Entries by GazTriMan

Best Energy Gels for Triathlon

The Best Energy Gels

The other day, we witnessed a famous triathlete (whom we won’t name) ‘hit the wall’ midway during a triathlon.

He had to retire halfway through the bike section of the race!

It wasn’t lack of conditioning or improper training that caused him to bonk.

Instead, it was miscalculated long-run nutrition.

Having witnessed the event firsthand, we figured it was a great time to create a list of the best energy gels for our readers.

Oh yes, those pocket-sized gooey lifesavers that tuck into your jersey pockets and deliver an instant glycogen boost (with some caffeine to boot).

Like it or not, there’s no better source of instant-energy on a size-to-nutrition perspective. Having a few of these can keep your body fueled for any long-distance sporting event.

Fuelling up during a race is critical, but choosing one of these isn’t as simple as walking into a supermarket and picking a granola bar.

Energy gels have exploded in popularity off-late and the market today is flooded with hundreds of varieties, many of which are overloaded with more carbs than what one typically needs. That’s a ticket to gastric distress folks.

Others taste like industrial byproducts and you’d do well to push that down your throat even with a beverage amidst a run or a cycling event.

To make things easier, we tried the most promising ones for their palatability, energy, size and ease of access and rated them accordingly. This isn’t the most definitive list of options you have because we know that different people react differently to nutritional products and some of these may or may not agree with you.

However, we have tried to jot down the best features as well as highlight any nits in an unbiased fashion. We hope this helps you make an informed choice.

Here’s our review of the best energy gels.

#1 – Huma Chia Energy Gel

Huma, a recent entrant into the world of endurance sports nutrition, draws its name and inspiration from the Tarahumara tribe of Mexican Indians, or so it claims to.

Despite the fancy name and the unique ingredient blend, this gem of an energy gel is our personal favorite in this list.

It tastes fantastic and has an impressive nutritional profile that goes beyond the typical carbohydrate-caffeine mix.

best energy gels

HUMA CHIA energy gel review

Here’s a closer look.

ingredients for science in sport gel

Ingredients: The Huma Gel contains 24gms of carbohydrates in a single pack which is similar to most other brands.

But it’s the carbohydrate source that differs. Huma uses a blend of fructose and cane syrup. That’s a natural sugar mix that’s absorbed faster and will be gentler on your tummy.

The electrolyte content is equally impressive.

It packs in 240mg of Sodium, 60mg of Potassium, 25mg of Calcium and 14mg of Magnesium.

And to top it off, there’s a chia seed blend that gives it a unique texture and throws in some fiber to aid in digestion.

Palatability: We found the taste, consistency and flavoring spot on.

 We tried the Strawberry Lemonade and the Apples and Cinnamon. Both the flavors taste amazing.

They are not overly sweet nor do they have the chemical aftertaste.

The Chia seeds are very finely crushed and you’d never realize that they are there except for some very tiny bumps that can be felt.

We were able to gulp the gel down without water.

energy gels for triathlon

Energy: With 25mg of Caffeine and the fast absorbing carbs, we noticed an energy spike after 5-10 minutes of popping one of these.

The energy release is slower due to the chia mix and this actually keeps you going for a longer time frame.

how big are gel packs

Size: The packing is pretty small and not bulky either.

You should be able to tuck in five to six of these easily in a hydration belt.

Ease of access: You can easily tear the top off even with sweaty palms.

The slightly watery texture makes it easy to extract the gel.

Possible cons: None!

#2 – Science in Sport Go Isotonic Energy Gel

SiS or Science in Sport is a brand that we first came across during the Tour de France last year.

‘Team Sky’ happens to be one of their sponsored athletes.

And they even retail a Team Sky four-hour nutrition kit. (On our wishlist)

science in sport energy gels

Science in Sport Go Isotonic Energy Gel

They have been around since 1992 and have an ensemble range of endurance nutrition products that are quite popular in the UK and Australia.

The Go Isotonic Energy Gel happens to be their flagship.

Here’s the low down on it.

ingredients for science in sport gel

Ingredients: The SiS Go Isotonic Energy Gel gives you 22gms of fast absorbing carbohydrates per gel pack.

With a recommended average of 60gms of carbs per hour for vigorous physical activity, you’d need to carry a bunch of these if you are participating in a long sportive event like a triathlon.

We’ll come to the size part in a bit. The primary ingredient is Maltodextrin.

Palatability: The term Isotonic means that you do not need to gulp water or an energy gel to wash this down. 

That means that there are fewer chances of barfing or feeling bloated. It has a watery texture which is a welcome change from the chewy energy bars of yore.

On the flip side, we did find the flavor slightly bland. We tried the lime and the pineapple flavors. But that’s precisely what makes this lighter on the stomach.

energy gels for triathlon

Energy: The fast absorbing carbs give you an instant hit and keep you recharged for about 30 minutes or so.

Clubbed with an energy drink and some food which you’d typically carry, this can easily keep you fueled throughout the event.

how big are gel packs

Size: These are not the smallest-sized energy gel packs.

And considering that you’d need at least two of these per hour, you’d have to pack light or reduce the other things that you’d carry in your jersey or hydration belt.

Ease of access: The packing is extremely easy to open.

We had no difficulty whatsoever accessing the gel during cycling and running.

It flows out nice and easy.

Possible cons: The only possible downside to the SiS Go Isotonic Gel is the slightly bland flavor. Also, the packet will take up more space than some of the other options in this list of the best energy gels.

#3 – CLIF SHOT – Energy Gel

Clif Shot is the on-the-go fuel version of the famed Clif Bar. 

It is one of the more popular energy gels these days due to the natural flavoring they use and the compact-sized packets.

Also, it packs in a whopping 24gms of fast absorbing carbohydrates per pack making it a slightly better choice than the SiS Go Isotonic gel on a carb-level rating.

CLIF SHOT Energy Gels

However, a non-isotonic design means that you’d need to gulp this down with water or a beverage of your choice.

Here’s a closer look.

ingredients for science in sport gel

Ingredients: 24gms of fast-absorbing carbohydrates in a reasonable-sized pack.

The primary ingredient is Brown rice syrup which seems a little strange because Maltodextrin is the more popular and commonly used choice. That doesn’t affect the absorption rate or the taste. So, no complaints!

Palatability: Flavor-wise, the Clif Shot rates among the best in the business. They are available in a whole range of natural flavors.

We tried the Strawberry, Razz Sorbet, Cola, Double Espresso and Mocha. We loved the Mocha with the blend of natural cocoa and the sweetness of the brown rice syrup.

energy gels for triathlon

Energy: There is a noticeable energy boost within 5 minutes of consuming the gel. The hit (if that’s the right word for it) lasts for about 30 minutes or so. So, two of these should be more than enough to get you through the last hour of your sportive.

The caffeinated version delivers an extra kick with about 100mg caffeine. That’s akin to an 8 ounce serving of coffee.

how big are gel packs

Size: A single gel pack of Clif Shot is slightly smaller than the SiS Go Isotonic gel.

It is a 1.2-inch foil pack that features the famed ‘litter-lease’ that prevents the tiny stub on top of the pack from falling off and littering the place. This also allows you to anchor the pack on to your hydration belt or sternum strap.

Ease of access: Tearing the foil pack is reasonably easy.

However, due to the typical gooey consistency of the gel, it isn’t easy to squeeze out the entire content of the pack.

No matter how hard you try, a little amount always remains in it.

Possible cons: Not as easy as some of the other gels in the market to extract from the pack, especially when you are cycling or at the end of a marathon with fast-dwindling energy levels.

#4 – GU Energy Gel

GU Science has undoubtedly been one of the most popular brands in sports nutrition for a while now and the Energy Gel remains their bestseller despite facing stiff competition from newer brands like Huma.

Often known as the good-old gel, it has remained unchanged in its flavoring, consistency and ingredient list over the years.

energy gels comparison

GU Energy gel review

But why fix it if it works?

ingredients for science in sport gel

Ingredients: The GU Energy gel delivers 20-23gms of fast-absorbing carbohydrates with the primary source being maltodextrin and fructose.

It also contains a blend of electrolytes and amino acids that help reduce muscle fatigue and cramping.

For athletes and endurance runners who frequently experience cramping, there’s a Roctane version of the gel that contains double the amount of amino acids and electrolytes.

Personally, we like the regular version of the gel more than the enhanced one.

Palatability: These gels have a slightly thicker consistency as compared to the HUMA or the GO Isotonic gels.

You will require a beverage to chug these down. The flavoring is pretty good in the Chocolate Strawberry, the Vanilla bean and Peanut butter versions.

However, some of the other flavors, like the Island Nectar are a tad oversweet for our liking. That’s subjective though.

They also have a flavorless or bland version of the gel if you prefer that instead.

energy gels for triathlon

Energy: You will feel an energy surge in 10-15 minutes of taking the gel.

It’s not the easiest to digest though and without water or a beverage, you might experience some stomach distress.

how big are gel packs

Size: The packs are pretty small and compact.

You can easily pack at least four to five of these in your shorts or jersey pockets without them looking bulky.

Ease of access: GU gels are frequently used by cyclists and runners because the packs are easy to tear open, even when you are on-the-move.

The thicker consistency does make it a tad difficult to squeeze the gel out of the pack during a run.

Possible cons: Inconsistent flavoring and a thick consistency/texture are a letdown, especially when you have newer, better tasting options in the market.

#5 – Powerbar PowerGel Energy Gel

Last but not the least, we have the PowerGel Energy Gel from Powerbar that contains the maximum carbohydrates in a single gel pack that we have ever tested.

Club that with the C2MAX 2:1 glucose to fructose blend that delivers more energy in lesser time and you have, what seems like a winning bet.

 At least, in theory, it does appear like one.

power bar power gel reviews

POWERBAR POWER GEL review

Here’s what we found though.

ingredients for science in sport gel

Ingredients: With 28gms of carbs in a gel pack, you can do with less of these in your jersey pockets.

To add to the carbs, there’s about 200mg of Sodium for electrolyte replacement.

Not a bad nutritional profile at all. It is available in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions.

Palatability: The flavoring is a hit or miss.

We found some of the flavors to be overly sweetened, a problem that seems to be common with many of the popular energy gel brands.

The green apple was decent. But it’s only available in a caffeinated version.

The consistency of the gel is thicker than all the others in this list of best energy gels.

Powerbar recommends that you consume one pack of the gel with at least 150 ml of water.

energy gels for triathlon

Energy: The extra carbs and the fast absorption rate gives you an instant energy spike in as less as 5 minutes.

The energy boost lasts for almost 45 minutes.

No complaints there.

how big are gel packs

Size: The PowerGel energy gel pack is the same size as a pack of GU Gel.

It can easily fit into your shorts or jersey pockets as well as your hydration belts.

It is compact and lightweight and you can easily pack a lot of these without adding too much weight or bulk.

Ease of access: You can easily tear open the pack.

But extracting the gel during a run had us fumbling with both hands.

A thinner consistency would have made this a lot easier to squeeze out.

Possible cons: A thick consistency mars this promising energy gel with one of the best nutritional profiles.

To sum it up

Eventually, it all boils down to the palatability, the nutritional profile and the number of carbohydrates one typically needs to fuel the body. Serious athletes and marathoners need about 60gms of carbs in an hour while a casual runner can do with a lot less.

Consider your energy requirements, the flavoring, the caffeine levels and the size before you pick an energy gel for your next endurance sporting event.

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Bike Trainers

Indoor Bike Trainers

I spend far too many hours in the office in front of a computer.

When it comes to downtime I love nothing more than heading out for a spin on my bike.

This can take the shape of a leisurely spin in the countryside or a high speed training run in preparation for my next triathlon.

Whatever plan I have for that particular ride the only thing that will stop me is the weather.

Howling wind, rain and freezing cold is not the type of conditions anybody likes to ride in, and I’m just like everybody else…

indoor bike trainer

So what does one do?

Simple.

Clip you bike into your turbo trainer, fire up the tablet and off you go anyway. Sure, it’s not exactly the same but it does have some serious benefits to your cycling.

Indoor bike trainers are awesome and when the weather or short winter nights stop you going outside you still get all the exercise you need to keep the fitness and speed up for race day. I read a great article some time ago on the Ironman website about the advantages of using an indoor trainer and how it can really help your speed so that got me interested and eventually I invested in my first turbo trainer.

I am fairly strong on the bike and it’s my best part of every triathlon race I compete in. I put a lot of this down to off season indoor training.

With a bike trainer you can set the pace. Some of the more elaborate trainers even come with computerised courses you can run from your laptop - tour de France from your spare room anybody…

Bike Trainer Benefits

I mentioned the impact of weather as a benefit of using a bike trainer. This is only 1 of many advantages of using one. 

When I am out on the bike I like to push myself as hard as I can. This helps keep fitness levels up and really gives me a hard workout. I power up hills and freewheel down them again to get a well deserved rest. - On an indoor bike trainer you don't have the luxury of cruising because if you stop pedalling the trainer stops as well. 

You have to keep up momentum all the time and that provides an even better workout.

Controlled Environment

On a trainer you are free from traffic distractions, other cyclists and weather. You can set yourself goals and really go for them. Plan out a session and introduce plenty of hard sections to push yourself.

I spent a good deal of time working on my pedal stroke as I used to only half use the power in my legs to turn the cogs. On the trainer I adapted my pedal stroke and now power right through the stroke. This has greatly improved my overall times and fitness. (All done off season my the trainer)

Availability

As mentioned earlier I work hard and put in long hours at the office. More often than not it's too dark when I get home to even consider going out on my tri bike for a spin.

This is where the trainer really comes into it's own.

I have a spare training bike that is constantly hooked up to the trainer and is ready to go whenever I am.

Indoor Trainer Buying Guide

Bike trainers come in a near unlimited amount of styles and features - some great, some too expensive and some, well, just a waste of money.

We took a look at our top three from budget trainers to mid line and picked our top choice fully functional computerised training monster...

Budget

You can spend upwards of $1500 on a trainer if you have that much spare cash lying around. Like everything set yourself a budget first and then go shopping. Try keep to this as there are enough other items on your triathlon shopping list that will be needed on race day!

My first trainer was under $100 and worked perfectly for me when I started out.

Noise

Yes noise definitely is a factor with indoor trainers. I remember 'fondly' back to when my daughter was a baby.

I was helping out more around the house so bike time was limited to the indoor trainer, but it was very loud, especially when I was racing at speed. 

This wont effect everybody reading this but it's something to note when you are choosing a new trainer.

Bike Trainer Tire

One thing you should definitely invest in as part of your indoor kit is a trainer specific bike tire.

What may seem such a small investment can really help you. These specially designed tires reduce heat caused by friction on the trainer and can drastically reduce the noise so makes it ideal for training in a house when quiet is appreciated - wish I had one of these back in the day :-) 

Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire


1 – CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Trainer

CycleOps have become the standard when it comes to quality indoor bike trainers.

The fluid resistance system lets you really control the ride but keeps the noise levels way down compared to normal mechanical trainers.

Designed for racing, triathlon and even mountain bikes, these trainers are exceptional.

Currently the best selling trainer on the market!

HUMA CHIA energy gel review

CYCLEOPS Fluid2Trainer

Here’s a closer look.

quietest bike trainer

Noise: The Fluid2 is the about the quietest indoor trainer on the market. Because of the fluid resistance setup you don't have the normal grinding sound compared to other cheap trainers.

Add a purpose made trainer tire to your bike and this runs about 60bd when under normal load.

strong trainer for your bike

Build Quality: Made in the USA, the cycleops trainer is superb quality. Manufactured from 2inch round rugged steel it is built to last. 

Ask anybody who owns one of these and they all say the same. They are a solid unit and give you great support on the bike.

bike trainer under $500

Value for Money: While not the cheapest option available they are certainly the best value for money. 

The unit ships with a dedicated training skewer included and all you need extra is a front wheel block if thats your style.

The only other features above this model take you into the expensive computerised range that run well over $1000.

Possible cons: None!