By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Sports nutrition and energy gels are a crowded category with little to differentiate them when you’re confronted with choices on a web page or retail shelf. It’s hard to tell the difference even after a few uses. But when you delve into a few simple surveys of the nutrition charts and a couple unscientific tests some differences show up. In a long “A” race when nutrition becomes more important it could make the difference between finishing comfortably and struggling for hours.
Pacific Health Labs, makers of Accel Gel, Accelerade, 2nd Surge, Endurox R4, the Accel Recover Bar and Endurox Excel, have built a line of nutritional products that offer some unique features. One of the most distinctive within its crowded category is Accel Gel.
What Makes a Gel Better?
People tend to buy energy gels by taste. If it tastes like cake frosting it goes to the register. There are a couple problems with that approach to deciding on the best energy gel, especially for long distance events.
We generally consume gels on a race course or in training when they are at room temperature or greater. In cold weather their consistency may thicken, in hot weather it may thin. Drinking water with gels is critical to speeding absorption. But not all gels dissolve in water equally. It’s a simple assumption: a gel that dissolves more readily in water likely does the same when mixed with water in your stomach. You take a gel, you drink some water; the quicker the gel dilutes itself in water the faster its calories can be absorbed. A conspicuous difference in Accel Gel is revealed with casual trials you can do to show it dissolves more readily than some popular gel brands in water. It’s likely the same thing is happening in your stomach.
We did a simple test to see if a popular gel brand dissolved in water at the same rate at Pacific Health labs’ Accel Gel. Squeezing the gels onto a plate at room temperature didn’t reveal a substantial difference in appearance of thickness. Accel Gel may have seemed marginally thinner and more runny. When we tasted the gels side by side there was also some perception that one was thicker than the other.
The difference surfaced when we poured water onto the plate where we dispensed the gels. Presumably something similar is happening inside your stomach during a race when you take a gel and chase it with water. Most gel brands recommend 8 ounces of water with every gel consumed. We used much less on the plate where we dispensed the two gels, Accel Gel on the left in our photos became thin and runny almost immediately. The competing brand of popular energy gel maintained a thicker consistency.
Even five minutes after the water had been poured onto the gels the competing brand maintained a thick consistency while Accel Gel had largely dissolved. It doesn’t take much insight to imagine the behavior of the gels in your upper gastro-intestinal system on a hot day in a race.
Protein: The Key Ingredient at Long Distance.
In addition to its more readily dissolvable consistency another thing that differentiates Accel Gel from other energy gels is a patented 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. Accel Gel has 20 grams of carbohydrate per 100 calorie, 1.3 ounce serving and 5 grams of protein. Carbohydrate to Protein ratio is 4:1, a ratio no other gel uses.
There are several benefits to including protein in an energy gel. Sports nutrition studies conducted independently of Pacific Health Labs revealed the addition of protein facilitates recovery and resists the onset of hunger in long endurance events. This reduces the reliance on solid food at 2-hour plus events making it easier to carry your nutritional supplies and being easier on your digestive system when it is under stress.
Since Accel Gel is the only gel brand with the 4:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio it’s worth considering if there may be a drawback to including protein. We didn’t find any in research literature or competing gel brand marketing. A primary reason Accel Gel is the only one with the 4:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio is their patent that protects the formulation.
All other products in Pacific Health Labs endurance line up use the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. This system approach to their formulations means athletes acclimate to each formula readily and without surprises.
Unique Formulations for “During” and “After” Sports Drinks: Accelerade and Endurox R4.
Pacific Health Labs’ technology extends to a family of sports drinks that include their two most popular mixes; Accelerade and Endurox R4.
Accelerade is sold in five flavors; Fruit Punch, Lemonade (our favorite), Lemon Lime, Mountain Berry and Orange. Each flavor has identical nutritional content. A 12 fluid ounce serving has 120 calories, maintaining the 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. Accelerade is intended as a “during the event” drink for fluid replacement and calories.
Endurox R4 is sold in five flavors; chocolate, fruit punch, lemon lime (we liked the best), orange and vanilla. As with Accelerade the nutritional content is the same across all flavors. Endurox R4 is intended for post-workout use as a recovery aid. It’s higher calorie content, 270 calories per 12 ounce serving, also contains 15 fat calories and 13 grams of protein.
Having used Accelerade on long trainnig rides over 2 hours I can verify it generally negates the desire for solid food. You don’t feel hungry or drained if taken at regular intervals.
One thing I discovered with protein-infused drinks is that adding protein to a drink can cause it to froth. On a bad road your Accelerade may form a foamy head inside your bottle. If you are accustomed to traditional carbohydrate based sports drinks this may be a surprise.
The theme that relates the Pacific Health Labs products is their use of protein in the carbohydrate mix in their patented 4:1 ratio. Our favorite product is Accel Gel since it was easily digested, tastes great, staves off hunger, is easy and convenient to consume and cannot “froth” during use. Compared to all other energy gels this one is in a category of its own, and is our absolute choice for any event any 2 hours and most other times as well.
Pacific Health Labs and their 4:1 ratio along with attention to detail in the consistency of their Accel Gel and 2nd Surge have effectively differentiated themselves from other sports nutritionals. The advantages to their formulations make them worth trying for all athletes developing a long distance nutrition and fueling plan.