Which brand is best for drinks, bars and gels? More carbs = better?!

When training indoors I used to just have a drink with either BCAA oder SIS Go Electrolyte, if it’s particularly hard I’ll have a SIS gel.

On outdoor rides I’ll usually have a bar (Clif Bar nut butter filled or SIS Go Energy) during the second hour and after I’ll continue with either bars or gels (SIS Go Energy).

In my bottles I’ll have SIS Go Electrolyte, whereby I drink about 500ml per hour.

I just listened to the latest podcast episode about nutrition, weight loss, and what not.
I have two goals:

  1. loose 4 kgs (from 75 to 71, I’m 178cm tall)
  2. increase power (FTP) - duh. who doesn’t.

I think it was Nate who said he’ll consume about 90g carbs per hour when riding - after checking what the stuff I consume contains, I realized I am WORLDS away from that.
I only realized that my SIS tabs don’t containt any carbs at all, just electrolytes.
The bars / gels I consume contain about 25g - 40g (gels) carbs, at the most.

I also recently discovered the brand Sponser, their gels have 60g carbs and also all their other items seem to contain way more carbs than other reputable brands like SIS or Clif.

So, more carbs = better?
Then, Sponser is best and all other’s aren’t?
Or is there something I’m missing about SIS & Clif that still makes them great even though they contain less carbs?

SIS, High5, Cliff are three an hour?
60g gels are one an hour maybe?

There’s a few things worth considering here.

  1. SIS Go electrolyte and SIS electrolyte tabs are different. The “Go” products do indeed contain carbs

  2. More carbs is generally better (see caveat in number 4), especially if you feel depleted of energy mid ride. Carbs are also said to help lower RPE which means you can go harder or suffer less for the same effort

  3. There’s more to a gel than just it’s carb content. Flavour, texture etc are all important and if a gel tastes so disgusting that you don’t enjoy it, then it doesn’t matter how much carbs it has in it. Note also that SIS do isotonic gels. I don’t know the science but they’re basically designed to be consumed without the need for additional water, unlike a lot of other gels.

  4. The amount of carbs that people can tolerate differs. That’s why the portable toilets are always full in the morning before a ride. People took on a lot of extra carbs that they wouldnt normally eat, and it upsets their stomach! So it is possible to have too much carbs, depending on your tolerance

Which gel has 60g carbs?

I also see it as I’d have to eat at least two bars per hour - which seems like a lot to me.

No idea if any do, hence I didnt put a brand. Have I miss read?

I think we misunderstood each other there :wink:

Sponser gels have 60 carbs.
So what would mean I’d have to eat a gel every hour from Sponser - from other brands 2 gels, 3 bars or the like. That just seems like incredibly much to me, and I’m just confused by the many nutrition options out there to the point where I can’t figure out anymore which products might make sense in what combination with each other when I’m riding outside :wink:

Cake, biscuits icecream yes. Gels cant say I “enjoy” any of them that would be weird… tolerate or dont dislike maybe. Having said that I get the “disgusting” bit.
I once had a “hot chillie coffee” gel, sounded okay, the split second of the coffee taste was okay but nearly crashed when the chillie kicked in a millisecond later. :face_vomiting: I learnt that day never try anything new on race day

I would find 60g of carbs in one hit a bit much.

I use Torq Gels, wich have 30g/gel (2:1 Maltodextrin:Fructose) and on the bike leg of on IM i would look at 2-3/hour.

I keep my fluids and salts largely separate (even tho the Gels do offer some electrolytes)

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Thats what Ive always thought and done on 4 hr plus rides, but normally stick to 2 per hr and something solid / food (I cut bars in halves or thirds)

No idea anymore with the 144g per hour… I’ll stick to what I know works for me. I have tried more but noticed no difference except my bank balance going down and the nutrition companies getting richer. Lol

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They do a good range of products’ Use natural ingredients taste great and are digestion friendly

FWIW, I use a custom drink mix from Infinit Nutrition for anything longer than about two hours. I drink watered down Gatorade for rides less than 2 hours, and try to go fasted for Z2 rides an hour or less. I do always have a gel or two available in case I need an emergency shot of carbs or caffeine or both. More details about my Infinit mix in the linked post below. Happy to go into more details if you’r interested.

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Are any brand really “better”, technically? Most of the difference is taste and texture, which is personal, as the “science” is the same?

I make my own carb bottle mix as per this thread . I haven’t upped the fructose, as I’d brought the “raw” carbs in the 2:1 proportion.

I’ve moved away from gels, preferring real food. I’ve never had stomach issues, but unless it’s an actual race, or testing for racing, I’m yet to be convinced by specialist products beyond the drink mix.

I have made “GCN Energy Bars”, and when I raced I used to cut them to bite size pieces and have them in an open bag in my back pocket. More usually, I just use shop brought cereal bars (in Ireland, Nature Valley type bars).

Few things to bear in mind re Nate’s carb consumption. 1) He’s a lot heavier than you so has a higher resting metabolic rate. 2) He’s likely got a significantly higher FTP than you so he’s putting out more watts and burning more calories than you during his workouts. 3) He does mostly structured workouts with a lot of sweet spot work or higher which needs a lot of fuelling.

Basically - if you’re doing work at sweetspot or above then you absolutely need to fuel that work properly, but you likely don’t need as many carbs as Nate. The lower the intensity, the more of the energy for that work comes from fat and the less critical carbs are to getting a good quality workout

In terms of which brand, my approach is:

  • If It’s a race with aid stations I go with whatever’s on the aid stations, since I already paid for it and I’m a cheapskate
  • If it’s a race where I’m bringing my own nutrition then I go with whatever the LBS is selling or that I can get a cheap source of. Honestly haven’t found there to be a huge difference in different gels, powders, etc, they all taste pretty crappy and they all get the job done
  • If it’s not a race but a hard training ride then I’m almost certainly not spending $$$ for the dubious pleasure of consuming branded gels and powders. If I’m outdoors and space/convenience is at a premium I’ll take Haribo or Jelly Babies. If I’m indoors I’m more likely to use dates, bananas or trail mix. My one concession to branded sports nutrition in training is to use hydration tablets if it’s hot and I’m going to sweat a lot. I have also raced pretty successfully on the Haribo/Jelly Baby approach, including a sub 4 hour century

There is a time and a place for getting right into the weeds to optimise your nutrition brand, mix of sugar types, carbs per hour, etc. My personal view though is that this only really gets important if you’re doing events like Ironman, big stage races, offroad centuries or longer, etc. I.e. days when you need to take on a sh*tload of calories, possibly in heat, and do so while your body is working pretty hard and sweating a lot so getting it wrong can really screw up your day. Most other days are either short enough that you don’t need to be pushing your limits in terms of calorie intake, and/or have some parts where you’re recovering or at least not working too hard so have a bit more latitude in terms of what you’re consuming.

But how hard are you going then? This sort of consumption rate is race pace. Is it not? I rarely go that fast.

I have a carb estimating data field on my Garmin and use that to try and manage it. Before that I had a sort of weird mental lookup table based on ride calories and effort level.

Even then, electrolyte power and cordial/ squash/ fruit syrup. Although hard to beat tabs for convenience.

Me too, hence that very bad, Chilli Coffee gel.

In that case you either need to work on your race day decision-making, or you need to get faster so you get to those aid stations before they run out of all the good stuff!

It was a Sportive and I got to the aid station before they were fully set-up. I remember them saying when 4 - 5 of us rocked we thought we had another 10 minutes to setup (I didn’t even start in the first wave) I grabbed a couple of gels from the only gel box on the table (that had had been opened) Glad both weren’t the Chilli/coffee flavour. The other people had said they were only going to 10 second grab and I didn’t want to loss the group, although it split up about 5 minutes later and became solo efforts if I remember correctly.

After using Maurten with high success, I cut costs significantly by making the Maltodextrin (60g) and Fructose (30g) mix that so many shared in the thread referenced above. I throw in a Nuun tab for flavor and electrolytes. I find it to be worlds better than anything I ever bought before.


I use Bulk Powders complete hydration mix as they often go wirh hefty discount (70%) - only two tastes but orange is ok for my gut. I sometimes experiment with self-prepares mixes with different carbs (virtago or clustered dextrine) also from bulk powders as they are also discounted and I add little bit od hydration mix dor the taste - this way the mix is way less sweet. They have nice range of products - from ready mixes to single ingridients for your own composition and use. Recently I have upped the carbs intake to 70-80g per hour in a liquid form - so one 950ml bottle for the carbs and second one for the electrolytes with water without any taste (but their coconut water in the powder form is also very tasty, but tad expensive to use regularly).