Power Lunch: Are You Gellin'?
Don’t be left struggling for more power in the middle of your race. Gel your way to the finish line!
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By Norman Clausen
September 15, 2006
So, you’re actually going to run the New York City Marathon. Keep in mind that the average 180 lb. man will burn 110 calories per mile—roughly 2900 calories during the marathon. Problem is, you can only store about 2,000 readily usable calories. After that, muscles cramp, and you risk all-out glycogen depletion referred to as the dreaded “bonk.” We’ve all seen that commercial of triathlete Chris Legh crawling over the finish line—it’s about as pretty as it sounds. To make sure you stay fueled up during the race, we look at several popular sports energy products to see which passed the road test and which straight up bonked!
*Products tested midway through a 45-minute run and evaluated for duration of energy boost and quickness of onset.|
**Products evaluated based on eco-friendliness of their ingredients and packaging.
Pro: Traditional research has suggested there is a limit to how much energy runners can absorb while running. New clinical research, however, shows that a specific 2:1 mixture of glucose and fructose can increase maximum absorption by 35 – 40%. Accordingly, PowerBar has reformulated their Gel, becoming the only product to utilize this new carbohydrate blend for faster, more efficient energy consumption.
Pro: Sodium is the key electrolyte lost in sweat—the only one recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to be replenished during exercise. PowerBar’s new formula includes more than double the sodium of its nearest competitor.
Con: Tastes like warm yogurt, with the consistency of maple syrup. You wonder why they have a flavor called “Plain Energy.” I’m pretty sure it’s because they got tired of coming up with new flavors and pretending that they didn’t taste like warm yogurt. Gag-factor: significant.
Jelly Belly® Sport Beans™
Pro: The only energy product to contain Vitamin B1 (necessary to metabolize carbohydrates and aids in muscle coordination), B2 (needed for metabolism of all food and the release of energy to cells), and B3 (used by the enzymes that convert food to energy).
Pro: Second only to PowerBar’s Gel, containing 10% of your daily value of Vitamin C. As the immune system is often decimated by such grueling activity, a bit of Vitamin C will help to fight off sinus infections and other looming opportunistic disease.
Con: Look and feel like the beans for which Jelly Belly has become famous, but some flavors taste like Flintstones Vitamins. You can definitely detect the added nutrients. But because they look like regular jellybeans, you run the risk of children getting into them. That might just be my biggest nightmare—a toddler amped up on designer energy candy. I cringe just at the thought.
CLIF SHOT® Bloks
Pro: Tops among all of the products in both taste and consistency. Tasting like a Farley’s fruit chew, and melting in your mouth like really soft Gummy Bears, this was the best in tackling the two biggest issues we’ve seen among the rest.
Pro: The only product to be USDA certified organic—every flavor has at least 95% organic ingredients. If a positive impact on your body comes second only to a positive impact on the planet, this is your clear choice.
Con: Considerably more expensive. Each package contains roughly the same energy content as other products, but goes for an additional 70 cents (the cheapest we found online was $1.49, as compared to competitors all ringing in around for $0.79). Over months of training, it can add up.
CLIFShot® Energy Gel
Pro: CLIF SHOTS are 90% organic and are made from entirely natural ingredients. CLIF consistently strives to show that they can provide a quality product and superior results while using only the finest ingredients. If you follow a strictly organic diet, CLIF products are really your only choice out there.
Pro: Every Shot has a small strip of plastic that connects to the top, so that when you rip it off in the heat of a run, you’re not forced to toss the excess plastic while you knock back your shot. This patented Litter Leash™, combined with their organic formula makes CLIF SHOT the overwhelming favorite in the eco-friendly department.
Con: Slightly better taste than PowerBar’s Gel, but it still tastes like warm yogurt. At least the CLIF SHOT sort of tastes like the flavors they claim to be. I suppose I’ll take warm strawberry yogurt over plain yogurt, but the syrupy consistency was still enough to make you gag.
If you're looking for the best combination of taste, consitency, and energy, our personal favorite was the CLIF SHOT® Bloks. But they are almost double the price, so if cost is a concern, the other three each have their virtues. How much are you willing to pay for the luxury of taste? That's for you to decide.