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Thread: Glucose Tablets / Supplements

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    May 2013
    Woodstock, CT

    Glucose Tablets / Supplements

    With the research I've been doing lately for the person I've been hiking with that has diabetes I've noticed that many drugstores and websites offer glucose supplements in tablet/powder/gel form to treat emergency situations by getting glucose directly into the bloodstream for quick absorption. Apparently a 15g serving of pure glucose quickly reverse the ill effects of low blood sugar.

    So I guess I'm wondering why athletes don't use these products or whether they really are any different than other types of commercial powders, gels and chews. Why would you make a product that has to be digested and broken down to make glucose when you can just take glucose? I assume there are high quality and low quality products in this category just like any other and there is marketing hype with something even this simple. Is it that the glucose triggers the insulin response faster than other sugars but don't directly contribute to energy production any faster? I bought a small package of the tablets to start carrying for emergencies but for the hell of it I went several hours not eating or drinking anything and then chewed 3 of the tablets (15g) to see what kind of effect it had on my hunger, alertness, etc. They are basically just big sweet tarts and I didn't need to drink water to get them down, which I like for emergencies. They were delicious actually (I'm sure there is some sort of flavoring added to them). The labels I've seen for most of these products doesn't specifically say "glucose", just carbohydrates. So why fructose or maltodexterin or some other form of sugar when the body just makes it into glucose anyway?

    What am I missing here? I'm not suggesting I'd ditch all of my food choices and start bringing thousands of tablets on hikes but to counteract fatigue or keep energy up during strenuous periods these would seem to be a good option. And they seem like they'd work year round without any sort of special handling (i.e. won't freeze solid, don't need water to take them, etc). Wouldn't this also be useful for other things besides diabetes like hypothermia, etc? Seems like a good item for the first aid/survival kit if nothing else.
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  2. #2
    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Somerville, MA
    Instead of those tablets, I keep a small tube of cake frosting in my kit. Easier to carry and absorbs quickly under the tongue for someone in distress.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

  3. #3
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Waltham, Mass.
    There's nothing wrong with eating glcuose. It's only a matter of cost, or, relatedly, marketing. There are plenty of alternatives, such as sucrose. Digestion of sucrose (or other sugars) is close enough to instantaneous that the specific sugar doesn't matter for athletes. In fact, athletes typically prefer a mix of nutrients, some more or less instant (simple sugars), some a bit slower to digest (complex carbs, proteins), so they can sustain steady energy over the length of the activity.

    In an emergency, you can put sucrose directly into a diabetic's mouth. (Beware of choking; if patient is not concious, put sugar between lip and teeth. There's sucrase in saliva so they will get glucose into their bloodstream (absorbed through the gums)). For diabetics, pure glucose is probably preferable (faster-acting, and less of a choking hazard because you could use less of it) though I haven't done any research on that.

    Yep, for hypothermia my first aid kit contains powdered jello mix - the kind that has tons of sucrose in it. (Ideally, to be served dissolved in hot water. Still useful if water is lacking.) For hiking, I frequently carry a bit of candy of one kind or another for a quick "fix". There are all kinds of gels and gums marketed for athletes, that are little more than sugar (often with a bit of salt added) with lots of packaging and a hefty markup. Your tablets would be fine substitute for any of those applications.

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