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What is a Hydrogel? Does it improve endurance performance?

Jun 24, 2022

What is a Hydrogel? Does it improve endurance performance?

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?


I asked Andy King, exercise physiologist at the Australian Catholic University, to join me on a recent podcast episode. Andy co-authored the review paper on all of the research to date on hydrogels and their effect on endurance exercise performance. So there was no one better suited to answer these questions for us! 


What is a hydrogel?

  • Basically an amped-up carbohydrate drink

How does a hydrogel work?

  • Delivers sugar through the stomach and intestine into your bloodstream to your muscles
  • In gel form, it moves the carbohydrate mixture through to your intestine quicker - approx. 40% faster

Are there any negative effects of using a hydrogel compared to regular sports drinks and gels?

  • May negatively impact some athletes with gut issues
  • Athletes may need gut training to be able to absorb more nutrition
  • However, some studies show symptoms of GI distress are slightly better with the hydrogel versus a normal drink

What does the research to date say - Does a carbohydrate hydrogel improve exercise performance?

  • Quick answer would be no
  • Studies too varied to be conclusive

Does a carbohydrate hydrogel improve gastrointestinal tolerance compared to regular sports drinks and gels?

  • Need further studies/measures to measure the gastric emptying and the absorption
  • But many athletes swear my these products saying they ”just feel better and quicker”
  • To achieve higher carbohydrate oxidation rates you need the right mixture of carbohydrates sources, glucose and fructose

Who would the hydrogel technology be useful for?

  • If you’ve tried it and it works and alleviates any gut issues you currently have, stick with it
  • An elite, or pushing the elite boundary, and just want to sneak a high volume carbohydrate in

Is the premium price of hydrogel products worth the investment?

  • If you haven’t sorted the basics out and your diet’s wrong – don’t bother
  • Start with the important stuff – what you’re eating day to day – how you’re fuelling
  • Overall, the evidence to date – they don’t work over other carbohydrate products
  • There are more cost-effective ways to get fuel in.

To listen in and hear more about hydrogel technology, who can benefit most from using it and what results you are likely to see, check out the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast EP 47 – Click HERE.


Coffee and Questions is back!!

Join the Dietitian Approved Crew Facebook Group to catch me LIVE on Coffee & Questions. On the first Thursday of every month at 8:30am AEST (Brisbane time). Come and pick my Advanced Sports Dietitian brain on anything endurance nutrition-related.



โ€‹โ€‹Connect with Andy King on Twitter

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

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


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