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New study says hydrogel energy products found to have 'no additional cycling performance benefit' versus standard carbohydrate drinks

In response to the findings, hydrogel nutrition mix brand Maurten say the test participants were put through wasn't 'tough enough' to invoke serious GI distress ...

A new study has concluded that cyclists taking a hydrogel drink mix reported no improvements in gastrointestinal comfort or performance - but hydrogel sports nutrition brand Maurten, who recently fuelled Eliud Kipchoge to the first sub-two hour marathon, claim the study didn't put subjects through a tough enough workout to bring on GI issues their product could help to alleviate. 

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Arguably the most renowned hydrogel nutrition brand with a star-studded list of sponsored athletes, Maurten (as reviewed by last year) claim the addition of pectin and sodium alginate to their very high carb drink mix allows the stomach's natural acid to minimise GI distress and maximise the amount of carbs you can absorb. Their most potent drink mix contains 80g of carbohydrate per serving, and also includes maltodextrin, fructose and salt. 

The study, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, is simply titled 'Carbohydrate Hydrogel Beverage Provides No Additional Cycling Performance Benefit Versus Carbohydrate Alone'. Nine endurance-trained male cyclists were put through three experimental trials consisting of a 98 minute test with various intensities, followed by ten consecutive sprint intervals. They completed a test drinking a hydrogel beverage, one drinking an isocaloric maltodextrin-fructose mix, and another including isocaloric maltodextrin only, ingesting 78g of carbs per hour.   

The researchers found no difference in sprint power between treatments, and there were 'no systematic differences in gastrointestinal discomfort symptoms observed between treatments'. Therefore, the study concluded that ingestion of a maltodextrin/fructose hydrogel beverage during high-intensity cycling didn't improve gastrointestinal comfort or performance compared to the two control beverages. 

Another study has since been published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that analysed the effects of hydrogel drinks on cross-country skiers. Again it found that the specialised solution was 'well-tolerated', but didn't improve performance. 

So, could it actually be possible that elite cyclists and marathoners are simply reaping the benefits of some serious placebo effects and nothing much else? put the findings of the first study to Maurten, and their Head of Communications Herman Reuterswärd responded by saying its findings were actually in line with what they would expect based on the study design. Reuterswärd said: "We really welcome all science and think that more money should be invested in this area. Looking at the study, the results are in line what we expect, based on the study design and how it's executed.

"We would not expect the study, with the present study design, to be able to discriminate between the three drinks tested in the sprint tests. To begin with, we would not expect the study to reveal differences between maltodextrin-fructose drinks with or without alginate-pectin. Further we would not expect to see differences between maltodextrin-fructose drinks and an isocaloric maltodextrin drink, although combinations of fructose and maltodextrin have been shown to allow for higher total carbohydrate (CHO) uptake rates. The intake rate, 78g per hour, is higher than reported as maximum exogenous CHO oxidation rate for glucose or maltodextrin. In the present study, this would mean that the uptake of maltodextrin was somewhat slower but still available during the sprint tests.

"As is stated in the report, trial conditions were not tough enough to evoke serious GI distress; especially not during the first 98 minute varied-intensity cycling bout when the drinks were ingested. Therefore, it's very hard to say anything about the Hydrogel Technology and it's role, which is aimed at trying to reduce GI distress when consuming carbohydrates." 

No peer-reviewed, independent research is yet to surface that concludes Maurten actually does offer better nutrient absorption with reduced GI distress; although the company have been claiming that research is coming for at least two years, according to sports science journalist Alex Hutchinson

Is Maurten the real deal? We'll be interested to see the results of further studies into hydrogel formulas over the coming months... 

Arriving at in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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Carior | 4 years ago
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There are a couple of important things to note here (and is jumping on a bashing bandwagon IMHO).

1. I have read Alex Hutchesons piece on this - he is pretty clear that the pre-load time was well below any sort of race pace effort. 

2. In support of Maurten's point is that Maurten don't claim 80g of carbs from Maurten are better than 80g of carbs from another source, they claim that one of the main benefits of their product is by increasing stomach clearing you reduce the risk of gastric distress (vomiting, uncontrolled bowels etc) - ultimately the studies showed very little gastric distress in either the Maurten group or the regular energy gels control.  The study ultimately says "because our protocol didn't cause gastric distress we conclude that Maurten won't prevent gastric distress" - its a bit like running a paper thin tire vs a gatorskin on a track and saying because neither got punctures, the gatorskin doesn't offer any greater puncture protection.

3. The studies have a very small sample size .  What was notable was that in the cycling study study twice the number of people suffered gastric distress with normal gels than with Maurten (this isn't statistically significant because the likelihood of getting a statistically significant result with 9 people is incredibly low unless there is an incredibly strong correlation).  That could easily be the take home point of the two recent Maurten studies and is as statistically significant as the alternative conclusion adopted by the paper re: gastro distress - you would be wrong to conclude Maurten stops gastric distress because in a sample of 9, two people vs 1 person is potentially meaningless and if a brand published this saying it was significant they'd be ripped to shreds (rightly) - there's simply not the level of data to reach that conclusion but the same is also true for the opposite hypothesis of the authors.

To be frank, I think that anyone presenting these studies as anything other than "a group of researchers did X, Y and Z and this is what the results say" is either a) clickbait, b) has an agenda and should be treated with scepticism, or c) both.

To be clear, I am not saying Maurten does or doesn't work - I'm saying that these studies don't help you answer the question "if I am participating in a long race where I will have to exert sustained high aerobic efforts, will Maurten help me perform better?". 


flobble | 4 years ago
1 like

Author Jack - did you read the actual study, or just the abstract? It's hard to understand the credibility of Maurten's defence without knowing more about the 98min pre-test workout. If it's too easy (as Maurten suggests), then it won't come close to depleting the body's own stored glycogen, and so the benefits of topping up are small.

The benefits of maltodextrin/fructose mix aren't unique to Maurten, and have been well proven elsewhere. So no news here.

The whole point of the hydrogel additives is to stop the drink sloshing about in the stomach & gut, making it more 'bolus-like', whilst still being easy to consume and digest. It is believed that this 'sloshing' is one of the causes of GI distress, but it's really a run issue, not an on-the-bike issue, so I don't see that this study proves anything in that regard either.

I'm wondering why they did it at all. A more useful study would be to take a group who regularly suffer GI issues, and put them through a long duration (half-Ironman scale) test, using a randomised double-blind trial of hydrogel vs non-hydrogel drinks.

Disclosure: I'm a Maurten customer, and it makes all the difference to getting through a half-Ironman race without any GI issues. I'm also aware of other triathletes who struggled to finish a race without problems, and for whom Maurten took them to the podium.

Rick_Rude | 4 years ago
1 like


brooksby replied to Rick_Rude | 4 years ago

Rick_Rude wrote:



vonhelmet | 4 years ago

Second to last paragraph is an editing disaster. " yet" is a double negative. Then there's a semi colon followed by a subordinating conjunction when the main clause is before the semi colon. Ditch the semi colon and it makes more sense. If you cant replace a semi colon with a full stop and have each of the new sentences make sense, you're doing it wrong.

Come on, I'm paying nothing to read this, I expect more.

thehill | 4 years ago

i have used it for long endurance events and got on really well with it, 6hrs+
one thing i noticed was the day after, usually would be trying to eat anything in sight, but didnt feel that depleted.

Liam Cahill | 4 years ago
1 like

Confirmed - It still tastes like wallpaper paste

Sriracha | 4 years ago

Seems they are shooting themselves in the foot by saying that the conditions under which their product would make a measureable difference are so extreme as to be irrelevant to the bulk of their market.

vonhelmet replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
Sriracha wrote:

Seems they are shooting themselves in the foot by saying that the conditions under which their product would make a measureable difference are so extreme as to be irrelevant to the bulk of their market.

My thoughts exactly. If your best use case is a man achieving a two hour marathon then you're putting yourself out of reach of... everyone else.

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