Confused about calorie calculation of energy gels/sugars

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Shrike
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by Shrike

Is there a difference between regular food calories and calories from energy products like gels?

You can fuel an hour of hard work (lets say 700kj ride) with around 90g of carbs (to use one particular product as an example). That would be 177cals.

That same workload could also be fueled by regular food, and would need around say 700cals (for example).

Using food you would not be at a calorie deficit.

Using the sugar mix you would have a large calorie deficit and would lose weight, or so you would expect.

Or does it not work like this - the sugar cals usurp the rules on efficiency (ie. body wastes 75 to 80 of calorie intake). So you wouldn't be at a calorific deficit on the sugar mix either?

Where are the extra cals coming from. Fat and sugar stores? What am I missing :P

Jugi
Posts: 136
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:10 am

by Jugi

Shrike wrote: Where are the extra cals coming from. Fat and sugar stores? What am I missing :P
In short, yes. The energy is "coming" from body's resources. The long answer's length depends on the level on detail. A body does not store energy in a singular form in one place and it doesn't change between different energy sources (ie. fat/carbohydrate) like a flick of a light switch. The body is always trying to get by with decent efficiency - using the energy source most suitable for the intensity of work.

Gels and other energy products replenish sugar stores. Sugar is a fast energy source for the body's metabolism to utilize and the muscles to use. Fast energy is always very hard not to use at all while working out, so that's why energy products are made like that.
Last edited by Jugi on Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

by Weenie


Shrike
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

So there’s no working around it, if you do 1KJ or work, your body has to give up 1 calorie in anyway it can. Thanks jugi, just trying to get my head around it. Doing a lot of calorie counting at the moment :P

joejack951
Posts: 434
Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2005 6:50 pm
Location: Wilmington, DE

by joejack951

1g carbohydrate = 4 calories (kcal) so a 90g energy gel composed of 100% carbohydrate would be 360 calories.

Shrike
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

Yes, sorry it is!

I was only using 44g of the product recently per hour (was just doing endurance/tempo this weekend) and got the numbers mixed up there.

High 5 Energy Source
44g
175 kcal
743 kj

The kj number is really high, over 4 times the kcal number. Does that mean you can do about 743kj of work on that quantity?

Kurets
Posts: 154
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:55 pm

by Kurets

What is.there to be confused about? One calorie is about 4.2 J. eith your muscular efficiency being approximately 25%, the amount of work you can do based on energy intake alone should be a similar number to the amount of calories in whatever it is you eat. For example, a gel containing 25g of sugar will contain approx 100 kCal of energy which would be the same energy used to perform 100 kJ of work.

However, your body doesnt use only the energy from the gel you eat, it also uses stored sugars, fat, and to a smaller extent breakdown of amino acids as fuel. So you don't need to replace all energy you spend during a ride. It will refill itself with time, just have a decent meal and rest for the night...

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joejack951
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Location: Wilmington, DE

by joejack951

As Kurets notes, your body has a lot of stored energy it can use allowing you to do a lot of work without necessarily injesting calories. I’ve become more aware of this than ever now that I run more, an activity which doesn’t offer the luxury of cycling where you can easily carry food/water and consume it without stopping. I have run for over two hours straight, burning ~1500 calories having only had a small snack of 80-100 calories prior to the run (anything more and I have stomach issues). I finished those runs tired, thirsty, and hungry but not ‘bonked’.

From my understanding this is perfectly normal, too, provided that one stays generally in the aerobic zone. Your body has roughly 2000 calories of easily accessed energy that it can use for efforts like my two hour runs.

Shrike
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

I’ve been dieting pretty hard again this month, especially the past couple of weeks. 300 to 400 cal deficits on weekdays and 600 to 800 at weekends. I’m using the 1:1 kJ to cal ratio on TrainingPeaks/MyFitnessPal to track it.

Usually I’m good with the general understanding of the calorie consumption and energy output range of humans as mentioned by Kurets in his hissy-fit above :lol: . But I've been experimenting and taking the use of sugars as fuel as far as I can go. What spurred this thread was that yesterday morning I tested a 3 hour endurance zone ride without breakfast and only using this energy drink as fuel. Nothing exceptional for most people, but for me I was pretty certain that I was heavily glycogen depleted to begin with. I can’t complete an interval session these days because of this. But being an endurance ride and prepared to simply roll home slowly if at all went badly.

For 3 hours of fuel, I took two bottles:

45g carbs
45g carbs & 25g whey protein

Total calorie intake: 454
Total work: 2060kj
TrainingPeaks cals: 2060
Strava cals: 2297 (I prefer to use the 1:1 from TrainingPeaks as it's more conservative for weight loss)

Prescribed workout was 3 hours at 207 watts. I was struggling and averaged 180 for the first hour and was feeling miserable. So far so good, I know I’m almost certainly heavily glycogen depleted as I can't meet my endurance target - so I push on to see how far I can take this. Power started coming up slowly but it wasn’t until I was into hour 3 that I was able to feel like I had energy and starting being able to ride at tempo. Around half an hour from home I started doing little stretches at 230 to 240 watts. I arrived home feeling good.

I used to do faster rides. Felt like absolute hell.

So. This is what I’m wondering now and why I was curious about how sugars count in terms of cals and efficiency, in case I missed a trick. Where are the calories coming from. Fat is definitely a big part of them 30% in first hardest feeling hour, (maybe 40% in subsequent hours?), but glycogen stores in this case just isn’t a credible explanation.

The worry was that even though I’ve been thinking that I was in a calorie deficit during the week, perhaps I wasn’t for some reason due to using energy products as fuel for workouts and that had some other variable.

sib
Posts: 138
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:03 am

by sib

"I’ve been dieting pretty hard again this month, especially the past couple of weeks. 300 to 400 cal deficits on weekdays and 600 to 800 at weekends."

Are you losing one kilogram every two weeks?
If not, your calculations might be off...

Shrike
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

I'm losing more, so yes my calculations are off, but I understand why :) I use conservative figures when dealing with energy use, and liberal figures when counting calories! Also different weeks I've been restricting using different numbers. It really depends on the workouts and what I'm doing that day. Some days I'll intentionally break even.

June 11th: 77.2kg
July 14th: 72.4kg

More background just in case anyone's wondering:

Goal is 72kg 1st August, though I may overshoot that. The numbers aren't massively important to me right now, too arbitrary. It's more visual and bf % based, but I think I'm getting close to my ideal weight and am actually eating healthily on a whole food, vegetarian, low GI diet. And enjoying it! But that's another story entirely.

In general I'm pretty successful with dieting and losing weight, but I have made some serious mistakes in the past and learned a lot from them. Been trying lots of different ways to lose weight for a while now, and IME, nearly everything works if you stick at it, but currently I'm more interested in how far you can calorie restrict while actually building solid power. That's what I'm toying with at the moment. On a training plan doing 3 tough VO2/FTP sessions during the week and around 5 to 6 hours at the weekends - endurance and some threshold thrown in.

That's how I came to heavy reliance on sugars to fuel workouts, because from experience I know it's a massive fail trying to fuel with solid food on the same day as a hard interval session. I just couldn't make it happen if I was calorie restricting the days and weeks before. Anyway, now I'm taking that idea of fueling with sugar primarily to my weekend long rides early in the morning. I know those rides have different carb/fat burn ratios so you can do some interesting stuff and achieve massive calorie deficits, which although fun from a calorie-counting perspective, definitely can't be good for you, so I do put a sensible amount of cals back on the same day post ride (basically eating every couple of hours). You could definitely go 2k deficit a day on the weekends. Maybe even much more, though not sure I'm feeling that experimental. I do like playing with this stuff and testing limits, power numbers, recovery etc, but if you mess up you crash off your diet and power disappears and you're a mess :P

In any case, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing some variable here with these calorie deficit figures and the energy product usage but all seems okay. Wasn't really into using so much sugar as fuel before but it's been a lifesaver for hard intervals :)

eforce123
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:27 pm

by eforce123

I am very new to the cycling world and the endurance world as well. I know a lot about dieting and getting lean. I have stepped on stage at single digits. It is no fun, but you definitely learn your body and want works and what doesn't.
Your post caught my attention.

what do you mean you "because from experience I know it's a massive fail trying to fuel with solid food on the same day as a hard interval session". solid foods cant work on heavy training days? anyone else can help me understand this as well.

thanks

eforce123
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:27 pm

by eforce123

joejack951 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:50 am
As Kurets notes, your body has a lot of stored energy it can use allowing you to do a lot of work without necessarily injesting calories. I’ve become more aware of this than ever now that I run more, an activity which doesn’t offer the luxury of cycling where you can easily carry food/water and consume it without stopping. I have run for over two hours straight, burning ~1500 calories having only had a small snack of 80-100 calories prior to the run (anything more and I have stomach issues). I finished those runs tired, thirsty, and hungry but not ‘bonked’.

From my understanding this is perfectly normal, too, provided that one stays generally in the aerobic zone. Your body has roughly 2000 calories of easily accessed energy that it can use for efforts like my two hour runs.
your not worried about spiking your insulin more than a few times on each ride. (maybe it doesn't matter when you burning as many calories as cyclist do)

Shrike
Posts: 1316
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

eforce123 wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:28 am
I am very new to the cycling world and the endurance world as well. I know a lot about dieting and getting lean. I have stepped on stage at single digits. It is no fun, but you definitely learn your body and want works and what doesn't.
Your post caught my attention.

what do you mean you "because from experience I know it's a massive fail trying to fuel with solid food on the same day as a hard interval session". solid foods cant work on heavy training days? anyone else can help me understand this as well.

thanks
Yes good question :)

Solid foods are always going to be best hands down. Healthy, low GI, well balanced and varied foods. But if you're constantly glycogen depleted and sometimes short on time (occasionally my workouts are only 14 to 16 hours apart), as is my situation, then your body just doesn't have time to load up on enough energy to hit your numbers/durations.

Take for example a tough sweet spot training plan like on TrainerRoad. Those workouts start to burn 1400 to 1800 cals. You wake up glycogen depleted as you've had a hard workout the day before and have been calorie restricting. Then you've got to eat for your daily requirements and stuff yourself with enough cals to blast through that workout. Pretty tough high end sweetspot intervals, 3 or even 4 x 20 mins. Your stomach is full of all that solid food and that takes energy away from you as you really want blood to flow freely around your body, not feel like a stuffed pig with a heavy gut :P The higher the intensity, the worse this effect is. Take a 5 minute maximal aerobic power interval done on a bloated stomach. Feels like torture.

Even if you have the time to load up, ie your workout is later in the evening and you're picking fast digestible food choices, there is still a type of fatigue that comes from calorie restriction. Muscle endurance, mental fatigue etc all get grinded down. Using sugary foods seems to help temporarily alleviate that, but now you're also risking insulin spikes when you're sitting on your arse stuffing yourself with high GI foods all day. Easy to get your cals in on pizza dinners. Pastries for breakfast. All that. Been there, but it's not for me anymore. I didn't find it sustainable and I wasn't feeling healthy or hitting my goals.

And that can set you off on a binge or overeating.

It's just so much easier when you're doing a pretty hard body recomp to fuel with energy products just before and during the ride. I'll start drinking about 10 to 15mins pre ride and all the way up until the last 20mins.

Get off the bike feeling great, hit my numbers and eat a healthy balanced small 500 to 600 cal meal. Maybe have a protein shake before bed if starting to feel hungry again. Breakfast is around 600 to 650 cals (small bowl of overnight oats in skimmed milk, strawberries and a 3 egg omelette), lunch around 650 cals too. If it's a workout day, then I'll up cals a bit, maybe have a piece of fruit in between breakfast and lunch and a couple of hours after lunch I'll have maybe a 250cal snack, muesli or something like that. Really depends on the workout, can vary wildly, especially at weekends, but there's no way my eating habits currently could support the type of workouts I'm doing to build power at the moment. It's high intensity right now.

Shrike
Posts: 1316
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:08 pm

by Shrike

eforce123 wrote:
Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:32 am
joejack951 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:50 am
As Kurets notes, your body has a lot of stored energy it can use allowing you to do a lot of work without necessarily injesting calories. I’ve become more aware of this than ever now that I run more, an activity which doesn’t offer the luxury of cycling where you can easily carry food/water and consume it without stopping. I have run for over two hours straight, burning ~1500 calories having only had a small snack of 80-100 calories prior to the run (anything more and I have stomach issues). I finished those runs tired, thirsty, and hungry but not ‘bonked’.

From my understanding this is perfectly normal, too, provided that one stays generally in the aerobic zone. Your body has roughly 2000 calories of easily accessed energy that it can use for efforts like my two hour runs.
your not worried about spiking your insulin more than a few times on each ride. (maybe it doesn't matter when you burning as many calories as cyclist do)
Yes, insulin spikes aren't a worry when you're actually exercising. Personally I avoid anything sugary during the day. No junk food, white rice, etc. But when it comes to my rides, more than happy to eat pure sugars :lol:

Nefarious86
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by Nefarious86

From memory Trevor Connor was saying they believe that your insulin response turns off during exercise to an extent meaning you dont have the usual insulin response and are able to process the simple sugars.

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by Weenie


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