The world of nutrition is one of the most complex and controversial, so trust ironguides coach Jono Rumbelow to write another article about it. The coach who fuels his training with a ham sandwich with butter and mayo on brown bread (weird, he knows, but it works for him, he says) has listed the 45 ingredients, and their purpose, most commonly found in widely available energy drinks.
The world of nutrition is one of the most complex and most controversial subjects. I have lost count of the number of manufacturers producing energy drinks, electrolyte replacement drinks, gels, bars, and any number of other variations that have appeared in the last 12 years.
All manufacturers claim that their products are the best for various reasons—but who is actually right?
I have never backed a brand of energy drink purely because I get the same effect from a large percentage of them, and because some are absolutely horrid. However, my experiences don't mean that yours will be the same; I have had upset stomachs, nausea and vomiting while riding my bike with some of the stuff.
The latest one I tried gave me a headache that felt like I had gotten myself quite intoxicated the night before! That happened not just once, but three times, each after rides following the same route, riding the same intensity at set stages BUT changing the mix from 100%—as indicated on the container, to 60% of the recommended mix.
For any person to say that their drink is the best in the world for you must be someone who knows every single little thing about each athlete; their sleeping & eating patterns, work, family and social responsibilities and stresses, and how their bodies function with certain foods all rolled into one. It ain’t happening is it?
In July last year I wrote an article Throw Your Training Diet Out The Window, in which I talked about metabolic typing, which is a way to work out what you should eat to perform your best based on your body's shape and needs.
Well, choosing a brand of energy drinks or supplements needs to be addressed in the same way. All brands these days produce serving-size sachets for you to buy and try. In your first 8 weeks of training for a 70.3 or ironman (if you’re new to the sport) you need to use as many as possible to see which one makes you sick and which one gives you a boost. In short, you need to test which brand and which product(s) work(s) for you.
For those in a winter recess, now is the ideal time to test these drinks or supplements. Once you find the right solution, stick to it and never change UNLESS it starts giving you problems.
The last 8 weeks of training leading into a major race should be done with the exact nutritional drink, gel or bar that you will use on race day. Hey, I use cereal bars and a ham sandwich with butter and mayo on brown bread (weird, I know, but it works for me). As for drinks, I have my brand but would rather not mention it to avoid punting a specific one.
However, I have taken just 6 internationally recognized brands producing energy drinks that are available worldwide and listed the 45 ingredients used in some or all of them. The list is mind blowing to say the least, especially when you find a product with ingredients that offer no nutritional value to the human body.
Hopefully, this list will give you a better understanding of the ingredients and their purpose.
When reading a product's label of ingredients, always remember that they are listed in order of content in the product.
Regardless of where you are in the world, use the next 6 weeks to get a better understanding of energy drinks and how they affect you in racing, training and life in general.
1 Acesulfame Potassium
Is a calorie free artificial sweetener. It is marketed under the names of Sunett and Sweet One. Discovered accidentally in 1967 it is 180-200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) but as sweet as aspartame. Has a slightly bitter aftertaste especially in high concentrations. Always used in conjunction with Aspartane or Sucralose.
2 Amylopectin Starch
Is what is found in potatoes. However it is the only starch in new potato varieties. The concern here is if this starch is derived from normally grown or genetically modified potatoes
3 Ascorbic Acid
Is a naturally occurring compound derived from glucose. It is one form of Vit C and is an essential nutritional supplement. Used in food for its anti oxidant properties. Mainly produced industrially using the Reichstein process.
4 Calcium Chelate
Calcium itself is a major material in mineralization of bones. Calcium Chelate is a synthetic compound where calcium is bonded to and organic molecule such as malate, aspartate or fumarate. Better absorbed on an empty stomach. The chelate keeps the calcium in a soluble form in the intestine
5 Calcium Gluconate / Lactate
This is a less concentrated form of Calcium and yet not very practical as an oral supplement! Should be taken with food but proper absorption in the intestine relies on low pH levels in the body. A more expensive way of having calcium.
6 Calcium Succinate
Succinate Acid in its natural form is combustible and corrosive but is very safe as a food additive or dietary supplement. It plays a very important role in the ctric acid cycle thus helping the calcium in this form be taken up within the cells of our bodies more easily.
7 Chromium Nicotinate / Polynicotinate
Chromium itself has no verified biological role and had been classified as not essential for mammals. Its use in supplements is controversial due to this. In this form though it is an ionic substance used in some nutritional supplements or products referred to as medical foods. Its presence is for the nutritional support for conditions related to Type 2 diabetes.
8 Citric Acid
Is a weak organic acid. It is a natural preservative and used to sour the taste of foods or drinks. Citrate is the conjugate base and is one of a series of compounds involved in the physiological oxidation of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and water.
9 Crystalline Fructose
This is a processed sweetener derived from corn. It's 98% pure fructose. It is used to sweeten drinks, yoghurts, substituting table sugar.
10 Dicalcium Phosphate
Is mainly used as a dietary supplement in cereals, dog treats, enriched flour and noodle products. It is practically insoluble in water hence its uses in some products meant to eliminate body odor along with some toothpastes as a tartar control agent.
This is simple fruit sugar. Found in honey, tree and vine fruits, flowers, berries and most root vegetables. Commercially though it's derived from sugar cane, sugar beet and corn. It is therefore used to improve the taste of the product.
12 Glucose / Dextrose
Is a simple sugar and an important carbohydrate. Used in your bodies cell as the primary source of energy. D-glucose is found in nature, L-glucose is not.
Is an organic compound and the smallest of the 20 amino acids found in protein. Is Pharmaceutically manufactured by treating chloroacetic acid with ammonia. While not essential to the human diet, it is a precursor to protein and in certain products helps improve gastric absorption.
14 Guar Gum
erived from the ground endosperm of guar beans. It is a polysaccharide composed of the sugars galactose and mannose. It acts as both a stabilizer and a thickener and is way cheaper to use than corn starch.
Is a disaccharide that is commercially manufactured from sucrose via bacterial fermentation. It is a natural constituent of honey and sugar cane. It's is low-glycaemic and low insulinemic. It supports a more balanced and prolonged supply of glucose while improving fat oxidation during activity, as high insulin levels hinder the use of lipids as a energy source.
Is a nonessential amino acid.
This means it is manufactured by the human body. Founds all over in foods such as meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and brown rice to name just a few. Plays a key role in the glocose-alanine cycle between tissues and liver. Has however been linked to both hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
One of the 20 most common natural amino acids and can be manufactured by the human body. It therefore does not need to be obtained through our diets unless you have poor nutrition or a certain physical condition. Found in foods such as cottage cheese, yoghurt, chicken, salmon and tuna to name a few. Plays an important role in removing ammonia from the body, helps immune function and the release of hormones.
Is a combination of the amino acids beta-alanine and hstidine. Has antioxidant properties found to inhibit diabetic nephropathy. Has been proven to scavenge alpha-beta unsaturated Aldehydes formed from peroxidation of cell membrane fatty acids during oxidative stress in our bodies.
Is one of the 20 amino acids encoded by the std genetic code While not essential, it becomes such during intensive training or certain gastrointestinal disorders. Plays a role in protein synthesis, regulation of acid base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium and cell energy next to glucose.
Is the preferred source of energy metabolized by neurons in the brain before glucose. Glial cells transform glucose to lactate for the neurons.
One of the 22 amino acids used to synthesize proteins. It is a non essential amino acid. Is also the precursor to neurotransmitters and hormones but has no significant effect on performance.
22 Magnesium Oxide
Source of magnesium. Can be used for the relief of heartburn or sore stomach as an anti-acid or short-term laxative! One of the side effects is cramping.
23 Magnesium Chelate
Once again a source of magnesium but in this form tolerated better by the digestive system than the oxide or citrate versions.
24 Magnesium Citrates
Is a magnesium salt of citric acid. Medically used as a saline laxative. Attracts water through the tissues thus forcing you to go to the toilet. Too much of this can result in slow heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea. Severe overdoses can lead to a coma.
25 Magnesium Succinate
Similar to that of calcium succinate.
26 Malic Acid
An organic compound and used as a food additive. It is derived mostly from apple juice but is also found in grapes. Is the source of extreme tartness and is used with, or in place of, citric acid which by the very word is sour. Can cause irritation of the mouth if used too much.
Is a polysaccharide. It is derived from either corn (US) or wheat (Europe) using a method called hydrolysis. It consists of D-glucose units and is as such a food additive. Its primary function is therefore one of storage in our muscles.
28 Monopotassium Phosphate
A soluble salt which is used as a food additive. It is a source of phosphorus and potassium. It is also used as both an emulsifier and pH buffer.
29 Potassium Chloride
Is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. Is this state it is used more as a food preservative.
30 Potassium Citrate
Is the salt of citric acid. Used to regulate acidity in our bodies and a buffer for the drinks.
31 Potassium Succinate
Similar to that of calcium succinate.
32 Safflower concentrate
Is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like flower. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. The seed oil is flavorless and colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil which is high in monounsaturated fatty acid but lower in saturates than olive oil.
33 Silicon Dioxide Silica
Is a common additive in the production of foods, where it is used primarily as a flow agent in powdered foods.
34 Sodium Chloride
The good old common table salt. Primarily added as a preservative to the drink's powder.
35 Sodium Citrates
Is chiefly used as a food additive, usually for flavor or as a preservative, especially in lemon-lime and citrus soft drinks. As a conjugate base of a weak acid, citrate can act as a buffering agent or acidity regulator, resisting changes in pH.
36 Spray dried fruit juice
Is a method of producing a dry powder from a liquid by rapidly drying the liquid with a hot gas.
Is an artificial sweetener. The majority of ingested sucralose is not broken down by the body and therefore it is non-caloric. Sucralose is approximately 600 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), twice as sweet as saccharin, and 3.3 times as sweet as aspartame. It is stable and can be used in products that require a longer shelf life. The commercial success of sucralose-based products stems from its favorable comparison to other low-calorie sweeteners in terms of taste, stability, and safety
This is good old table sugar. Enough said.
39 Tri Sodium Citrate
Chiefly used as a food additive, for flavoring or as preservative. Sometimes referred as sodium citrate but that can refer to any of the three sodium salts of citric acid. Performs as a buffering agent in our bodies.
Is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. The powder is derived by boiling the rhizomes section of the plant for several hours and then drying them in hot ovens. It is then ground into its powder form.
41 Vitamin B6
Is a water-soluble vitamin and is part of the vitamin B complex group. Several forms of the vitamin are known, but pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) is the active form and is a cofactor in many reactions of amino acid metabolism, including transamination, deamination, and decarboxylation. PLP also is necessary for the enzymatic reaction governing the release of glucose from glycogen.
42 Whey Protein Isolate
Is a dietary supplement. In this case it is derived from soya lecithin. Depending on the process used to extract it, chemically it can yield a high percentage of pure protein and can be lactose, carb, fat and cholesterol free. It has a high concentration of branched chain amino acids. It is therefore used to fuel working muscles and to stimulate protein synthesis in the body thus helping your body back into an anabolic state.
43 White Stevia
Stevia is a genus of 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family. The leaves are very sweet. This naturally occurring sweetener has a negligible effect on blood glucose (i.e. diabetic friendly). The taste has a slower onset but longer effect than that of sugar. Rather a controversial product, considering it's natural.
44 Xanthan gum
Is a polysaccharide. It is used as a food additive, commonly as a food thickening agent and a stabilizer to prevent ingredients from separating. It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder.
Is a sugar alcohol found in the fibres of fruits and veggies. Is as sweet as sucrose but has only 66% of the energy. Use of this product in drinks is therefore great for diabetics as it has a low impact on blood sugar with a Glycemic index of 13 (glucose is 100).