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Grab and Go Energy

Grab and Go Energy

December 9, 2017

How to Pick the Right Grab and Go Energy for You By: Mike Wood, Certified Sports Nutrition Expert I’ve seen you (well, maybe not you, but someone like you) standing in front of shelves full of grab and go energy at the health food store or specialty running shop. Your eyes scan the slick packaging and various forms of gels and wafers as you try to decide which one to carry with you on your next race. I think in some cases, people pick their race fuel based on what will fit in their pockets. It’s very rare that I see someone pick up one of these packages and check the nutritional contents. That’s the first thing I look at. Here is my assessment of some of the more popular grab and go fuels. Hopefully it will help you make the right decision. Honey Stinger Gel The list of ingredients below tells me exactly what this will do to help you perform. For starters, the thiamin helps convert food to energy as well as promoting healthy function of the cardiovascular and nervous systems, both of which are under tons of stress during an obstacle course race. You’ll see that the number one ingredient is honey which is a great natural carbohydrate. The rest of the ingredients help your body convert that carbohydrate into energy.   Honey Stinger Waffles   If I was simply judging from size and composition, I’d say these aren’t the best option for on the course fuel because they take longer to eat and will crumble when you inevitably bump into something on the course. However, I think these are a great choice for pre-race carbo loading because they have simple carbs (rice syrup and honey) to give you a quick boost of energy and complex carbs (wheat flour and soy flour) that will give you energy over the long haul of OCR.   Cliff Shot Bloks   The first three ingredients, organic tapioca syrup, organic dried cane syrup and organic maltodextrin are all simple carbohydrates which means one serving of Shot Bloks will give you a quick boost of energy. Unlike the Honey Stinger choices above, there are no complex carbohydrates, so you can expect that boost of energy won’t last. Look at the bottom right corner of the nutrition label and you’ll see that one serving contains 25mg of caffeine. I bet most people would assimilate caffeine with energy (think morning cup of coffee). While that’s true, caffeine intake has some side effects I don’t like for an OCR athlete. First, caffeine can cause an increase in heart rate. This isn’t good because your heart is probably already pumping pretty hard as you push yourself through a race. Caffeine can also cause you to have an upset stomach and nausea. How much would that suck during a race?   GU Gels   The ingredients in these gels have a lot in common with the Shot Bloks. Both have simple carbohydrates and electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium. Both have caffeine from a green tea extract. Where these really differ is with the addition of branch chain amino acids, BCAA’s for short. In general, BCAA’s are an awesome aid in muscle recovery, help your muscles perform well and reduce muscle breakdown. Good, right? It gets better. There’s a general believe in my profession that BCAA’s counteract fatigue and enhance performance.       The Verdict   If you want to get the most bang for your buck then the Honey Stinger Gel would be my pick for providing the most essential nutrients for nervous system function and enhancing athletic performance. Along with drinking plenty of water you will have these vitamins and minerals transported throughout your body during your event leaving you with more sustainable energy and performance. Interested in more articles about endurance, strength and nutrition specifically for obstacle course racing athletes? Check out www.humanoctane.com/abetterfasteryou  

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