In the midst of a race or training for an endurance event, your body will need a reboot of hydration and energy. Although water or sports drinks are helpful, your body will require some simple carbohydrates to maintain energy stores. This is where products like energy gels come in handy. Made primarily of simple sugars and water, among other things, energy gels can be great portable carbohydrate options for endurance workouts. However, many energy gel products contain high FODMAP ingredients that could put a damper on your digestive system, and your workout. Here are some tips for choosing a low FODMAP energy gel.
Common ingredients in energy gels
In your average energy gel product, you may find ingredients such as caffeine, citric acid, added sugars, and other ingredients like amino acid supplements, flavorings, and thickeners. Some of these are ok in moderation, but there are a few ingredients that are considered high FODMAP that you should stay away from.
- Fructose: Fructose, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup, should be avoided on the low FODMAP regimen. Some sweeteners like dextrose or glucose, or those that have an equal glucose to fructose ratio like sucrose are ok. Also, some fruit flavorings and concentrates, like those from low FODMAP fruits like grapes and strawberries are ok in moderation. It is just those fruits and added fructose sugars that cause an excessive intake of fructose that could lead to digestive symptoms.
- Fruit concentrates from high FODMAP fruits: Concentrates from peach, pear, apple, mango, or blackberry are high in FODMAPs, so should be avoided. The same goes for any added juices from high FODMAP fruits like those mentioned above.
- Fructo-oligosaccharides or galacto-oligosaccharides: These ingredients are functional fibers sometimes found in sports nutrition products as sweeteners. They are considered high FODMAP and should be avoided.
- Other sweeteners and flavorings: Other sweeteners and flavorings like inulin, molasses, agave syrup, honey, carob powder (more than one teaspoon), whey protein concentrate powder, or milk protein powder are considered high FODMAP. Inulin in particular is a sweetener that is highly fermentable and can worsen digestive symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
There are also some ingredients that are not necessarily high FODMAP but may trigger symptoms in some people with IBS. These ingredients include:
- Gellan gum
- Locust bean gum
- Xanthan gum
It may be necessary to ingest small amounts of products with these ingredients to test your tolerance before you consume them on a regular basis.
Low FODMAP energy gel ingredients
When choosing a low FODMAP energy gel, you can be safe with ingredients such as the following.
- Sweeteners: Sugars like dextrose, glucose, or sucrose as well as other sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit extract, invert sugar, or artificial sweeteners like sucralose are all considered low FODMAP.
- Fruit concentrates from low FODMAP fruits: Fruit concentrates from low FODMAP fruits like strawberry, grape, orange, or banana (consume banana concentrate in moderation since more than ½ medium ripe banana is considered higher FODMAP.)
- Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is added to certain food products to add flavor, texture, or help with shelf life and is considered low FODMAP by Monash University.
- Wheat-derived sweeteners: Some solid energy gel products may contain glucose or other sugars derived from wheat like corn syrup or glucose syrup. However, don’t let this description fool you since this ingredient is still considered low FODMAP.
- Other ingredients: Some other ingredients that you may see on an energy gel ingredient label that are low FODMAP include lemon juice, citric acid, gelatin, soy lecithin, sunflower oil, confectioners’ glaze, and artificial and natural flavors and dyes.
Take home message
Energy gels can be convenient, portable simple carbohydrate options for long workouts. However, if you are having a hard time finding an energy gel product with low FODMAP ingredients, it may be safest to stick to more natural simple carbohydrate sources such as low FODMAP-safe whole fruits like unripe bananas, orange slices, or sucrose cubes for your energy reboot. And always be sure to recover from your hard workout with a low FODMAP protein supplement like the delicious choices from Casa de Sante that come in vanilla, chocolate, and even a formula that is vegan-friendly.