We all train and race hard, so it is imperative to properly nourish our bodies to deal with the rigours of these day to day efforts. From daily vitamin and mineral supplementation to racing, training and recovery fuel, supplying energy for our internal engine is key to maximizing performance. We tried products from all categories to come up with some suggestions for your best fuel selection.
7 Systems – $87 / 30-serving
These vitamin supplements are designed for active athletes who require more nutrients than the average person. Daily servings are conveniently packaged in a single pouch of nine tablets that contain over 60 ingredients, so there is no more need for multiple bottles of vitamins. As the name indicates, the ingredients support the body’s seven critical systems: cardiovascular (B Complex vitamins), muscular (glutamine), skeletal (glucosamine and MSM), respiratory (CoQ10), digestive (bromelain), nervous (phosphatidylserine) and immune (ginseng). At an average cost of $3 per day, it is an investment that will only be made by those extremely serious about their training, much like Simon Whitfield, Lauren Groves and Adam Van Koeverden. The effects on your body, such as improved recovery, can generally be felt within a month or two of using the product.
Udo’s Oil: 3-6-9 Blend – $40
If you don’t already know why you need to include omega 3, 6 and 9 sources in your diet, the fact that omega 3 and 6 are referred to as essential fatty acids should give you hint. The body needs these fats for survival and, since we cannot synthesize them (only omega 9 in small amounts), we need to acquire them from our diet. The Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend is a great place to get all three at an ideal ratio of 2:1:1 and it is certified organic. While you can ingest the product via capsules, you can easily add the oil to foods you already eat or drink due to its pleasantly light taste that hints of sesame, sunflower and coconut. So, while you might have terrible memories of being forced to swallow spoonfuls of cod liver oil when you were young, you and your kids can enjoy a much more pleasurable experience with the Udo’s Oil. Research has proven that including omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids in your diet will lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, improve general health and well-being, enhance energy and stamina, decrease overall body fat, along with improving sleep, concentration and the condition of your skin.
Endurance ($45), Pro ($46) and Fast Charge ($40)
This form of Amino Vital is perfectly suited for triathletes. It absorbs quickly, provides sustained energy and the amino acids assist with recovery and mental focus. One 40 g serving of Mandarin Orange has 150 calories, 2,400 mg of amino acid blend, 60 mg Stevia Leaf Extract (which regulates blood sugar and improves digestion), 33 g of carbohydrate, 270 mg of sodium, 85 mg of potassium, 117 mg of calcium, 38 mg of magnesium and 240 mg of vitamin C. With the Pro, you can enhance your performance, training and recovery due to the extra boost of 3,600 mg of the amino acid blend. One 24 g serving has 90 calories, 17 g of carbohydrate, 20 mg of sodium, 180 mg of potassium, 88 mg of calcium, 60 mg of phosphorous and 150 mg of vitamin C. For a quick Amino Vital energy boost while on the go, the Fast Charge (one 5 g packet) provides 2,400 mg of the amino acid blend and just 15 calories, 2 g of carbohydrate, along with vitamins A, C, D, E, and B.
Performance Enhanced Ready-To-Drink – $2.99
The performance enhanced line of ready to drink 591 mL bottles come in three tasty, but sugar reduced (7 g of sugar per bottle), flavours: Citrus (Endurance), Tropical Fruit (Vitamin C-Bomb) and our favourite, thanks to the herbal lift of guarana and ginseng, Orange Tangerine. The 591 mL bottle has 130 calories, 33 g of carbohydrate, 140 mg sodium, 75 mg potassium, vitamin C and chromium. Cytomax’s Alpha-L-Polylactate energy source is what sets it apart from other drinks. It works to a provide energy faster, longer and it lowers acid in muscles, which helps reduce soreness and speed recovery. You can also mix your own from six available flavours and two natural powder mixes that have no artificial flavours or sweeteners. All can be consumed before, during and after racing or training.
Heat Endurance Formula – $45 / container
While eload can be used as a day-to-day training beverage, where it really shines is in the heat and humidity. With a carbohydrate concentration of 5.4 per cent and a ph of 4.5 (less acidic than most drinks), eload is both gentle on the stomach and tends to be absorbed quickly during the heat of competition. For shorter, lactic-acid-producing races, eload’s 1,150 mg of MultiCitrate help buffer that acid. One 500 mL serving contains 108 calories, 27 g of carbohydrate, 370 mg of sodium, 96.5 mg of potassium, 25 mg of calcium, 12.5 mg of magnesium and 1 mg of zinc. We are partial to the Mandarin Orange flavour.
G2 – $2
At 30 calories per 250 mL serving, this version of Gatorade is perfect for those watching their calorie intake. It works nicely as a drink to sip on during your recovery periods to rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes. G2 provides 7 g of carbohydrate, 115 mg of sodium and 30 mg of potassium, so it is perfectly fine to use during training sessions of less than one hour. We particularly enjoyed the grape flavour.
Gel – $2
Just like their Accelerade sports drink, these gels (Citrus Orange, Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry Kiwi) feature Accelerade’s 4:1 carbohydrate-protein ratio. This ratio has been shown to boost endurance by sparing muscle glycogen during exercise, improve rehydration/minimize dehydration and reduce muscle damage. Chocolate Accel Gel has 100 calories, 20 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of protein, 100 mg of sodium, 50 mg of potassium, Vitamins C and E, Vitamin E (100 per cent of your daily requirement) and an extra endurance kick of 20 mg of caffeine.
Roctane – $4
Roctane has more ingredients our bodies need during prolonged or intense exercise. Compared to regular GU, Roctane has 750 mg more of the amino acid blend, 15 mg more caffeine, 70 mg more sodium, 10 mg more potassium and the inclusion of Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG) – an amino acid complex that protects muscle tissue from the damage of extreme efforts. The calorie content was kept the same to optimize stomach absorption, and the antioxidants (vitamin C and E) were not added in order to make room for the additional volume of ingredients. If you really need to get your antioxidant fix, ingesting one regular GU will take care of that problem. The flavourful blueberry pomegranate contains 100 calories, 25 g of carbohydrates, 1,220 mg of Amino Acid Blend (histidine, leucine, valine, and isoleucine), 480 mg of OKG, 125 mg of sodium, 55 mg of potassium, calcium and 35 mg of caffeine.
Gel – $1.69
Simplicity is what Hammer Gel brings to the table. Their gels provide complex carbohydrates (long chained maltodextrin), natural ingredients, amino acids and not much else. This makes for a gel that goes down easy and resists stomach distress. Despite a very low sugar content (2 to 4 g per packet) the gels are still very appetizing and flavours like Montana Huckleberry have got to perk your interest. Banana lovers will appreciate the authentic taste of that flavor, which is made of banana puree and has 100 calories, 24 g of carbohydrate, 30 mg of sodium and amino acids (leucine, alanine, valine, isoleucine). All gels are gluten-free and vegan friendly.
Chomps – $3.50
There is one problem with Chomps, all of the flavours taste so darn good that you can easily eat more than one package at a time. One serving (four pieces – there are two servings per package) of Strawberry Chomps has 90 calories, 23 g of carbohydrates, 55 mg of sodium, 40 mg of potassium, vitamins C and E, GU’s Amino Blend (leucine, valine, histidine, isoleucine) and white tea caffeine – Blueberry Pomegranate and Orange do not have caffeine. So while Chomps may taste like candy, the complex carbohydrates, branched chain amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes and caffeine, make this a serious energy source that is perfect for any long ride, run, or as a healthy reward snack.
Sport Beans – $2.50
Who doesn’t like treats? Sport Beans give you that and a whole lot more. Their own study indicated that cyclists who consumed Sport Beans during a 10 km time trial performed just as well as when they consumed gels or sport drinks. They were also faster and had higher power outputs then when they consumed water alone. The beans provide fuel, electrolytes, vitamins and are naturally sweetened through evaporated cane juice and tapioca syrup. An addictive packet of Fruit Punch contains 100 calories, 25 g of carbohydrates, 80 mg of sodium, 40 mg of potassium, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Five per cent of the sales from the fruit punch flavours that sport a pink ribbon will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 50 mg of caffeine can be had with the Extreme Cherry and Extreme Watermelon flavours. New this year is a resealable pouch.
Gels – $1.80
Using honey as the main source of carbohydrates, you can really taste the honey in these gels. These natural gels are made from a combination of honey, water, salt, potassium citrate and Vitamin B complex (niacin, pantothenic acid, B1, B2, B6, B12). Honey is low on the glycemic index to provide a long, steady source of energy, so you won’t feel a sugar rush after eating one of these. You really have to love the taste of honey to like these gels, but if you do, you’ll find they go down easy and there are lots of great flavours banana, chocolate, strawberry, ginsting and gold.
7500 ER – $65 / 20-serving container
This drink from Amino Vital has their largest offering of their amino acid proprietary blend (glutamine, arginine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine) – 7,500 mg. With such a high amino acid content it is best used as a recovery beverage or for shorter intense workouts where immediate muscle tissue damage can occur. One 24 g serving of Arctic Lemon has 90 calories, 13 g of carbohydrate, 20 mg of sodium, 180 mg of potassium, 85 mg of calcium, 59 mg of phosphorous 59 mg and 184 mg of vitamin C.
Chocolate Milk – $2
Recovery food does not get simpler than this. Chocolate milk is available virtually everywhere, is relatively inexpensive, requires no mixing, and heck, it’s chocolate. So provided you do not have any lactose issues, it is an excellent choice. What’s so good about it? Generally, 500 mL of 1per cent chocolate milk has 332 calories, 55 g of carbohydrate, 17 g of protein, 5 g of fat, 322 mg of sodium, 898 mg of potassium, plus vitamins and nutrients like vitamin A, D, B12, B6, calcium and magnesium to name a few. Basically it has everything your muscles need to help them recover.
Emend Recovery Formula – $36 / container
Unlike many recovery products, this one is light on the calories (75 cal for each one 8 oz serving) and is fairly light in the taste and consistency department thanks to its ultra filtered whey protein isolate. The natural chocolate flavour is a bit on the sweet side, does not have an overwhelming chocolate taste and goes down easy. This lends itself to aid recovery from training and racing in the heat. At 40 servings per 880g container, it offers great value. Each serving has 4 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrate, 232 mg sodium, 48.3 mg of potassium, 75 g buffered vitamin C, 24.8 mg calcium and 12.5 mg magnesium.
Recoverite – $3
The glutamine in Recoverite makes it unique among the recovery products in this review. The amino acid (3 g per serving) is utilized to help boost the immune system, reduce the symptoms of overtraining, enhance glycogen synthesis and stimulate muscle protein synthesis to rebuild lean muscle tissue. It also has a 3:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates (long chained maltodextrin) and the high quality whey protein isolate (from milk). The subtly sweet tasting chocolate flavour (one 49 g serving) contains 170 calories, 10 g of protein, 32 g of carbohydrate, 55 mg of sodium, calcium, iron and the antioxidant carnosine. It’s also available in strawberry and citrus flavours.
Protein Plus Drink – $25 / container
One 33 g serving has 130 calories, 20 g of protein, 7 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fat and 220 mg of sodium. It is highlighted by Power Bar’s exclusive TriSource protein – a blend of high quality whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate and soy protein isolate. This is a nutritionally complete protein blend that has branched-chain amino acids to help build lean muscle. The vanilla flavour tastes light, is easy to drink and we experienced no annoying clumping when mixing our servings. It’s also available in chocolate.
Protein Plus Bar – $3.50
Like the drink, this solid form of the Protein Plus line has the same TriSource protein blend, but offers a bit more flavour selection: Peanut Butter Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Fudge Brownie and Vanilla Yogurt. There’s also more carbohydrate, protein and calories per serving. We could not resist the Peanut Butter Chocolate bar that has 300 calories, 24 g of protein, 39 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of fat, 210 mg of sodium and 1 g of fibre. Not only is it ideal for post-exercise, it succeeds as a handy snack to help satisfy hunger in between meals.