When it comes to MTB or practically any other high endurance activity in rough, outdoor terrain, there are a variety of products that can enhance your energy. I’ve tried quite a few different products such as Gus, Power Gels, Shot Blocks. My favorite products for training and ultramarathons tend to be more towards actual foods, such as pretzels or bananas or gummy bears, things like that.
But when I’m actually in a marathon, I like a specific gel product made by Crank Sports known as “egel.” There are 2 reasons that I like them better than anything else and that is because they tend to have more calories and none of their products have any caffeine in them, which is something I tend to avoid. But what is egel by Crank Sports?
Crank has 4 different flavors, and each case has 32 gels per case. The “egel” is a powerful electrolyte solution that boosts energy and mental clarity The packets are a little bit larger than what your average gel packet will be because they have half again as many calories.
In this guide, we will take an in-depth look at egel. I regularly use egel, so I will share some personal experience as well. We will discuss its makeup, what it does, and how it can increase MTB performance. Read on to find out more.
Egel Explained: User Overview
First and foremost, egel is hyped up primarily because it has half the calories as other electrolyte drinks and boosting properties. It is in the form of a gel and packaged in small, easy to open packages. This doesn’t really bother me. I wear race ready shorts and they fit into mesh pockets really well, so they’re pretty easy for me to carry.
I’ll usually take 4 to 5 of them with me during a marathon, and I might eat between 3 and all 5 of them during the race.
I like to eat them by biting the tab off as I’m coming up to a water station. I take out as much of the gel as I easily can, usually by biting halfway through the packet and pulling my teeth along the outside. That will get most of it out of the packet, and since it does have 150 calories I don’t care if I don’t quite get everything that’s in the packet.
Obviously, what you eat is going to depend a lot on your own nutritional needs and on what your body can handle, so you might want to try something different.
Another product that Crank makes that I just started using, the first time I placed an order they actually sent me a couple of trials versions of their e-Fuel, which is more like a pre-made drink mix. You just mix this in with 20 ounces of water and it creates a liquid, as opposed to taking in a gel while you’re running.
This is a bit more inconvenient while you’re actually competing unless your carrying a camel-back or your own water bottle, but in a loop race (such as the Great Cranberry Island 50K which is where I actually got around to finally using one of these after a few years) it works out really well because you are able to just stop and take a sip whenever you pass your drop bag.
Each one of these packets is 1 water bottle full, and that’s nutritionally equivalent to 3 of the actual gel packets.
When you order a case of them, it also comes with a water bottle if you need one.
If you are looking for your next product that you want to try, I recommend giving the Crank e-Gels or the e-Fuel a test. They work for me, but make sure you test any nutritional product in the long run beforehand because you just need to find the one that works for you. There are a lot of great products out there, of which Crank is just one.
How Egel Works
A marathon runner’s staple, energy gels replenish your depleted carbohydrate stores when running. When you run your body uses two sources of fuel to feed your muscles, fat and carbohydrates. While fat is widely available it’s slower to break down into usable energy making it ineffective when running a marathon. The same formula applies to MTB as well.
Instead of fat, your body relies on carbohydrates as its primary fuel source. As a general rule the faster you run, the more your fuel will come from carbohydrates.
But your body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates in our muscles, known as glycogen; at half marathon pace this is about 90 minutes of running and at marathon pace about 120 minutes of running. This means the average runner will be running low on glycogen stores about halfway through their marathon.
This is where energy gels come in. The simple sugars in energy gels are first absorbed into your blood stream as glucose giving you a spike in energy. It’s then absorbed by active muscles and organs. Although energy gels aren’t a direct replacement as you can’t control which muscles the glucose goes to, they do help continue to fuel your run.
Energy gels contain about 25g of carbohydrates per gel, in the form of simple sugars, an accessible energy source for your body to process. One gel provides about 45 minutes of running but taking two at a time doesn’t mean you’ll have 90 minutes of running, instead you’re likely to crash as your body attempts to process the sugar.
They can also contain other ingredients to help boost your performance for example electrolytes to replace lost minerals, and caffeine to open up your blood vessels, speeding up the delivery of energy and giving your mind and motivation a little boost too, as well as flavoring. Flavors are often fruits which can be super-food sources like berries that are rich in antioxidants to help clear the muscles of waste products.
When Should You Take Energy Gels?
The perfect time to take an energy gel depends on you and your body. Every biker absorbs and processes carbohydrates at a different rate; some can feel the effect within 3 minutes while for others it might take up to 15 minutes.
As your body diverts blood away from your stomach towards your active muscles, your absorption rate slows, or sometimes your stomach shuts down completely; this is most common cause for unwanted toilets stops during an MTB ride.
The most important rule is to have the gel before you need it, not as you feel yourself crashing or hitting the wall. Practice with energy gels throughout your training to ensure you know when and which energy gels to take.
How Often Should You Use Energy Gels?
As your digestion process slows during your run, it’s important not to overload your stomach.
Wait around 45-60 minutes between gels, or around 6-7 miles to ensure you don’t intake too much simple sugar at once. Consider alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine energy gels too to ensure you don’t take on too much caffeine.
What Are Energy Gels Really Like?
While energy gels are hugely beneficial for marathon runners, there’s no doubt about it, they’re not to everyone’s taste. Although usually water-based they vary in consistency from viscous and thick to thinner but with a stronger taste.
With so many on the market flavors vary from vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, to lighter fruity flavors like orange and berry. Test a few different brands and styles to find the right consistency and flavor for you.
Tips To Keep In Mind
Before you use energy gels on race day, train with them first. When you run, your body prioritizes sending blood to your active muscles, reducing the blood floor to your digestive tract. The lack of blood can irritate your system, as your body finds it harder to digest food and liquid, sometimes responding by trying to force anything out of your system.
Practicing with gels, taking little bits at a time as you build up the mileage will help your body adapt to using your stomach while running, causing you less issues on race day.
Always Take with Water
Always take energy gels with water, never on their own or with a sports drink. Without water, they take longer to digest and enter the blood stream.
But as energy gels are condensed sports drink, taking them together puts you at risk of taking on too much sugar at once.
e-Gel is low in simple sugars, made of high-grade maltodextrin, and is gluten-free. According to its literature, being low in sugar means it doesn’t spike blood sugar which can lead to a crash or bonk, and the maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate that releases energy more evenly into the bloodstream. And with many people now becoming aware of gluten sensitivity, being gluten-free means a lower risk of irritating the gut.
e-Gel also sets itself apart from other energy gels by promising not just calorie replenishment, but also balanced electrolyte replacement. It has more than five times the sodium and twice as much potassium as other energy gels. This means that if participating in long events where electrolyte imbalance is imminent, you only need to carry e-Gels and drink water, instead of also having to carry an electrolyte replacement solution or tablet.
This is particularly important for me because I don’t seem to absorb sports drinks properly anymore (the drinks that contain a combination of calories and electrolytes). Instead, I have to source my calories from solid food, and dissolve electrolyte tablets into plain water.
While this has worked out for me in triathlons where I have bottle cages for water and the bike bento box to hold my electrolyte tablets and food bars, when I get on the run I have no time or inclination to carry a water bottle around to dissolve my electrolytes into.