To decide, consider the following:
The harder your body has to work, the more nutrients it loses. REI recommends energy bars, as they have an optimum balance of essential nutrients.
The longer your activity, and especially if you can't take a break, we recommend energy gels and/or sport/energy drinks. They're ideal for example, during triathalons, marathons or other long runs, or bike races.
This will depend on your activity, its duration and your personal preferences. As noted above, runners prefer gels and drinks. For hikers, an energy bar may be just as convenient. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
For example; are you on a low-fat diet? There is no fat in energy drinks. Do you have a really high metabolism that requires a diet higher in calories? If so, energy bars may be a better alternative for you.
It's generally fine to combine energy bars, gels and drinks as long as you drink plenty of water to prevent against possible upset stomach and to keep you well hydrated.
Consider the following nutritional information when choosing between bars, gels and sport energy drinks.
Most energy bars, gels and drinks are relatively low in calories.
Most energy foods are relatively low in fats, and there is no fat in any of the energy drinks REI carries.
This is your main energy source, so the higher the level of activity and duration, the more carbohydrates you need.
Great for helping your body rebuild tissues and recover after exercise/activity.
(listed ingredients such as sodium chloride, citrate, selenite, molybdate, benzoate and/or bicarbonate). More commonly known as electrolytes, the above listed ingredients are also essential in metabolizing carbohydrates for the proper functioning of muscles and to help keep you hydrated.
(listed ingredient as monopotassium phosphate, potassium citrate, L-lactate, dipotassium phosphate and/or potassium iodide). Also considered to be components of electrolytes (see sodium, above), the above listed ingredients are equally essential in metabolizing carbohydrates for the proper functioning of muscles and to help keep you hydrated.
Your body naturally burns vitamins and minerals through exercise and activity, so the more of these a product has to offer, the better. In general, energy bars have the highest number of vitamins and minerals overall.
Leucine, valine and isoleucine are often added to gels only and are basically proteins which are broken down and used by the body to help construct muscles and keep them in good shape.
If you're caffeine-sensitive, watch out for chocolate and mocha-type flavors in all products. Also, ingredients like guarana, from the herb Guaranis, can contain up to 7% guaranine (just like caffeine), as compared to a cup of coffee which contains 2%.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 08/15/2012
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