Today I rode 25 miles on the trainer.

Usually during such rides I have a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade or Powerade to supplement the loss of carbohydrates, sodium, and electrolytes that keep one going.

To me it is particularly important to replace what is lost because due to the extra stress my body is under, my CAH tends to throw a fit, and I can end up experiencing over-training effects which keep me laid up for extra days.

I remember when I was training for my first 5k with my sister, that she pointed out that during the race, there will be two stands for refreshments; one for water, one for sports drink.

She cautioned us against taking the sports drink one because if you have not trained with sports drink, there is a good chance that it can affect you negatively when you slam it down during or after the race.

Negative effects included, among other things, cramps and nausea. Obviously this can ruin your performance during the race. And afterwards you’ll continue to be miserable.

Since I started riding, I have used Powerade or Gatorade as the sports drink used to refuel me. Since I started riding, I’ve felt miserable.

From what I’ve read recently concerning endurance sports (in my case cycling) I believe I have been approaching things wrong. I wonder though how much of it is mind and how much of it is matter.

In a nutshell I’ve had gastrointestinal distress almost from the moment I began using ANY sport drink.

During, but especially after an exercise, drinking even a small amount of sports drink would give me terrible nausea, cramps, acid reflux, bloating, and later, diarrhea.

Then I read in The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling that I should look for sports drinks that contain maltodextrin as their primary carbohydrate instead of fructose or sucrose.

Most sports drinks have between 6 and 10 percent carbohydrate. This is the
concentration that most researchers say is best for maximizing fluid
absorption and providing energy to fuel muscles and combat fatigue.

This carbohydrate can be either simple or complex (also known as
polysaccharides).

The simple form is sugars such as glucose, fructose, or sucrose.

The complex form is similar to starches found in bread and pasta in the form
of glucose polymers or maltodextrin.

The better drinks contain both types of carbohydrate in a proportion that
aids stomach-emptying. Their labels will indicate a higher concentration of
complex carbohydrate by listing it as the next ingredient after water.

Higher concentrations of maltodextrin tend to produce less gastrointestinal
distress and fewer stomachaches when a large amount of sports drink is
consumed.

Research has found, however, that there is no difference between drinks
containing simple or complex carbohydrate when it comes to the rate at which
they're absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream.

After reading this, I went and looked at the label of Gatorade and Powerade

Gatorade Gatorade

Powerade Powerade

Well what do ya know, simple carbs are the main ingredients. I may be on to something here.

Ok, so what is a sports drink that has a complex carbohydrate as it’s main ingredient? I looked around, and after stopping at a Vitamin Shoppe, (but they sell it just about everywhere) I picked up a bottle canister of Gu.

Gu Gu

I picked the Raspberry flavor. It’s a powder that you mix with water. Not exactly in “drink” form, but I consider it close enough because both the Powerade and Gatorade list “water” as their first ingredient. So I consider it a fair comparison

Ask me how I felt during and after the ride. One word. Excellent.

There was no, and I seriously mean it, no cramping, or nausea.

I really was shocked at the difference. But “what else did I do differently” you ask. Surely this cannot be due, alone, to the different carb.

Well, ok I also had a Gu Gel pack before I started riding. In the past I used Clif Gel Shots. Look them up online though; #1 carb in them is “organic maltodextrin”. #1 carb in Gu gel?

Gu Gel Gu Gel

You read that right, maltodextrin. So the Gels probably didn’t make a significant difference in GI distress.

What else did I do? Mmmmm, nothing. I rode at a smooth 3.5 to 4 heart rate zone and went through my 50 oz Camelback twice. Pretty standard stuff.

So I have become a believer in maltodextrin being easier on the GI tract. I’m going to continue to ride with it to see if this was just a quirk or if it is actually making a significant difference, but so far, so good.

One last observation. While I was in Vitamin Shoppe, I picked up a couple different Gel products as I wanted to test them to find which flavors I preferred and which seemed to work better than other (since they will be breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the Century trip I’ll be riding later this year)

One of the ones I picked up was Accel Gel. It was more expensive than a similar Gu Gel ($1.50 vs $1.25) and look at it’s main ingredient (note that I bought it before I read the excerpt from the cycling book)

Accel Gel

<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-1206" title="Accel Gel" src="http://caphrim.net/tim/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_20120119_180842-300x225.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="225" /></a> Uh oh, simple carbs. I foresee the rides I take with these gels to be quite miserable; during and after.