Experience From - Richard Bartel, Andy Jones, George Beinhorn#1, Thomas Perry, Karl King#1, Gordon Chace for Steve Rach Mirarchi, Karl King#2, Bill Misner, Ph.D. , Hank Garretson , Matthew Kavanaugh , Carey , Dana Rouche , Karl King#3, Alan Cabelly , George Beinhorn#2 , Douglas B. Spink , Karl King#4 ,

Richard Bartel

Subject: Gel Packet Litter Solution

I have a suggestion for everyone using GU. I transfer several packages of GU to a small bottle and mix with Gatorade. Every half hour I drink my GU from this bottle. No muss - no fuss, and no tearing/dropping tabs or packages when I run. The bottle is about 3 inches tall and 1 inch diameter. It fits easily into my fanny pack. Now, if there was only some way to convince the manufacturer to package in bulk.

Andy Jones

Subject: Gel Packets Solution

Another solution for carrying multiple gel packets during an ultra: put them into an open-bottom tube (found at camping supply stores - a clamp fits on the bottom of the tube after you've filled it with 6-8 packets). I have used this successfully in several ultras, carrying the tube and a small water bottle in a light 2-bottle pack.

George Beinhorn #1

Subject: Leppin Squeezy and Other Things...

Mike Bate wrote:

Has anyone tried these Leppin Squeezy carbohydrate sachets and if so with what results??
I used them in several long runs including a 50K race. I found that my legs tended to cramp after 20mi, which never happened before. I thought this might be due to depleted minerals, so I took a little regular race drink and the problem went away. Then I discovered electrolyte tablets, which worked even better. I used the brand recommended by the Thibeaults, "Electrolyte Stamina Tablets" from the Trace Minerals company. (Can be ordered from health food stores here in the U.S.)

Thomas Perry

Subject: Leppin Squeezy

Mike Bate asked about Leppin squeezies. They got me thru the Ice Age 50 Saturday just as they have other races before. It was HOT, other food was unappealing or hard to swallow with the dry mouth. Aside from a couple halves of banana and cups of Succeed at the aid stations, my only external source of calories was the Squeezies and I finished strongly. About one Squeezy per hour was enough to keep from bonking.

The Squeezy packaging has been redesigned in the last year. The sachets are now about 5 inches long with a notch at one end to tear off. The consistency seems also to be a bit more fluid than the older version. I got my most recent supply from World's Toughest (see ad in Ultrarunning).

The only real problem with Squeezies is that you need to carry out the packaging.

An add: I did try one packet of GU (Orange Burst). I found the consistency somewhat grannular (old stock?) and the taste strong and not very pleasant at the time. The Leppin product is smooth and almost tasteless (that's a plus).

Karl King #1

Subject: Gu and Gatorade

John Edgcomb brought up this combination. Why shouldn't they be used together?

One major drawback is that Gatorade and other drinks that are high in simple sugars will temporarily overload the stomach with easily digestible carbohydrate. That will do a couple bad things: 1) absorption of water will be slowed, and there could be an insulin spike caused by the sudden rise in blood sugar. Insulin is great stuff AFTER the run when you need to reload carbos into depleted muscles, but during a run it can lead to ups and downs (the "blues"). It is much better to keep carbos coming in at a steady rate.

The one good thing about the GU Gatorade combo is that Gatorade will supply some of the salt that is "missing" from GU.

Sportsdrinks which avoid simple sugars would combine best with GU. For example: Conquest, SUCCEED! Ultra or Amino, and Cytomax. I've used SUCCEED! with GU on some runs and found that they work very well together. I've not used Conquest with GU but would expect it to work well too. Cytomax has a reasonable carbohydrate structure for use with GU, but its electrolyte profile is not good: too much potassium and too little sodium. Combined with the very low sodium content of GU, that would not be the best combination.

Whenever you use GU or the other gels, be sure to take plenty of water with them. Your stomach will not rapidly absorb the carbos if the water isn't present at the same time.

Gordon Chace for Steve Rach Mirarchi

Subject: GU

I saw the question a few days ago re: GU. About a year ago there was a description posted to the rec.running newsgroup. Yesterday I asked the author if I could repost, and in agreeing he gave an updated set of comments. He also requested that anybody else who saved his previous comments, please overwrite with this newer version.

My thanks to Steve for the info and the permission.

Subject: Why GU works version 1.1: The Updated Rach Report
From: Steve Rach Mirarchi
Copyright 1997

  • Maltodextrin:
    A high glycemic index starch (around 90 or so), maltodextrin is used very efficiently by the body due to its chemical structure (it's basically maltose, a super high GI carb, chemically bonded to dextrose, a moderately high GI carb). In maltodextrin you've got carbs from both ends of the moderate to very high GI scale. It is, therefore, the best carb for high endurance exercise. I, in fact, "eat" about 800 calories of maltodextrin an hour before my runs of 13 miles or more; I hardly ever drop pace (assuming hydration throughout).

  • Filtered water:
    Great, but the filtering doesn't do much unless you're one of the careful people that (wisely) monitors the kind of water you drink all the time.

  • Fructose:
    A very low glycemic index carb (around 20), but more importantly, it supplies the liver with the energy source it prefers. Because of the liver's ultra important role in just about everything, it's necessary, for optimum performance, to keep it fueled. The liver will take up a good portion of the fructose for its own use.

  • Leucine:
    Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) that's been the study of much research. Some studies suggest that athletes need 4 extra grams of leucine a day. Some have shown that taking BCAA before or during exercise spares muscle mass as fuel (and you don't want your body to have to turn to muscle for energy--better known as 'hitting the wall'). In any case, leucine seems to be the most important of the three BCAA; studies of its keto acid (ketoisocaproate) show that it alone is effective in increasing strength and maybe endurance (but definitely the muscle-sparing effect).

  • Pectin:
    A type of fiber (like in apple pectin) to keep things from entering the system too quickly and to ensure good intestinal track function (may help those who normally experience distress with sports drinks/bars).

  • Valine:
    The other studied BCAA, it works in conjunction with Leucine and Isoleucine. What's missing in GU is isoleucine; I'm wondering why. Are they aware of some research I'm not?

  • Potassium and Sodium Citrate:
    Essential electrolytes (the Na and K) that are depleted during endurance exercise. Some research has shown that replenishing them in small amounts can be beneficial. As citrates, they'll be well-absorbed, and you get the bonus of the citric acid, a well-known endurance-enhancer (though I'm not sure it's present in adequate amounts for that effect).

  • Histidine:
    Somewhat of a mystery. As a large neutral amino, it competes with the BCAA across the blood-brain barrier. I'm not aware of any research showing its effect (when taken orally in the presence of BCAA) on endurance.

  • Sea Salt:
    A nice way of saying 'added sodium for flavor.' Still, this form is natural, and if a small amount makes the stuff palatable, why not.

  • Calcium Carbonate:
    A very absorbable form of calcium. I suspect this ingredient was added to 'round out' the nutritional aspect of the product, but I'll add that calcium does play a large role in muscle contraction.

  • Potassium sorbate and benzoate (preservatives):
    That's exactly what they are, nothing more--unless they bother you (some contend that that they can cause headaches, etc).

  • GU herbal blend [astragalus, chamomile, cola nut extract (has caffeine)], ginseng:
    Only the kola nut extract can be present in a large enough quantity to be of any real impact. Caffeine indeed aids endurance and performance, but it must be taken at least an hour before one expects those results (especially when one has a full stomach (or recently emptied) from the tail end of carbo loading). Even if you're taking a GU every half hour, my guess (because amounts aren't listed) is that the astragalus, chamomile, and ginseng won't be of much help *during* the race. They may contribute to post-race recovery, however, but that again depends on the exact amounts.

  • GU antioxidant blend [beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E]:
    It's good to see these in here, but again the question is one of amounts and availability. Is the E mixed tocopherols, pure d-alpha, what? How much beta carotene? I can't say how much help they might be without knowing more about their forms and amounts. Much significant research has shown the interactive nature of C and E though (one figure I've seen is that C and E together work 8 times better than C alone). Given that exercise produces many more free radicals than say, sitting on a sofa, it seems a good idea to supplement the carbs with an antioxidant blend.

  • Citric acid:
    As mentioned above, a well-known endurance aid (though, again, I'm wondering how much is there), plus it helps prevent spoilage in certain foods.

  • Summary:
    What you've got is a good all-around high endurance aid specifically formulated for long events: you've got carbs from all ends of the GI spectrum, though some would argue that's a minimal concern in endurance exercise. The product provides amino acids but in a somewhat dubious configuration (until someone tells me otherwise) and also provides an "upper" in terms of naturally-occurring caffeine. I approve."

  • Karl King #2

    Subject: GU Ingredients

    I'd like to add some comments to those posted on GU.

    Maltodextrin: A high glycemic index starch (around 90 or so)
    Not all maltodextrins are the same. The GI varies from type to type from high to very low.

    Leucine: Some have shown that taking BCAA before or during exercise spares muscle mass as fuel (and you don't want your body to have to turn to muscle for energy--better known as 'hitting the wall').
    "Hitting the wall" is a result of nearly completely burning all your stored carbos. That can lead to increased use of muscle protein for fuel, but that is an effect, not a cause.

    Pectin: A type of fiber (like in apple pectin) to keep things from entering the system too quickly and to ensure good intestinal track function (may help those who normally experience distress with sports drinks/bars).
    The pectin is what keeps the product from being so fluid that it runs out of the package when the top is pulled off. IE it is there for a mechanical purpose.

    What's missing in GU is isoleucine; I'm wondering why. Are they aware of some research I'm not?
    The primary reason is probably because it is the most expensive of the three BCAAs.

    Potassium and Sodium Citrate: Essential electrolytes
    True, but there is very little in terms of amount needed.

    Caffeine indeed aids endurance and performance, but it must be taken at least an hour before one expects those results.
    Caffeine is effective at any time, but especially when a runner is very tired or sleepy, such as at night in a 100 miler or 24 hour run.

    Personal note: I get most of my calories from my sports drinks, but I also use GU from time to time to add supplemental calories. It has performed well in that use. People have asked me if it works well in combination with sport drinks and electrolyte caps, and the answer is yes.

    Bill Misner, Ph.D.

    Subject: Hammer Gel in Bulk

    The Bulk Gel is Hammer Gel, which contains a complex carbohydrate source derived from a maltodextrin base. Flavoring is accomplished by "Energy Smart-TM", a combination of mono/disaccarides, trace minerals and vitamins occurring from natural sources, plus both the medium and the long chain dextrins derived from grain. A Metabolic study using Energy Smart showed that athletes were able to perform endurance activities 50% LONGER than those who used fructose or sucrose based energy supplements. Hammer Gel measures a lower osmolality than any gel, fructose based or sucrose based product on today's market, which means it transfers through the digestive process at a rate similar to body fluids. Water is not diverted from the vascular system in order to lower the osmolality for digestion, therefore less water is needed with Hammer Gel than all other energy gels. Bulk packages allow the athlete to refill 4 oz. containers which come with this package, or even water bottles if one so choses...And a big plus is you do not have the fuss or liter potential of wrappers/packets on the trails.

    Hank Garretson

    Subject: Hammer Gel

    From their first appearance, I liked gels and hated their outrageous cost.

    March UltraRunner has an ad for HammerGel. Twenty-four doses sold in bulk with a reusable five-serving flask postpaid for $12. I tried it. The vanilla and strawberry are ok. I love the chocolate. Your taste may vary.

    Sure beats $1.25+ for Gu or PowerGel.

    Matthew Kavanaugh

    Subject: Hammer Gel

    I ordered it too. The vanilla is ok, almost too sweet (almost honey flavored) and the chocolate is pretty much standard chocolate, IMHO (which is good). It's great to get it at the equivalent of $0.50 per gel packet and to have it the form of a 5 oz. flask as opposed to all those envelopes to tear open and then carry around until you find a trash can.


    Subject: Hammer Gel

    Look I have too put my 2 cents in here. I know GU, GU is a friend of mine, and HAMMER is no GU......well that is not the case, I just tried Hammer at last weeks 50k. It is fine, and I will use it at Umstead this week for a more rigid test. However, IMHO, the $$ saving is more attributable to WATER in the Hammer product. Oh, the makers may disagree. Yes it goes down easier than GU.

    So? I can take GU with or w/o water. Heck I can eat Pwer Bars the same

    And the small bottle is no big deal guys! At the 24 Nat in OH, last yr, GU was one of the sponser, heck I got my entry fee back in free samples, and they had the bottles there too, same size, which I filled several.

    Anyhow, don't get too pissed at me. because I like Hammer too, but putting water into something and saying, see the same volume for half the price, well, you decide. Competition never hurts!

    Dana Rouche

    Subject: GU and Hammer Gel

    Carey wrote:

    "Competition never hurts|"
    I agree. THE ingredient in these products is maltodextrin with minor amounts of other ingredients added as "differentiators". Maltodextrin can be bought in bulk for around 50 cents/pound, add a little water and pectin and how much does it cost per serving? About as much as the package it comes in. I see no reason why someone won't come out with a similar product for 1/4th of Gu's price and still turn a profit. Time will tell.

    Karl King #3

    Subject: Calorie per $ Comparison

    For a fair comparison, one should calculate the figure for calories/dollar for the various products.

    For example if you bought a 100 calorie packet of GU for $1.25, the figure is 80 calories/dollar. How do the other products compare?

    The figure for sportsdrink powders is much higher. For example 2 pounds of SUCCEED! Ultra sells for $11, including shipping charges. That gives 327 calories/dollar for the drink powder.

    One thing about the water issue: you should take water with GU. As Dana Roueche noted, these products are all primarily maltodextrin, a carbohydrate. These product should all be taken with water. It is just a question of how much you want to carry while running.

    Alan Cabelly

    Subject: Hammer Gel

    Rick Stonebraker asked:

    "I have just been getting used to GU and other "gooey" type of stuff and along comes "HammerGel" (sp). Any feedback on what type is the best? Hammer advertises their stuff lasts longer and does not boink out as quick. Anyone want to verify which they like better.

    I do think the "gu";s and stuff is more convenient as they come in their own little pouches. Once you open the "hammergel", how long is the shelf life?"

    I've been using the Hammer Gel all summer and love it. It seems to give me the pickup I need, when I need it.

    They ship it in 24 ounce containers (for only $12.00), and send along a 5 ounce flask. Keep the opened 24 ouncer in the refrigerator, and put as much in the small flask as you need for that day. One big container has lasted in my fridge for over 3 months (it is the chocolate, which has no caffeine; I use more of the espresso, with caffeine) with no problem. I have kept the used flask in the fridge for upwards of 10 days (between long runs) without the stuff going bad. So storage is no problem.

    For me, the huge advantage is being able to take as much gel as I want, whenever I want. I just carry it, squeeze out what I need, and close the lid. No pouch to open, or garbage to throw away. And, it's only 50 cents an ounce.

    George Beinhorn

    Subject: Hammer Gel

    IMHO, Hammer Gel is superb. I don't do well on caffeine, and I suspect it makes a runner more susceptible to hypothermia (cranks up the metabolism to where it throws off too much heat). Hammer Gel gives me steady, sustained energy with no stomach problems whatsoever, and no bonking.

    Douglas Spink

    Subject: Gel vs. Balance

    Steve Simmons wrote:

    "Is this because it's a solid food in addition to the different contents? And other than the gels getting into your system suppossedly faster, was the solid bar a longer lasting sorce of energy? I'm not really expierienced enough to accuratley guess."

    I think you've hit the nail on the head, at least in part. Gels DO result in quicker energy bursts that don't last as long as bars for most people. That's because they are all carbs. However, the problem with bars is digestability-I just don't feel as if I am really digesting them all that well after a few hours on the trail.

    Gels were the "next big thing" a few years back when they really started to take off. However, while they have a place and are nice for quick bursts of energy, I think sometimes they are over-emphasized and used improperly. For any run of more than 2 hours, I don't think pure carbos are enough (other, "tougher" runners may be able to go longer on carbs than I ;-). After the first few hours, my body craves more balanced food. I've had rabid cravings for apples, chili, pizza, and even greasy bacon during long runs. Call me a glutton, but I think my body is trying to tell me something!

    Sometime soon, somebody is going to come out with a gel-based "food" that combines carbs with both some good protein (both BCAAs for energy and 'real' protein for muscle synthesis), and some good, 'ole fat-probably MCTs. A few gels today (UltraGel, for example), have a little bit of BCAAs thrown in, but I don't know of a pre-packaged product that has the big three. Metabol endurance does, but it is a powder which is generally great for pre-run eating but not so great to carry along. Ensure is close, but not specifically formulated for athletes.

    We are testing a product from Japan that comes sorta close, and comes in a tube like Clif Shots. But it's not quite there. Mark my words: some enterprising soul is going to do us all a favor with the first real "balanced gel."

    Karl King #4

    Subject: Concentrated SUCCEED! CLIP as a Gel

    Doug Spink writes:

    "Sometime soon, somebody is going to come out with a gel-based "food" that combines carbs with both some good protein (both BCAAs for energy and 'real' protein for muscle synthesis), and some good, 'ole fat-probably MCTs."
    Such a product exists. SUCCEED! CLIP is primarily maltodextrin for carbs, whey protein and BCAA for easily digestible protein, and MCT for easily digestible fat. While it comes as a powder normally used as a sports drink, it can be mixed more concentrated and stored in a flask to be used as a gel substitute. About 85% of the calories in the product come from carbohydrate.

    Adding to the informative post from Jay Hodde and Matt Mahoney on energy use in ultras, it should be noted that the runners who win races consume a lot of carbohydrate calories during their ultras. The biochemistry of the human body is such that top performance requires energy from carbs.

    Obviously, if one consistently trains with a low-energy input protocol, the body will adapt to derive energy from internal supplies. It should be noted that such a strategy will yield high blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That is ok during the run, but makes for longer recovery times. Taking in calories while running results in lower cortisol levels and quicker recovery.

    As I recall, Jay Hodde ran for some time with only water because he did not like the sports drinks he had tried, then found one he liked and now runs ultras with a sports drink. It would be interesting to read about his findings on those two different strategies.

    dis-disclaimer: I have financial interest in SUCCEED! products.