Monday, February 27, 2012

Nutrition Review: PowerBar Gels

Editor's note: video is NSFW. But needed the first :30 for this post.

So, now that we've gotten the fun part out of the way...

See just how many, well, different flavors of gels and products there are? Each one of them isn't necessarily just a different flavor, but rather a different blend of carbohydrates, amino acids, and other supplements. In other words: there's a lot of choices. (bold added because, well, there's almost too many choices to make.)

We've reviewed a fair number of nutrition products here at Crashing the Boards, and wanted to try out a new brand and a couple of their flavors here.

PowerBar has been a sports nutrition giant, founded in 1986 in California. It was marketed as the first nutritional bar designed specifically for endurance athletics. As the company grew, it has expanded their product line to include drinks, gels, chewables, and bars. The company was purchased by Nestle in 2000.

In PowerBar's terms, there are three distinct phases in which their products will fall: it will either be meant for use prior, during, or after athletic activity. Each one of these is referred to in a numerical stage: Stage 1 products are meant for consumption before activity; Stage 2 products are meant for use during activity; Stage 3 products are then meant for recovery afterwards.

Here around the offices, been doing a lot of intense skiing here this winter; yes, despite the lack of quality snowfall, the snow's been fantastic at some of the ski resorts. So with that in mind, we (meaning yours truly and ski buddy Josh) wanted to test some of the during activity products out. This is where the PowerBar gel line comes into play.

Nutrition Breakdown

There were two flavors of gel that we ordered, but both follow the same basic breakdown of formula with one key exception. (We'll come to that in a bit.)

PowerBar uses a proprietary carbohydrate blend that they call C2MAX. Essentially, it is a 2:1 ratio of glucose (delivered as maltodextrin) and fructose. PowerBar claims that this gives anywhere from 20-50% more energy to muscles than glucose on its own and improve endurance performance by up to 8%. Now, if those numbers seem high, I won't claim to know whether or not they work. What I will tell you is that I know that this ratio works well in my system as compared to, say, Hammer Nutrition's gel products, which only use maltodextrin.

PowerBar also throws in 200 mg of sodium, as well as potassium and chloride. These are three of your five key electrolytes that you lose during athletic activity (the others being magnesium and calcium). This works well for a salty sweater, like myself. I mean, on a recent trainer ride, I had bricks of salt on my temples. It gets bad.

There are 110 calories worth of gel in each single-serving packet. PowerBar recommends one gel for every 25-45 minutes worth of activity. I find somewhere around the 40 minute mark to be ideal for myself, but like with many things in sports: your results can and will vary.

So, How's it Work?
We tried out two different flavors: Kona Punch and Tangerine. The key difference between them is the Kona Punch has no caffeine in it, whereas Tangerine has a double-round of caffeine in it totaling 50 mg per packet. Caffeine is something I try to save towards the end of the day, simply because too much of it doesn't do well with my heart-rate and stomach.

The Tangerine flavor is definitely brighter, very loud citrus notes. It also doesn't hide the sodium much. This is something I like, as during the course of racing I find that the saltiness hides away and you taste more of the sweet notes of the gel. The ones that taste good early in the day tend to taste like frosting by the end.

The Kona Punch flavor reminds me a lot of the Strawberry Lemonade nunn tablets, which makes it delicious. It's not as salty as the Tangerine, but that's a good thing. It fits in with my strategy of taking the uncaffeinated gels earlier in the day, and then switching to the saltier and more caffeinated bunch further down the road. I also found the Kona Punch flavor works well when mixed into a 20 oz. bottle of water, if you prefer to draw the majority of your calories from a bar.

Overall, I've found I really enjoy these gels. They are a fair bit thinner than other brands, making them much easier to get down and make sure you're getting all of your calories in. They also tend to be just the right consistency during colder weather runs when other gels almost become chewy. Definitely look forward to racing with them this summer.


Jen Small said...

I have been using the tangerine and I like it. I cannot really stomach sticky sweet on long/hot sessions.

Great review!

Jamie said...

I love the Kona punch. D-licious. I really like that they are more liquid-y than gooey too.