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Are Carbohydrate-hydrogels the next great product in sports nutrition?

- By Dr. Dan Plews & Ed Maunder

From time-to-time, there is a flurry of research interest into a new product in sports nutrition, as researchers seek to determine if they have discovered the next great ergogenic aid. Recently, that product seems to be carbohydrate-hydrogels (1, 2, 7, 8, 10). In this blog, we are going to review what is a growing literature on this product, and assess if hydrogels are something you should consider adding to your race-day bottle.

 

What is a hydrogel?

First things first, what is a hydrogel, and how does it work? A carbohydrate-hydrogel is a regular carbohydrate-containing sports drink, only with pectin and sodium alginate added. Pectin and sodium alginate have little effect until the drink reaches the high acidity of the stomach, where it forms a gel-like mixture. Supposedly, the gel-like mixture allows for faster pass through the stomach into the intestine – what is called ‘gastric emptying’ – and speeds the rate at...

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