I’m quite stuck in my ways when it comes to run nutrition. I’ve been using the same stuff for over a year. However having felt the time was right to delve into the Running Awards Goody Bag for the next thing to try, I thought I could combine a testing session with my first attempt at a double digit run since the marathon.
I was planning to go to Sunday long club run in preparation for the joy that is the Green Belt Relay next weekend. Have a look here for what the Green Belt Relay is all about, but in short I’m running a stage each day next weekend of a lovely countryside relay event and one of my stages is set to be at a higher mileage than I’m currently back up to.
Deciding I could use all the help I could get I thought I’d give the High5 products a go, which we’d been given in a handy starter pack. I’ve also got a theory that I may be quite a salty sweater (gross I know, sorry) and I’ve been meaning to look into using sports drinks instead of just water for a while now because I think electrolyte loss is an issue, especially in the summer. I’ve been avoiding them for ages due to past experience with Lucozade Sport, which has elicited at least one unplanned dash into a supermarket loo mid-run. But I can stomach SiS drinks tabs, at least when I’m not running, so as the High5 ones looked to be the same sort of thing I thought they should be ok.
From the pack I therefore decided to try three things; the Energy Bar to eat a short time before the run, the Electrolyte & Magnesium Sports Drink tab to use in my Camelbak in place of water, and two of the gels (one berry, one orange plus caffeine).
The drink fizzed up perfectly fine (nothing worse than a grainy tab with these things) and tasted ok. I went with just one tab to get a weaker solution, because of the aforementioned history with sports drinks which are too concentrated. More on the drink later.
I sorted my gel belt out on the bus en route to the run start, and realised that the High5 gels are smaller than my usual ones. I put them in the gel loops on my belt initially but a quick ‘shake it up and down a bit’ test showed that they would have simply dropped right out within about 5 minutes, so they had to go into the belt pocket instead. Having checked later they are about half the size of my usual gels (32ml to 60ml) but have the same amount of carbs (23g), so that’s interesting. The High5 ones are supposed to be taken once every 20 minutes which seems excessive if they have the same amount of carbs in as the ones I take roughly every 40 minutes. Only having two of the same type available and not fancying a surplus gel stomach situation I was sticking with my usual strategy with these.
The Energy Bar was pleasantly light and tangy. It was pretty much a mini flapjack made with banana, pineapple and other dried fruit and provided about 17g of carbs. I liked it a lot; if you think that a banana on its own is about 25g carbs but is quite a big thing to eat half an hour before a run, this seems like a good alternative. It sat fine on my stomach and I think it helped in the first few miles. I’ll use these again.
The gels were also pleasant enough. Slightly gloopier than my usual brand but definitely better than some I’ve tried. The berry one tasted very much of jam. Very berryish jam of the sort you might find in a Victoria sandwich. Of the two I preferred the berry one to the orange one (possibly because it really did make me think of cake) but both went down ok and tasted nice. How small they were was a plus I think. I don’t think I’d ever go for a gel every 20 minutes, but as they’d got the same amount of carbs in for less volume than my usual ones I can see how less of a bellyful of gel per carbs loaded would be a good thing. I would need a new belt though!
My downfall on this run, however, was the dreaded sports drink. It was ever going to be thus, I fear.
It was a pretty tough run anyway, being the first genuine long run since London and quite a hot day. But around 6 or 7 miles it started to feel really tough, a lot more so than it should have done. I dropped off the pace a bit but it made no difference and soon realised it felt so tough because what I’d initially thought was stitch was really my stomach complaining. I tried to keep going but had to stop at 9 miles to fold myself up on a park bench and try not to be ill. Unfortunately I think we’ve definitely established that my gut just can’t handle these drinks on the run.
Having said that, I am sure that’s nothing to do with High5’s recipe. When I got home I checked the ingredients on the pack and there is absolutely nothing in there that I don’t have most days, either in food or supplements. In this particular drink, High5 Zero, there isn’t even any sugar! As far as I know as a rule High5 are one of the more natural brands when it comes to sports nutrition, so I really think this is just me.
I’ve double checked everything and I don’t think I exceeded any stated doses. I mixed one tab in 750ml water to get the dilution right as per the directions on the tab, but I didn’t drink all of that on the run – nowhere near in fact. There is nothing in the guide or the tab packet directly about the volume you should drink of it once it’s mixed, it seems to recommend it in place of water and actually I think I probably could have stood to drink more fluid on the whole today.
I also had fewer gels than High5 recommend (one every 20 minutes for my slow 10 mile pace would have been about 5). Actually I had pretty much what they recommend for pre-race routines so that would suggest that anyone with a decent tolerance would have been absolutely fine, and my threshold is clearly just naturally lower. Or non-existent.
Perhaps High5 can put me right if I’ve done something wrong here and I can try again or clarify, but I followed the nutrition guide provided with the pack to the best of my knowledge and usually I am absolutely 100% fine with gels, so I am sure it was the drink.
So yes, the bottom line is that I will continue to avoid any sports drinks when actually on the run, but that High5’s other products are good quality, taste nice, and are useful. I will definitely use the Energy Bars in the future and although I still prefer my usual gel brand, that’s a matter of personal taste (I use lemon and lime ones. They can fool you into thinking they’re a G&T). As I said, the drink fizzed up fine and it tasted nice so if you know you can handle them then it would seem to be a good choice.
With sports nutrition it’s so important to find what works for you. I find gels work best for me, but other people prefer to eat jelly beans or shot blocks, some people avoid anything artificial and go for more natural energy bars or balls. As I think I’ve mentioned before, one of my friends even eats cheese and Marmite sandwiches on the run! What is consistent throughout though is that if you’re going longer, you need more than just water. Try a few things out and see what you like. If you’re just starting out and you like fruity flavours, the High5 gels might suit you.
And despite having stopped my Garmin at 9 miles to crouch over on a park bench and wait for my somersaulting stomach to sort itself out, a few minutes later a friendly club mate came along and I was able to jog the final mile in with her. So not without incident, but I managed my 10 miles, or thereabouts.
Very much looking forward to Green Belt next weekend now.
At which I shall mostly be drinking water.
NB – I am only going to comment on the gels and Energy Bar out of fairness to High5, who are not to blame for my weak stomach!
Does What it Claims? Yes- the Energy Bar I was really impressed with and gets a 10/10. The gels get a 7/10, just because they were slightly thicker and a stronger taste than I’m used to. However they did taste more natural.
Useful for Runners? Yes. If you’re planning to get faster or go further, you need to research good sports nutrition.
Value for Money? Yes – prices vary of course but the gels of the type I tried seem to be between £10 and £15 for a pack of 20. That’s really good value actually, and cheaper than the ones I usually use.
Will I keep Using It? I will definitely use the energy bars and I would use the gels again as well.