Food fight: Banana flavour Energy Gel v. A real Banana

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Renee McGregor, registered dietician, sports nutritionist and author of Training Food, compares the nutritional content and energy boost offered by Stealth Real Fruit Energy Gels in comparison to real fruit.

Banana flavour energy gel

The artificial sweetener used here – Stevia – gave the gel an unpleasant flavour. There are also a lot of ingredients in this gel for something that is so-called ‘natural’, and, while it claims to have no added sugars, it does contain maltodextrin and fructose. Fructose is a carbohydrate and a ‘simple sugar’.

A real Banana

A medium banana provides 80kcal and 25g carbs. In comparison, the gel contains 87kcal and 22g carbs, so there is little difference between the two. Bananas clearly only contain natural sugars, such as sucrose, fructose and glucose, all fuels easily processed for energy.

Verdict

‘While I can understand that some individuals may enjoy the taste of the Stealth Real Fruit Banana Energy Gel,’ says Renee, ‘I can’t find any reason to choose this over real fruit, unless you’re looking for a more portable energy boost.’

TOP 3 JUICES FOR RUNNERS

Jo Morrison, health impact coach, says, “Juicing floods the body with essential vitamins, minerals and proteins that can be absorbed within 15-20 minutes of consumption and without overloading digestion. Always have a supply of beetroot, celery and cucumber; University of Exeter research found that nitrate contained in beetroot makes exercise less tiring. Celery and cucumber aid hydration, and coconut water has an isotonic effect – replacing fluids and minerals lost when the body exercises.” Try Jo’s top three juices for runners – for more, visit www.juicyjos.co.uk

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THE WORKOUT WARRIOR

  • Mint

  • Pineapple

  • Apple

  • Celery

  • Cucumber

  • Beetroot (fresh, uncooked)

  • Slice of lime {skin removed)

  • Avocado

  • 1tsp protein powder

Add the above to a blender and blitz together for a quick energy boost packed with minerals.


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JUICING G&T

  • Apple

  • Chunk of ginger

  • Slice of lemon

  • Small piece of turmeric

Make up a batch, pour into ice trays and put in the freezer – then take one out daily, melt in a glass, and enjoy. Ginger and turmeric are anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, amongst other things, so may assist with any aches and pains sustained after training.


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POST-WORKOUT SMOOTHIE

  • Half an avocado

  • Banana

  • Slice of pineapple

  • Passion fruit

  • Ginger

  • Cup of almond milk or coconut water

  • 1tsp protein powder

  • Blueberries

  • 1tsp maca powder

  • 1sp manuka honey

Blend these all together until smooth. Contains muscle-replenishing protein, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements.

7 BEST PROTEIN BARS FOR RUNNERS

Protein is increasingly being recognised as one of the most - if not the most - important nutrient for endurance athletes. Not only does protein build muscle and protect lean muscle from the catabolic effects of aerobic exercise, it's also crucial for a healthy immune system, digestive system and proper maintenance of skin, hair and nails. If you're exercising regularly, your protein requirement will increase in turn - that's according to research from the Journal of Sports Sciences.

You can source most of your protein from a healthy and balanced diet, but for an efficient and convenient hit after training - or just for a sweet treat - protein bars can be a great supplement. We recruited Caspar Rose, CEO of Fresh Fitness Food and nutritionist, to assess the nutritional content of the 7 best on offer.

CLIF BUILDER'S PROTEIN BAR

273kcal | Protein: 20g | Carbs: 27g | Fat: 9g

High in protein and definitely tasty – but this CLIF bar is perhaps more suited to weightlifters than your typical runner. Its whey protein can be difficult to digest, so it might not be ideal post-run when your body prioritises central nervous system (CNS) functions – like getting your breathing back to normal – over digestion.

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CHIA CHARGE PROTEIN BAR

202kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 23g | Fat: 9g

Flavour-filled sultanas, cranberries and dates in this dairy and gluten-free bar from Chia Charge are not only easy to digest but provide a natural source of sugar to replenish depleted glycogen stores after a long run. Chia seeds – you’ve heard how amazing they are, right? – are high in calcium, too, an important mineral for protecting bone health.

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TRIBE 10

255kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 25g | Fat: 12g

Although 10g of natural protein is enough to kick-start repair of muscles after a training session, it’s the carbohydrate profile which makes this Tribe bar such an effective post-run snack. A delicious mixture of honey, berries and banana fuel you up with this crucial macronutrient.

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THE PRIMAL PANTRY PALEO PROTEIN BAR

174kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 22g | Fat: 4g

The hemp protein in this Paleo bar – which contains all 20 essential amino acids, vital for muscle repair – combined with energy-boosting dates, creates a great post-run pick-me-up. It’s a quick source of energy to ensure optimal recovery and refuel – the delicious taste is just an added bonus.

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HOMEMADE PROTEIN BAR

352kcal | Protein: 19g | Carbs: 31g | Fat: 17g

A swift one-two punch of energy sources in this delicious bar makes it perfect for soothing flagging muscles and accelerating recovery. Dates and honey provide an instant hit of natural sugar, while the oats and toasted buckwheat contain slow-digesting carbohydrates to drip-feed your muscles with energy. To ensure this bar is crawling with protein, we’ve added Mophagy cricket powder – as a sustainable food source, it’s the green way to get your fill!

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RECIPE

Chop 10g of dates and cover with 15ml of boiling water before mixing them up with a fork. Add in crushed walnuts, oats, cricket protein, coconut oil, honey, vanilla essence, salt and toasted buckwheat, then mix thoroughly. Set the mixture in a tray before cutting out bars and cooling.


PULSIN' MAPLE & WHEY CRISP

207kcal | Protein: 15g | Carbs: 15g | Fat: 9g

Whether you’re looking for a pre-run boost or a light post-workout snack, this pocket-sized bar from Pulsin' is the perfect balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats. The combination of whey and pea protein is easily absorbed and simple to digest, which makes this a far more convenient and versatile snack than other bars.

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HIGH5 PROTEINSNACK

292kcal | Protein: 12g | Carbs: 22g | Fat: 16g

This ProteinSnack bar isn’t just a great source for muscle recovery – it’s packed with nutrient-rich goji berries, providing the antioxidant defence that runners need as part of a well-balanced diet. Also, its crunchy Brazil nuts provide selenium, an enzyme that helps off-set free-radical cell damage resulting from endurance running.

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FOOD FIGHT: MARS BAR VS MAX'S BAR

No, we're not just pitting a regular chocolate bar against something created by sports nutritionist - that would be a tad one-sided. Mars created their very own protein bar last year - in addition to a Snickers protein bar - and in one move gave the world hope that exercise and chocolate could live harmoniously. But how does the new product stack up as fuel for running? We tasked Alexandra Cook, BSc PgDip and registered clinical and sports dietician, to compare it to a regular protein bar.

MAX'S PROTEIN BAR

MARS PROTEIN BAR

 
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Mars don’t compromise on taste, but it comes at a price, with an ingredients list as long as your arm. Nutrition values are similar to the Max bar, but Mars use a blend of fast- and slow-acting proteins, which some believe can aid longer-term recovery due to a slower digestion rate. The sugar content is quite high for a snack, and is derived from a lot of questionable ingredients. 

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This bar is purer than the Mars product, with only nine ingredients listed, all of which are recognisable and can be clearly tasted, including oats, dried fruit and nuts. The whey protein content is high at 17g. The body easily absorbs this protein, stimulating muscle repair. The dried fruit and juices provide the sugar and fibre, together with 23g of carbohydrates, for a great recovery snack. 

VERDICT

Both products have a good carbohydrate and protein balance, however, the Mars is sweet and essentially a glorified chocolate bar. The Max bar has wholesome ingredients and tastes less manufactured, so is a wiser nutritional choice.