfast before a workout. Sometimes when I take an 1 1/2 hr spin class, I might have a block of one of those electrolyte things mid way thru. I have taken the sport beans along on hikes as a midway snack, esp because the kids love them. - 10/17/2009   10:36:11 AM
  • 148
    I sometimes carry a 100- 150 cal snack bar in my purse if I'm out and about and don't think something healthy will be available for a snack. Other than that it's lots of water, trying to eat clean, and multivitamin, calcium, magnesium and fish oil. - 10/17/2009   8:41:17 AM
    i try to not take supplements. i try to get all of the nutrients and minerals and vitamins from the food that i eat.
    i have tried some in the past, and frankly did not like the way they made me feel. - 10/17/2009   2:41:47 AM
  • 146
    I'm a big believer in keeping it simple: water, water and MORE water! As for food: veggies, fruits and nuts. I think those various "bars" are nothing but glorified "candy" and WAY too over-processed to be healthy.

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 10/17/2009   12:57:20 AM
  • 145
    On long walks (1 hour or greater only) when training for a marathon or half-marathon, I put a no-sugar electrolyte replacement called nuun in my water and drink some every mile, but that's it. I get my energy from real food! - 10/17/2009   12:48:33 AM
  • 144
    I drink lots of water, take a multiple vitamin, fish oil, calcium and glucosamine daily. On my cross-training days, I drink water and usually have a powerbar or some sort of healthy snack prior to the workout (Jazzercise or strength training). On running days, if the run is less than an hour, just water and maybe some luna moons, if it's a long run that consists of more than an hour, Gatorade, powerbar cut up in pieces and luna moons. Then my recovery drink is usually G20 recovery powder w/water. - 10/16/2009   10:57:55 PM
  • 143
    Gatorade is a must-have on runs or biking longer than an hour. Without the electrolyte replacement, I get cramps in my legs. I use ShotBlocks, too. On shorter runs, I drink water. For post-exercise (1 hr. or longer) nutrition, I prefer to drink chocolate milk. A daily vitamin and iron tablet are the only supplements. - 10/16/2009   9:45:37 PM
    Once, just once, when I was in GNC getting a supply of my post-gastric bypass protein shake powder, I caved and bought something I'd seen advertised on TV. I don't even remember now what it was, but I think there was some sort of stimulant in the pills. Not long after, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup - AND MY BLOOD TEST CAME BACK WITH LIVER DAMAGE. Nothing had changed in my life, except those pills, so I tossed the rest of them and will not, ever again, take anything other than the protein powder I take now. Furthermore, I'm more conscious than ever about those 'ingredients you can't pronounce.' I read those labels carefully and make the best choices I can. It isn't always easy - if one ingredient is low, something else is high - you kinda have to split the difference as best you can. When the blood test was repeated, there was no liver damage showing so I caught that problem before it really became one. I can't stress it enough - be very careful about what you put in your mouth! While it may not kill you, it's very possible that you could end up on a transplant list, or with some other problem - all in the name of 'good health.' If you can't pronounce it, don't put it in your mouth! It's that simple. I take whole food supplements with an enzyme delivery system - totally natural! It's the only way to go! - 10/16/2009   9:04:48 PM

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