Episode 47 - What is a Hydrogel? Does it improve endurance performance? with Andy King

What is a Hydrogel? Does it improve Endurance Performance with Andy King

Hydrogel technology is making a wave in the sports nutrition scene with products like Maurten hitting the market. But what is a hydrogel? And is it beneficial to endurance performance?

Joining me on the podcast is exercise physiologist at the Australian Catholic University, Andy King. Andy co-authored the review paper on all of the research to date on hydrogels and their effect on endurance exercise performance. There is no one better suited to answer these questions for us! 

In this episode we cover:

  • What is a hydrogel?
  • How does it work?
  • Are there any negative effects of using a hydrogel compared to regular sports drinks and gels?
  • What does the research to date say - does a carbohydrate hydrogel improve exercise performance?
  • Does a carbohydrate hydrogel improve gastrointestinal tolerance compared to regular sports drinks and gels?
  • Is the premium price of hydrogel products worth the investment?


Connect with Andy King on Twitter

Read Andy’s review paper: Carbohydrate Hydrogel Products Do Not Improve Performance or Gastrointestinal Distress During Moderate-Intensity Endurance Exercise

Read Josh’s paper: Glucose and Fructose Hydrogel Enhances Running Performance, Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation, and Gastrointestinal Tolerance

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Episode Transcription

Episode 47 - What is a Hydrogel? Does it improve endurance performance with Andy King

Taryn Richardson  00:00
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast, the show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian, and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy to digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it. 

Taryn Richardson  00:43
Today's episode is with Andy King, who's an Exercise Physiologist at the Australian Catholic University. And his favourite area of research is in fuelling for endurance sport. And what I wanted to get Andy on today for, was to explain to you all about the hydrogel technology that we're seeing in products like Maurten and the SiS Beta Fuel. And he's really the one with his finger on the pulse when it comes to this stuff. He's co-authored a paperback in 2020, that gave a good little summary about where the research is at for endurance performance in this space. Do hydrogels improve performance or not? So I hope you really love this discussion as much as I did. And listen in to the end for the biggest take-home of whether hydrogels are worth it or not. Welcome to the podcast, Andy!

Andy King  01:34
Great, thanks for having me on.

Taryn Richardson  01:36
I'm really excited to talk to you today. I've been looking forward to picking your brain for a long time, really. But what I wanted to get your insight on today is the evidence behind hydrogels. And you're the perfect person to talk about it because you've done the research in most of the papers today around whether it does affect endurance performance or not. Like I can explain to people what hydrogels are, but let's get the word from the horse's mouth - from the researcher himself - about what is the go with hydrogel. So thank you for joining me.

Andy King  02:08
No probs.

Taryn Richardson  02:08
So let's get started firstly by explaining to people what hydrogels actually are.

Andy King  02:15
It's not a massive difference, I guess from what people would typically think of as carbohydrate drink. Say, you might be a cyclist, a runner, triathlete, swimmer, whatever. And there's a million products on the market to get your carbs up for race day, training day. They come in drinks, gels, solid foods, whatever.

Andy King  02:34
Basically, they all are designed to do the same thing, which is to deliver sugar through your stomach, through your intestine into your bloodstream and ultimately to your muscle that's working hard for your event. And the hydrogel is a newish product by a company called Maurten, out of Sweden, that effectively does the same thing to deliver that carbohydrate started off just as a drink. They now have a gel product as well - just to confuse people with gel and hydrogel.

Andy King  02:59
And all it is is essentially the same ingredients - so sugar, water, and two other ingredients. One of those is pectin, which is polysaccharide sugar-type substance that you might have heard of if you're King Baker - she used in jam making. And another one which is called alginate, which is derived from seaweed of all things. And both of those what we termed biopolymers. And they're just chained to molecules that are just mixed in with the carbohydrate solution. You drink it, it goes down as a drink, and on the contact with the extremely low pH (so high acidity) in your stomach, it gelates and it forms this kind of thick, viscous substance, which is then the hydrogel if you like. And that idea they came up with comes from the medical bio research field.

Andy King  03:41
So hydrogels are commonly used in things like drug delivery and wound healing, because of their low toxicity and ability to deliver drugs or other chemicals to sites within the body. So Maurten developed this product that they got an awful lot of early marketing success with.

Taryn Richardson  04:03
It was originally developed for that two-hour marathon attempt. Is that right?

Andy King  04:07
Well, it was developed in conjunction around the same time, and that was really the first big project that really kind of thrust into the limelight. And people like are what's Maurten and, you know, what's it doing? And what's a hydrogel? And they had an awful lot of support from some seriously good endurance athletes. And their first sort of evidence that came through was that anecdote, as you well know, sometimes the research needs to be led by the field. And that was one of the cases of that really - where athletes are saying they loved it - purely, really, from a sense of the GI (the gastrointestinal) handling of it.

Taryn Richardson  04:40
And then it became commercially available. It was something that was a bit DL (on the down-low) for a while, and, then, now it's everywhere because it's the race nutrition on course for Ironman events at the moment. So everyone's kind of hearing about it because the sports drink is on the bike and you've got the gels on the run.

Andy King  04:55
Yeah, it's doing really well and they're a growing company and they're a nice company actually to deal with. And one of my former students actually works for Maurten now.

Taryn Richardson  04:5
Oh, there you go.

Andy King  04:59
He authored one of the papers I'm sure we'll get on to soon.

Taryn Richardson  05:08
And so have SiS borrowed or stolen that technology to create the Beta Fuel? Do you know?

Andy King  05:14
I actually initially thought that they had - but no. It's just Maurten's proprietary products, and they have a serious number of patents out to protect that intellectual property I think. So yeah. It's just theirs. It's not impossible to make it yourself. We've done that - Josh did that in the lab. I'm not sure I'd give it a go unless I came from a particularly good engineering or biology background. I don't think you'll get it quite right.

Taryn Richardson  05:35
So what's the SiS formula, then? Is it their own version of a hydrogel?

Andy King  05:40
I think it's just an amped-up carb mix - talking about what they're saying is the correct ratio of different sugars in the drink and caffeine - I think, but I'm sure someone can correct me on that. I think once you get down to different carb products on the market they become much of a muchness, and you kind of just need to hit the big ticks first and foremost, which is where most people fall into.

Taryn Richardson  05:58
Why hydrogel? Like, how does it actually work? To deliver better fuel or be absorbed better? How does it actually work once it's in our stomach?

Andy King  06:06
The theory, I guess, is there -  we're just waiting on the evidence to kind of come through to show that it's working in the exercise context. And there's research led by Shaun Sutehall, if you want to look up some of his work, that kind of describes it really nicely. But the idea is that once that hydrogel forms in the stomach too - the alginate and the pectin kind of form that biopolymer hydrogel - the carbs in the drink, get encapsulated within that mixture - forms one, kind of, consistent gel-like lump in the stomach, and that moves into the intestine. And the thought is that it moves through quicker. So gastric emptying is increased, and the delivery of the carb mixture to the intestine is quicker.

Andy King  06:50
And then, once the hydrogel is sitting in the intestine, the pH is higher. And so the gel, the hydrogel mixture from the alginate and the pectin, breaks down releasing carbohydrate. This is sort of where it gets a little bit technical if we want, but whether gastric emptying increasing is enough to deliver more carbs, ultimately, we're talking about to the blood and the muscle, really remains to be seen.

Andy King  07:17
So you said it was quicker. But how fast? Do we know how many grams per minute gets absorbed? Or do we know what the rate is comparatively to not a hydrogel? Do we know that yet?

Andy King  07:17
And going back to the early 90s, some really awesome research on gastric emptying and carb drinks. And there's kind of this sweet spot where you can kind of keep adding carbs into a drink and you don't really affect gastric emptying. And then you sort of hit this point of energy content and/or osmolality, which is kind of like the molecular concentration if you like, and it starts to drop off. And so you think okay, gastric emptying is reduced. That sounds bad. Let's hold back. But then actually, the more carb that goes in the drink, you're still getting more carbs through, do you not I mean, the whole rate and volume might be slower, but the concentration is higher. And so I'm kind of not utterly convinced yet that just increasing gastric emptying alone is enough. Because we know really that the major rate-limiting step to getting carbs through into the bloodstream and into the muscle - is the gut.

Andy King  08:17
Yeah, if you look at one of Shaun's studies, they just did a resting study, which shouldn't really affect gastric emptying too much. And they showed that an encapsulated hydrogen mixture went through the stomach about 40% quicker than a standard carbohydrate mixture with exactly the same carb content in it.

Taryn Richardson  08:36
Crazy. So does it mean that it's moving from the stomach to the duodenum into the small intestine 40% faster?

Andy King  08:44
It means that there's about a 40% increase in volume being delivered into the intestine.

Taryn Richardson  08:50
And is that problematic?

Andy King  08:51
It really depends on where the source of people's gastrointestinal distress comes from when they're exercising. And from what I've seen, really from having done this with runners and cyclists in the field, it's kind of different for everyone. Some people struggle with really lower GI issues, some people sort of early intestine issues, and some people just stomach contents, which would be very upper GI is a real problem, classic scientists answer isn't it? There's no one size fits all kind of message we can give people.

Andy King  09:22
So is it a problem? No. If anything, it should be a benefit. If gastric emptying is going to be a bottleneck at all, which I don't really think it is, then an increased delivery to the intestine should be good. The problem - and this is where the theory is good, and the evidence I'm sure will emerge - is that if we increase gastric emptying, we're doing something with the receptors that line the gut - the enteroendocrine cells, which provide feedback via the brain to the stomach to increase or decrease gastric emptying. And so somewhere we would be pretty certain that the hydrogel is doing something to manipulate the signal there - leading to that increase in what's coming out of the stomach. And then as the carbohydrates are released in the intestine from the hydrogel, then really the rate-limiting step goes back to being the transport from the intestinal lumen through the wall and into the bloodstream.

Taryn Richardson  10:11
So somebody would still have to do gut training to be able to absorb more nutrition? if that rate limiter is those transporters - the glucose and fructose transporters?

Andy King  10:21
I think we've been pretty certain that the guts - the rate-limiting issue for getting carbs through for quite a while now. And yeah, you mentioned gut training. And there's some pretty good evidence to show that that does work good in people who are going to consume a high volume of carbohydrates. So it's sort of, think of, your elite endurance athletes. If you're not taking that much, it's not going to make a big issue. And likewise, if you do have GI complaints with carbohydrate during training, then a gut training protocol is probably going to be quite useful.

Andy King  10:47
But yeah, once the hydrogel is in the gut, the carbs are released - we're, kind of, back to the same bottleneck that was there before. So if that is going to be, or that has been a problem for an individual, then I'm not entirely sure that, then, the hydrogel has given you much extra boost.

Taryn Richardson  11:03
And are there any negatives than to using a hydrogel versus a non-hydrogel product?

Andy King  11:08
Not that I think anyone's come across? No. You could potentially speculate that that breakdown in the gut could provide more carbohydrate to the intestinal wall quicker. But no, that's not been reported. And actually, you'll probably see the opposite a bit -  that the anecdotal evidence and the research evidence on the symptoms of GI distress are slightly better with the hydrogel versus a normal drink, say.

Taryn Richardson  11:31
And perhaps people that have more upper GI issues, like you said earlier, rather than the lower GI.

Andy King  11:36
Yeah, and again, that, I think, that's something that we've got to get a lot hotter at being able to measure in the lab - it's very subjective. There aren't many great tools out there. There's one being, and just been, developed at Monash University here in Melbourne, which is probably the best tool we've got so far at trying to capture that information. It's pretty hard to work out what bits or you know... think of your 26 feet of intestine in such a small part of your body. People can't differentiate between the stomach or the upper intestinal, lower intestine, particularly easily. So yeah, we need good tools.

Taryn Richardson  12:08
Yeah, totally. That's a good summary of what a hydrogel is. And we now know the products that you can get a hydrogel in. The reason why I wanted to talk to you today was because in 2020, you published a review of all the papers that have been published to date back then a couple of years ago. And there was six at that time, where they tested hydrogels to see if there was any benefit to performance for endurance exercise. Can you talk me through those studies? But also, like, what's the outcome of that research? Looking at everything to date? Are hydrogels better for endurance performance or not?

Andy King  12:46
Yes, so quick answer would be no. At that point in 2020, at six studies, there were no performance differences. The studies were quite varied, which is a problem in the carbohydrate exercise literature as a whole. That sort of issue comes from there being a real range of exercise modalities that people use. So cycling, running, cross country skiing was even one of the studies in our review, the exercise intensity, the training status, you know, i.e. how well trained the participants are, the type of carbohydrate they use, the dose of carbohydrate they use, it sort of gets quite tricky to compare too much between the studies. But yeah, the universal finding was that it didn't improve performance across most of the studies in cycling, a couple in running and one in skiing.

Taryn Richardson  12:46
And across males and females too which was nice to see.

Andy King  13:36
Yeah, two of the studies had a mixture of males and females, which is definitely an emerging trend - sadly, so late in the literature. I don't think you'd necessarily expect to see too many differences between males and females with exogenous carbohydrate feeding studies, but we know that there are big metabolic differences and training differences. So we absolutely need to be sure of that and include more females in our studies.

Taryn Richardson  13:59
I couldn't agree more. So the summary of that review was hydrogels don't improve performance. And there's been a couple of studies since that time, have they shown any differences or advantages to taking a hydrogel for performance?

Andy King  14:12
Yeah, so a couple of studies since and they're probably the two better studies or more thorough, I should say. There was nothing wrong with the six studies in the initial review, they were well-conducted studies by reputable labs who have done this sort of work before. I think, in the early days of research, people sort of do slightly more simple studies, and then things moved on. So one of the studies actually measured the exogenous carbohydrate oxidation -so the amount of the carbohydrate that was in the drink or in the hydrogel that is burned during exercise.

Andy King  14:42
It's just slightly unfortunate - they did a dose, kind of, step up. And at the low dose, they compared it to a normal carb drink (compared the hydrogel I should say), and at the high dose they didn't. There were no differences at the lower but at the higher they, kind of, saw this bigger increase in exogenous carb oxidation, which we would expect to see. So there was a slight limitation in that study. And then, a study from our group in Leeds in the UK, led by Josh, who I mentioned earlier for his PhD, looked at both the exogenous carbohydrate oxidation and also the effects then on liver and muscle glycogen. So the body's own endogenous stores of carbohydrate.

Taryn Richardson  15:19
We should probably explain endogenous and exogenous to people before we get too deep.

Andy King  15:24
So yeah, these terms exogenous and endogenous carbohydrate oxidation that we use, and you'll see in papers, means simply exogenous being from outside, so anything that is in the drink, or the gel that you take and is burnt during the exercise, we'd term exogenous carbohydrate oxidation. And endogenous means relating to what's already in the body. So carbohydrate in the body is stored primarily in the liver and the muscle as glycogen.

Taryn Richardson  15:50
Perfect. Thank you.

Andy King  15:51
Yeah, so Josh measured exogenous carbohydrate oxidation and liver muscle glycogen and performance. And that was in a running study with pretty well-trained runners. And they did a two-hour steady-state protocol. So they just ran at about 70% of their VO2 max for two hours, then they jumped off for a very quick rest and back on the treadmill for a 5k time trial.

Andy King  16:13
And that was the first study in the literature then that showed an increase in the amount of carbohydrate that was being burnt from the drink. So the exogenous oxidation. It also showed that performance was better as well. So they improved on the hygiene and again, this is compared to a control carbohydrate drink. So matched for dose, timing, type, composition - everything the same, just without the hydrogel. Whereas some of the previous studies have looked at the hydrogel but say compared to water or placebo, which we know is going to improve generally, whether it's carbon hydrogel or carb not in a hydrogel - you're taking it versus water, you should see an improvement.

Taryn Richardson  16:50
So is Josh's the first study of its kind to do that - to test that endurance performance with a hydrogel matched with just a carbohydrate solution that's the same but not in a hydrogel?

Andy King  17:01
No - other studies had done that. It was the first to show that it worked. And why that is, I think, fully largely comes down to a combination of the running, the intensity of the running and the duration of the running. So the kind of longer and harder that people go, the more likely it is that fuel i.e. carbohydrate as a fuel, is going to become a limiting factor.

Andy King  17:22
The harder that people are running, and again, the longer - the more likely we are to see gastrointestinal disturbances and complaints. And so you keep pushing that envelope further and further. And people head into that zone of discomfort. You know, if you're running long-distance Tris or marathons or whatever, the longer you go on, and the more you keep trying to eat and feed, the harder that seems to get.

Andy King  17:44
And so it might sort of just be a combination of those things that the hydrogel just started to pinch a little bit of, you know, gut comfort back and just make people a bit more happy. Or that physiological mechanism was working where a little bit more over the two, two and a half hours is just starting to slide through into the gut and really give that maximum opportunity for the gut to absorb it.

Taryn Richardson  18:06
What pace were these guys running the 5k time trial in - just so you get a sense for how trained they are?

Andy King  18:11
Ballpark 20 minutes - some were a bit quicker, some were a bit slower.

Taryn Richardson  18:14
So perhaps we haven't seen good quality research yet. But it could potentially be coming?

Andy King  18:21
I think we might see more studies if they're thorough enough and use the kind of detailed measures that we used in that study where we're getting... So we put what's called an isotope tracer in the drink to try and work out what's happening to the carbs.  So it's basically like sticking a tag on the sugars and tracking it through the body. We can see it emerging in the breath and in the blood. And we can do some pretty nifty maths with that and work out what's been burned and what's been burned where.

Andy King  18:48
So I think we need those measures to help us identify (and some other good measures we can look at) to measure the gastric emptying and the absorption as well. So yeah, we might see that emerge. I'm certainly not writing off hydrogels. And largely, that's because they're so popular. And there's still people absolutely swearing by Maurten and other products and saying, "I just feel better, and I feel quicker". And usually in sports nutrition, to me, that means something.

Taryn Richardson  19:12
Yes, definitely not the cheapest way to fuel. But if you feel different and feel better, then it may be worth it. Think about like the original Coke and caffeine stuff, right? They were drinking Coke in Ironman in the 80s before we realised that caffeine was that useful.

Andy King  19:27
Yeah, absolutely. And like I said, it's often the way that you get enough athletes - kind of Wisdom of Crowds thing isn't that? You get enough athletes doing something and continuing to do it. It's usually not hype. There's usually something behind that. So it'd be remiss of us to just abandon hydrogels at this point and say, "Yeah, enough is enough. It doesn't work." I think it's way too early for that.

Taryn Richardson  19:47
Yeah. Excellent. Can I ask you what those carbohydrate oxidation rates were in that study?

Andy King  19:53
So we saw, in that study, the exogenous carbohydrate oxidation was about 1.3 grams per minute. Obviously, that's an average across the participants. That's in pretty good agreement with the literature really. That previous hydrogel study that I mentioned by Shaan - that was almost identical exogenous rate as well. So we've seen higher in different carb studies, mostly in cycling, because that's where really most of the studies are - in cycling. We've seen as high as 1.7 grams per minute. So it's a lot of carbohydrate that you can potentially burn from your drink or your gel.

Taryn Richardson  20:25
That's a lot. So 1.3 is 78 grams an hour.

Andy King  20:29

Taryn Richardson  20:30
And 1.7 grams is 102 grams of carbohydrate per hour. So very high carbohydrate rates.

Andy King  20:38
Yeah, and I'm not sure, really, you'd be able to get it much higher than that. From what we know about the ability of the intestine to handle and transport carbohydrate through the gut, you're only going to achieve that if you've got mixture of carbohydrate sources, glucose and fructose, basically.

Andy King  20:54
And you're right up at the saturation point there. So where our understanding is of the gut's ability to absorb - is about 100 grams per hour. And that's probably in someone who's got good guts and has got pretty well-trained guts as well. So if you were to increase that to say 120 grams per hour, we don't think you'd really absorb any more than that. So that's about as high as you can get.

Taryn Richardson  21:17
I think that's good for people to hear. Because there's so much stuff in marketing messages in the media about more carbs, more carbs, and age group athletes are hearing this message thinking I'm going to fuel at 90 grams an hour, I'm gonna go to 120 grams an hour! But really, they don't have the basics sorted - of the right carbohydrate blends or enough carbohydrate in their day to day diet before they even start to take and look at these shiny objects like something like a hydrogel or increased fueling to be able to actually deal with it in their gut.

Andy King  21:47Yeah, I couldn't agree more with that. I think if you haven't sorted the basics out and your diet's wrong, like, don't really even bother. Like, start there. It's the kind of classic pyramid of evidence-base isn't it? Start with important stuff - what you're eating day to day - how you're fueling.

Taryn Richardson  22:02
Ugh, I'm so glad you said that! I bang on about that, all the time. Triathletes have no idea how to periodised their food to their training, but they love all the latest gadgets and tech and stuff. And I've had so many people lately, come and tell me they're using Maurten for the hydrogel or you know, they're trying to increase their fuelling to 120 grams an hour. And I'm just like, you're an idiot, step back to doing proper recovery nutrition 101 first and we'll look at that, once you've got the rest of that dialled in.

Andy King  22:29
And the difference of what you can buy and spend - an awful lot of money on in sports nutrition versus ...I guarantee you've got a bag of sugar in your cupboard, you can go and make something that's about 80% of a representation with that and just make in your water bottle. So is all that investment going to result in a lot that are physiological - no! There's definitely a placebo effect. But once you keep using something you're going to lose the placebo effect. So you know, time that well even, as well.

Taryn Richardson  22:55
So in summary, who would the hydrogel technology be useful for?

Andy King  23:01
If you've tried it, and you're somebody that knows that you've had gut issues and you get soreness or cramping or belching and wind during exercise and you try the hydrogel and think you don't - you might as well stick with it. If you find something that works for you, then go with it. And that's kind of sports nutrition in a nutshell as well, isn't it?

Andy King  23:19
We're so different. And it's very difficult with nutrition to dial in - who will respond to what until you actually give it a go. So that's probably the first category and that applies to age groupers, elites, whoever you are. If you're an elite or pushing that elite boundary, and you're just trying to sneak that really kind of high volume carbohydrate through - yes, the hydrogel might be something that works.

Andy King  23:43
We can, sort of, plug a recent study that we've just published as well in pretty well-trained kind of top-level marathoners. So we're looking at like 220 marathoners and some elite race walkers as well out of the AIS. And we didn't look at the fuel utilisation rates in that study. But we used Maurten in the runners, and they loved it. And they, and we were seriously pushing the envelope on how much carb we could get in them - diet, and during their training and racing. Like we, we absolutely went for it with that study. And they had really almost no GI issues at all - either as symptoms and some measures we did of gastrointestinal disturbance - almost nothing there. So we know we can really ramp that carb up. But if you're not in that category and pushing 100 plus grams an hour during exercise and absolutely like you said periodising your nutrition for race prep, I think just sticking with the normal carb strategies for training and racing would be more than enough.

Taryn Richardson  24:42
So maybe don't waste your money on hydrogels unless you're at the top end of the spectrum and you're looking at doing a nine-hour marathon, a nine-hour Ironman or you have gut issues and taking something like that hydrogel helps to alleviate that for you?

Andy King  24:59
Yeah, I think so. And if you're in that latter category, there could be a myriad of reasons why you're struggling to absorb carbohydrate. At the end of the day carbohydrate in sugar form is a very simple molecule, it shouldn't cause a huge amount of GI distress. So if you find yourself in that category, yeah, do a bit of self-experimentation. But find a good Sports Dietitian and go and start nutting out some of those problems, I think as well.

Taryn Richardson  25:22
Yeah. Good advice. Thank you. Thanks for the shameless plug. I think people go to something like that first, though, but don't don't actually explore the types of carbohydrates they've got in their products, or how much they're having per hour, or they're significantly under eating carbohydrate on a day to day basis. And then try and hit these big carbohydrate per hour targets in a race and wonder why they end up vomiting on the run.

Andy King  25:46
And something I've seen a lot of, and I try and talk about, with most athletes, and I've talked about publicly is a lot of people have fructose intolerance issues. Roughly it would affect about 10% of the population. If you're someone who eats an apple and starts burping, you've probably got a fructose intolerance, and a lot of the carb products on the market - they tell you what the ingredients are, but unless you know exactly what you're looking for, you wouldn't necessarily know. So have a close look at the ingredients list. If it's got fructose in it, it'll be sold probably as a mixture.

Andy King  26:16
If it's saying it can oxidise 90 grams or burn 90 grams an hour or one and a half grams per minute, it will have fructose in it. So if that is an issue for you, maybe wind back your fructose intake. Again, probably something I'd see a dietitian about or get down to your GP and talk about if that is a big issue for you. Like if it's just a bit of mild discomfort, then you're fine. I'm not trying to alarm anyone. But trying to sort of nut that problem out to what you should or shouldn't eat, we start getting into medical territory. So it's definitely worth some advice if you're struggling big time with that.

Taryn Richardson  26:48
I agree. One of the things we dive into inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy is the types of carbohydrates that are in products and what you're looking for, and how to read the label, because so much is disguised and masked by lots of weird marketing messages, isn't it? So understanding what's in your products is really important. And then also understanding the ratio of those because we know that we need glucose to help transport fructose in a way and just getting that balance, right can sometimes help. But definitely seek professional advice if that's you, rather than just trying to wing it. Because usually, it's a quick, easy fix. It's just having an understanding of what the actual problem is first, rather than just trying to wing it by yourself or on Dr. Google for too long. And fail forwards. But get some actual advice.

Andy King  27:32
Yeah, I think that would work pretty well. And if you have an issue with that, there's probably something underneath it. Not saying yeah, like, again to alarm anyone but you probably got digestive issues somewhere else if you fall into that category. And again, it's a small percent of the population.

Taryn Richardson  27:45
Okay, so hydrogel 101, what's the bottom line?

Andy King  27:49
Evidence to, say, to date so far - they don't work over other carbohydrate products. But if you want to give it a go, give it a go. And try. And self-experiment. See if it makes any difference because there is some good evidence out there to say that people enjoy using the product and do benefit from gastrointestinal symptoms.

Taryn Richardson  28:11
Boom! So watch this space, I guess. Nothing to say really clearly that it is beneficial. But it doesn't mean that research is not necessarily coming. But like Andy said, you know, test it out. If budget is a constraint for you, then I wouldn't be looking at products like Maurten or SiS Beta Fuel because they are the most expensive on the market.

Taryn Richardson  28:33
There are plenty of other ways to get fuel in. And a way more cost-effective way. And whether you need to go down the path of investing in the hydrogel stuff for you - for performance. It's probably one of the last things that we would look at. We do a whole heap of other things first with your nutrition before going down that rabbit hole.

Taryn Richardson  28:52
Alright, well thank you so much for joining me, Andy. I definitely have really enjoyed picking your brain on hydrogel. I couldn't think of anyone better to talk about it. You are very much across all the things and I would just hash it. So thank you so much for giving us your insight into all the research in this space so far.

Andy King  29:09
No worries, Taryn. Thanks for having me on.


Taryn Richardson  19:03
Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned. Email me at [email protected]. You could also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media at @dietitian.approved so I can give you a shout out too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smash it in the fourth leg - nutrition!

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