Getting those precious carbs on long-distance runs can be a Russian roulette of flavours, textures and tummy troubles. Luckily, researchers at Ulm University in Germany have taken the hit on comparing the impact of carbohydrate drinks and gels in athletes, and come up with some interesting results.
The study saw experienced triathletes undertake a 60-minute swim, 180-minute bike exercise and 60-minute threshold run in a lab setting, once fuelled with a sports drink and once, a week later, with an energy gel. Stats like the distance covered, lactate levels and respiratory exchange ratio didn't change much with the different fuel sources. However, 78% of participants reported GI distress from the gel, while none said they had any problems with the sports drink.
While this was a very small study and the athletes in questions might just not be frequent gel users, it's worth bearing in mind if you struggle with stomach issues or are looking for a new fuel source. Either way, whether you use sports drinks or gels, the benefits to your performance remain the same - just find something that works for you.