Monday, February 24, 2014

How to Make Your Own Gu’s and Gels

I know this has been covered by others, but I made a batch of gel recently and wanted to share how I make it and what I use.

I like making my own gels.  It’s a lot cheaper and I can make the exact formula that works best with my gut.  There are a lot of good packaging options out there now (soft tubes, small flasks), so it’s easy to have a small tube loaded with the equivalent of 3 gels or whatever your preference may be.
If you look at the composition of pretty much any gel on the market today (Stinger is one exception), maltodextrin is the main ingredient (excluding water) followed by some kind of simple sugar- sucrose, fructose, glucose (dextrose), or some other minor sugars - Good chart HERE.  Some have protein or fat and most have some other useless ingredients – vitamins, minerals, salts, amino acids, etc.  That’s pretty much it.  Get yourself a scale, order some ingredients, and get mixing.  It’s that easy.    

The first thing to do is figure out what works best for you.
Do you want a gel completely made of slower release carbs such as the polysaccharide maltodextrin or waxy maize (mostly amylopectin)?  Do you do better with simple sugars?  Or do you like the standard gel, which consists of mostly maltodextrin with a few grams of a simple sugar.  I think the only way to figure this out is to try different combinations during a threshold or high intensity workout.  You won’t be able to figure out what works best on a 5 hour hike.  I could eat a steak on a day long hike and be completely happy, but if I tried that during a tempo run, I’d be sure to puke.  The nice thing is that you can buy small amounts of simple sugars to find the one that suits you best.  Any place that sells bulk should have fructose and dextrose - Whole Foods, etc.

I have come to like gel made exclusively of maltodextrin for training and a combo of maltodextrin and dextrose for racing.  I like the idea of waxy maize, but I can’t stand the flavor and consistency of corn starch. Try it, you may like it.      

You can use anything you want to resuspend the dry carbs.  I like a little flavor to my gels so I use a herbal tea form Tazo called Passion.  I also like a little caffeine, so I’ll use green tea as well.  Use anything you want – fruit juice, coconut water, baking extracts, etc.  Just be sure to take into account the grams of sugar in your liquid and adjust your carbs accordingly.

Here is a quick recipe that can be scaled up or substituted with any other ingredients.
This will make the equivalent of 3, 117 calories gels. 

Here’s the breakdown for a single gel (41g):

Fat                    1g               9 cal/g
Maltodextrin    25g             4 cal/g
Dextrose          2g               4 cal/g
Water               13g

1. Steep 1 bag of herbal tea and 1 bag of green tea in ½ cup of boiling water- you won’t use all the water.  Adjust the strength to your liking.  
2. Measure out 75 grams of maltodextrin, 6 grams of dextrose, and combine in a small bowl or measuring cup.  
Weighing out the dry carbs and steeping the tea
 3. Add 39 grams of hot tea liquid to carb power and mix.  It should dissolve fairly easily unless you are using waxy maize (add in small batches to warm, no hot liquid).

Adding liquid to dry carbs

4. Let mixture cool to about room temp and add 3 grams of medium chain triglyceride oil (or coconut oil) and mix well.
5. Pour mixture into your favorite flask and go for a run!
You can add anything else you like to the mixture, but be sure to adjust the water.  I think all the junk ingredients in Gu Roctane, VFuel, Hammer gels, etc. are just that – junk.  If you feel differently, look online, buy those ingredients and use them.  It’s easy to clone your favorite gel. 

So what did this 3 gel batch just cost me? 
These estimates are based off of the first hits from Amazon – bulk sizes.  You can shop around and possibly find a better deal at weightlifting or brewing shops.

Medium chain triglyceride oil - $0.05
Maltodextrin- $0.58
Dextrose – $0.032
Tea bags - $0.3

Total – $0.97 (for 3 gels or $0.32/ gel).  Pretty good.  

If you compare that to VFuel gels at $1.35/pack, you just saved yourself about $1.00/gel.  That will add up over a summer of training and racing. 

Feel free to ask any questions.

Here are the Amazon links to:
Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil

Rethink the way you run.
Rethink the way you eat.