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Soldier Marathon and Half Marathon: What's up with energy gels?

The local Soldier Marathon and Half Marathon is Saturday, Nov. 10. I’m running the half marathon. Every day this week, I’ll devote a blog post to a race-related topic. Today’s discussion: energy gels. Do those slimy things really work?

When I trained for my first half marathon, I had one energy gel before every long run. I opted for GU Energy Gel. Did it help? Well, um, it didn't hurt. I had a hard time measuring its direct benefits. But you know what wasn't so hard to measure? The strange sloshing feeling certain flavors produced in my stomach.

That's why eventually I opted for GU Chomps, a chewable form of GU Energy Gels. They're kind of like fruit snacks.

Naturally, the appeal of both GU Energy Gels and GU Chomps is the fact that they both include carbohydrates and electrolytes. Some varieties even have caffeine. They're also incredibly convenient to eat mid-race.

I was big on energy gels a few years ago, but now I rarely have them. I'm more of a protein bar kind of girl. Frankly, the gels just got too expensive and I didn't notice any dramatic differences in my performance. But remember: Comparatively, I'm not running extremely long distances. If I ever wanted to get into full marathons, I'd probably go back to gels.

Thinking about dabbling in the energy gel world? This endurance athlete has an entire website devoted to reviewing the different varieties.

If you're using energy gels this weekend, remember this tip from the folks at Runner's World: "Chase your energy gels with water. If you take gels with a sports drink you risk putting too much sugar in your gastrointestinal tract at once, which can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea."