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I'm no expert, I'm just a mom who used to be fat.

Gel, Not Just for Your Hair

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beans, Bites, Gels, Chews...Huh?

The point of exercise is to gain lean muscle mass, shed fat, shrink waist lines, drop dress sizes.  All of this is done by burning calories, calories from food and the calories stored on your body (I happen to store most of my calories on my backside and thighs).  Last year, when I was training for my first half marathon, I was talking to my sister about energy gels.  She asked, "If you're running to lose weight, doesn't replenishing your calories during that exercise defeat the purpose?"  If you don't burn off what you're adding then yes.  But if you do it right, you're just giving your body a little kick start.  I think everyone has needed that burst of energy at some point and had a quick candy bar.  This is kind of the healthy way to do it.  BeansBitesGels, and Chews are easily digestible carbs, and sometimes caffeine, to give you that little "oomph" that you need to keep going, that's about it.*

At a certain point, if you're not feeding your body enough calories, it goes into starvation mode and holds on to every precious k-cal, right?  And when you're metabolism slows down like that, you usually don't feel so good.  The same is true during endurance sports like running, swimming, or biking.  If you only rely on stored calories, eventually your body says, "Hey, she's using up the reserves and not replenishing!  Don't give up any more!",  and you get drained.  Say I burn an average of 100 calories per mile that I run (average, because it depends on the incline, the speed, the terrain, if the wind is blowing in your face...which really sucks), on Sunday I ran 12 miles, that's 1200 calories.  Below is my formula:

Pre run - Triple Threat Power Bar  +230 cals
Miles 1-4 -400 cals (so now I've already burned what I've eaten and some reserves and I'm starting to slow and have 8 miles to go)
Clif Shot Energy Gel +100 cals and I'm back!
Miles 5-8 -400 cals
Clif Shot Energy Gel +100 cals
Miles 8-12 -400 cals

That's 430 calories consumed and 1200 calories burned, leaving a 770 calorie deficit (which I did help fill with a tasty 24 oz Wawa coffee...whatever, I earned it).  Basically the idea behind the BeansBitesGels, and Chews, is to get/keep your energy up, like kindling, to keep your body consistently burning fuel.  Now, of course, everyone's formula is different.  Someone who has been distance running for years probably isn't going to need as many gels as I do, because their body is used to it and knows when it's next "meal" is going to be.  And not everyone uses the above forms of energy.  Some runners like dried pineapple or tootsie rolls instead.  Personally (and yes, I realize how ridiculous this is going to sound considering I'm running 12 miles), I feel like all of that chewing is too much work.

To be honest, I didn't get it at first either.  Until after my first 8 mile run and I actually felt that "oomph" after taking my first gel.  Good luck on your adventure and finding the right formula for you!

*I'm not an expert.  I'm just explaining to the best of my ability.  I encourage everyone to do their research and find out what works for them.  And don't for get to hydrate!

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