How long before a climb should you take a gel?

by S13SFC   March 28, 2014  

I've a couple of tough climbs (for me) to tackle at the weekend. I was wondering how far in advance of them I should suck down a gel to give me that boost going up them?!

The plan is to stop for scoff at the top as we'd have done around 60km of 170km but want to ensure that I can get to that point.

Ta.

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15-30 mins maybe? Depends how fast you digest really.

posted by bashthebox [638 posts]
28th March 2014 - 11:19

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I normally take one on at least mins before, ideally 15 - 20.

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
28th March 2014 - 11:45

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For a long ride (more than 50 miles) shouldn't you be fuelling up every hour regularly with carbs and fluids ? I carry gels for long rides and the 15-20 mins guide is about right for me but I only use them in dire need as I can't stand them ! I know nutrition is a matter of personal preference but potato cakes, flapjacks, malt loafs, ham & egg rolls etc are far preferable than hitting up on gels when you're close to bonking !

posted by arfa [474 posts]
28th March 2014 - 11:51

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Rule of thumb is 90g of carbs per hour which I find works for me regardless of terrain as my effort on training rides is constant be it up, down or flat. Most energy gels are digested extremely quickly so 15 minutes should be a decent guide if you're not perma-fuelling.

posted by ajmarshal1 [266 posts]
28th March 2014 - 12:56

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arfa wrote:
For a long ride (more than 50 miles) shouldn't you be fuelling up every hour regularly with carbs and fluids ? I carry gels for long rides and the 15-20 mins guide is about right for me but I only use them in dire need as I can't stand them ! I know nutrition is a matter of personal preference but potato cakes, flapjacks, malt loafs, ham & egg rolls etc are far preferable than hitting up on gels when you're close to bonking !

I/we stop for 10mins every 2hours for scoff. I tend to use bananas and flapjacks/mince pies/hot cross buns/fruit cake and of course I also have a carb (High5 source + and jelly babies)/fluid intake whilst riding. This routine works for me.

My concern is this weekend our 1st stop isn't until we crest two tough (for me) climbs so I want that instant energy that a gel can give just to get me up to the top, when I can refuel as normal.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

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posted by S13SFC [85 posts]
28th March 2014 - 12:59

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You ought to be looking at eating more regularly than every two hours, really. Little and often - as someone else said, 90g of carbs an hour. I find it hard (and not really that necessary) to take that much on, but you should eat to keep energy levels steady. You burn up your glycogen stores after about an hour of medium/hard riding.

posted by bashthebox [638 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:01

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For most rides 1 fruit bar or snickers per hour seems to be enough for me. Don't seem to get really hungry as long as I have something. If it's a tough or long one (3hrs+) I'd put some energy drink in one of my bottles, plain water in the other, and alternate. Little and often is the key.

I wouldn't use gels except in an emergency (i.e. bonk) or race.

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posted by Simon E [1940 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:13

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They start to work within minutes so I'd say take it at 5 mins max.

I'm not a big gel user but I was in a race a couple of weeks ago and in a break riding hard and finding it very difficult. I hadn't eaten enough because it had been so fast and the roads were tricky.

I was literally at the point of quitting the break and dropping back - I didn't think I could go on. But I missed a turn to shove in a gel. Within a minute I was feeling better and back in the rotation.

Having said that, in most situations I prefer to have a mix of things not just gels. Dried figs are good and easy to stash in pockets. Just makes a change.

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posted by abudhabiChris [515 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:50

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See this is where carb intake gets confusing, British cycling say

"A general rule is to take on one gram of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight, per hour. This would equate to approximately 75 grams of carbohydrate per hour for a 75 kilo rider"

But also say

"An easy mistake some people make is to over eat on the bike, I've seen this with club riders who will have so much energy drink they'll actually end up consuming a lot more than they really need. Your body can deal with about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour"

90g an hour seems a lot to me..........

posted by andycoventry [118 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:52

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when I was a boy in a club in Glasgow in the 80s we would go off on 60-70 mile runs with nothing but 50p and a can of soup in our pockets, stop half way, light a fire, eat the soup and spend the 50p on irn bru and crisps.

All seems a bit more high tech nowadays Thinking

posted by gdmor10 [30 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:57

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S13SFC wrote:
"I've a couple of tough climbs (for me) to tackle at the weekend. I was wondering how far in advance of them I should suck down a gel to give me that boost going up them?!"

What is "that boost" you get from the gel? Caffeine?

posted by JohnnyRemo [59 posts]
28th March 2014 - 15:39

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Worth bearing in mind that most gels only have about 60g of carbs in them.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
28th March 2014 - 16:02

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JohnnyRemo wrote:
S13SFC wrote:
"I've a couple of tough climbs (for me) to tackle at the weekend. I was wondering how far in advance of them I should suck down a gel to give me that boost going up them?!"

What is "that boost" you get from the gel? Caffeine?

+1, what is this boost? If the gel is giving you a boost then you haven't eaten enough beforehand and "you are already on your knees" so to speak. I use to rely on gels but but found I was going through peaks and sudden crashes. Ended using a combination of bar and gels. Gels mainly when I don't fancy chewing half a bar late on the ride. If you have enough sugar/food in your system a gel wouldn't make much of a difference. Now a gel at the top of the climb to aid recovery that could be different matter.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [289 posts]
28th March 2014 - 16:02

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Thanks for the advice, however, I'm more than comfortable with my eating routine which serves me well on 170+km rides. Carb drinks/jelly babies when I'm moving and decent high carb solids when we stop.

Regarding the gels/hills.This is specific to this ride. We are stopping just after a double climb that I've not previously done and want a fast carb intake, on top of what I will already consume, just ahead of it.

It's a just in case, not a habit or the norm'.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

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posted by S13SFC [85 posts]
28th March 2014 - 16:48

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Surely you've taken a gel before to know how your own body reacts to them during one of your 170km rides? And if not, why do you suddenly feel like it's going to magically give you some sort of competitive edge you've been missing?

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
28th March 2014 - 17:12

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Nick T wrote:
Surely you've taken a gel before to know how your own body reacts to them during one of your 170km rides? And if not, why do you suddenly feel like it's going to magically give you some sort of competitive edge you've been missing?

I've never taken them in the scenario that I've set out, hence me asking. If I use them it's with other foods when I stop to refuel.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

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posted by S13SFC [85 posts]
28th March 2014 - 17:27

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Personally, I'd only eat before a climb that's going to be longer (like 2 hours of up) than I would want to wait before I get to the top where eating is going to be easier. I wouldn't expect banging a gel in my mouth to make the effort any less painful.

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
28th March 2014 - 17:58

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S13SFC wrote:

Regarding the gels/hills.This is specific to this ride. We are stopping just after a double climb that I've not previously done and want a fast carb intake, on top of what I will already consume, just ahead of it. '.

What's a "fast carb intake?"

posted by JohnnyRemo [59 posts]
28th March 2014 - 20:42

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There is less than 30g of carbohydrates in a Torq gel, 23g in High5.

If you are consuming carb sources like an energy drink and jelly babies I doubt that downing a gel will make much difference.

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posted by Simon E [1940 posts]
28th March 2014 - 20:42

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JohnnyRemo wrote:
S13SFC wrote:

Regarding the gels/hills.This is specific to this ride. We are stopping just after a double climb that I've not previously done and want a fast carb intake, on top of what I will already consume, just ahead of it. '.

What's a "fast carb intake?"

Something quickly absorbed.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

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posted by S13SFC [85 posts]
28th March 2014 - 20:59

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Cycling nutrition, and nutrition in general is very complex, so there isn't a straight answer. It depends on the energy mix of the gel and what you have eaten / ridden before.

The energy mix is not just what it says on the nutritional information in terms of carbs, and sugars. For example SiS gels say they have virtually no sugar in them, and a lot of carbs, but what they have is maltodextrin which metabolises very very fast, in fact its GI (glycemic index) is double that of honey and significantly higher than fructose (both of which would show up as sugars in nutritional information). What that means is you will get the energy hit much faster with a high maltodextrin gel than gels than a 'natural' product using honey, or a gel with a mix fructose/glucose. A glucose only gel would be just as fast.

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

I use SiS gels about 10 minutes before an effort (really only crits and climbing over 200m gain). For short, high intensity efforts, say box hill or less, you can probably get by with general nutrition on the ride (honey sandwiches, dried bananas, energy bars). On rides less than a couple of hours, I have porridge and honey before I leave and don't bother at all with food when I am out (much rather have real food than gels!).

posted by jeffersaurus [10 posts]
28th March 2014 - 21:05

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Why not whack some "slow carbs" in 20 minutes before, instead of "fast carbs" 10 minutes before?

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
28th March 2014 - 21:10

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S13SFC wrote:
JohnnyRemo wrote:
S13SFC wrote:

Regarding the gels/hills.This is specific to this ride. We are stopping just after a double climb that I've not previously done and want a fast carb intake, on top of what I will already consume, just ahead of it. '.

What's a "fast carb intake?"

Something quickly absorbed.

Sugar then?

posted by JohnnyRemo [59 posts]
28th March 2014 - 21:14

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jeffersaurus wrote:
Cycling nutrition, and nutrition in general is very complex, so there isn't a straight answer. It depends on the energy mix of the gel and what you have eaten / ridden before.

The energy mix is not just what it says on the nutritional information in terms of carbs, and sugars. For example SiS gels say they have virtually no sugar in them, and a lot of carbs, but what they have is maltodextrin which metabolises very very fast, in fact its GI (glycemic index) is double that of honey and significantly higher than fructose (both of which would show up as sugars in nutritional information). What that means is you will get the energy hit much faster with a high maltodextrin gel than gels than a 'natural' product using honey, or a gel with a mix fructose/glucose. A glucose only gel would be just as fast.

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

I use SiS gels about 10 minutes before an effort (really only crits and climbing over 200m gain). For short, high intensity efforts, say box hill or less, you can probably get by with general nutrition on the ride (honey sandwiches, dried bananas, energy bars). On rides less than a couple of hours, I have porridge and honey before I leave and don't bother at all with food when I am out (much rather have real food than gels!).

That's interesting. Thanks.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

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posted by S13SFC [85 posts]
28th March 2014 - 21:20

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