Friday, June 14, 2013

On My Radar: GF Cookies, Chia Gels, Running for Women

It's been a while since I did a little product review action. Recently I've had some cool things sent to me to try out, and I want to share with you! Also, quick note: check out my blog/newsletter to see a little bragging about some of my athletes who raced this past weekend... fun stuff!

Before I divulge into these reviews, I will say 2 of the 3 are food/sports nutrition products, and of course, you all know I am a big advocate of my beloved Skratch Labs and Bonk Breakers. Those two things are what I primarily use and love.... but as a coach and someone who's deeply involved in this endurance sports world, I find it fun, exciting and important to test out other products out there! The more knowledge I can gain on sports nutrition and the more I can experiment on myself, the better I can help guide and educate other athletes. So let's do this...

First off, cheers to Bonnie for running a small business operation with a wholesome and real product. I love supporting such endeavors, largely because I am so over big corporate food giants who manufacture "food" and make people believe they should eat it. Bonnie's cookies are everything us health nuts want in a cookie (without sacrificing taste): quality ingredients, gluten free, vegan, no refined sugars, no soy, and no dairy. She uses a combination of brown rice syrup, maple syrup, brown rice flour, oat flour, coconut, and peanuts as her main ingredients in most cookies, and some cookie varieties will have a special spin to them (like chocolate mint, cinnamon, or coconut almond).

I tried one of these bad boys on a long ride yesterday and I have to say I was impressed! Given the healthy ingredients and no preservatives, it tasted really delicious and true to the flavor. I had the cocoa cocoa, and it was VERY cocoa-y. While I loved it, it felt like I was in a "got milk" commercial, and that intense flavor probably wasn't the best choice for a hot, sweaty day. (But after riding? That's a different story...bring it on) The texture was chewy, like the chewy you want with a big glass of milk. Mmmm. Honestly, the cookie is not something I'd want if I were racing the bike at high intensities, but I will definitely incorporate these in training and as a post-race treat when the body is looking to replenish glycogen... 

Nutrition for coconut almond.
Nutrition: What I also really like is their BIG size. I would have expected to see them packing 500 calories with how large they are, but no! They run you 250-260 calories depending on the variety (looks like she has about six or so different kinds). Each cookie includes about 39g CHO, 11g fat, 7g fiber. Decent! Within those ingredients you are getting  some wholesome nutrition too. It's not a junky 250ish cals. If you visit her website, she breaks down the nutritional value of each ingredient.

If there's one downfall to these it's all the peanuts and peanut butter. Personally, I don't really do peanuts because they're a legume with "anti-nutrient" lectins, phytic acid and aflatoxins. And I'm assuming the peanuts are roasted and/or heated at high temps. (With other nuts, I make sure to only eat raw and soaked for the most part.) But, that said, I also am not an all-or-nothing eater. Peanuts here and there aren't going to kill you and ruin your nutrition in my opinion. Heck, even coconut has phytic acid! So, as with everything, moderation.

Bottom line: These cookies are tasty, healthy, not processed, and made by someone who cares and has a passion for quality food. I can support that :)
Stocked up for a while. Yum!

Also a company I like in that they seem like their a small operation doing this out of passion for
providing a quality product. Personally, I'll admit, I am pretty much off gels these days, but I've used them enough in hard runs where I can at least tolerate some brands and they don't seems to do much detriment. When I was contacted by Huma to try their gel, I was pretty excited. We've discussed gels with chia on the Endurance Planet podcast, but I had yet to try one. I really didn't know what to expect. 

Being totally clueless on how my gut would handle this new kind of gel, I decided to try one for the first time in the Portland rock n roll half marathon -- definitely a wise idea, right?! Nothin like sumthin new on race day. I tried Apple Cinnamon, and I gave John a Strawberry (the only two flavors).

I opened the gel sometime after the 60 min mark. I took a small slurp of the gel (always take 'em in small portions and with water) and definitely felt the chia seed clumps -- not in a bad way at all though; I liked the texture the chia gave. The flavor was very true to apple cinn, as well, and I loved that (heck, Apple Pie Bonk Breakers are my favorite). I pictured myself squirting this gel on top of a GF pancake as a delicious "syrup" (Yea, I'm weird like that). 

The only thing I didn't like as much is that the gel itself was a little thicker/stickier and harder to swallow than I would have liked, but they were tolerable and not as bad as some gels I've tried that are practically like chalk.

Unfortunately I dropped the gel at one point, but it was almost gone I think and I got in enough to get the gist... I had it during the half hour heading into a half-mary PR and I didn't barf. 

A look at the nutrition: Huma Chia gel has 20-21g CHO with 14-16g sugar that comes from fruit (apple puree or strawberry), brown rice syrup and evaporated cane sugar. The brown rice syrup provides complex carbs, maltose and glucose -- different than most gels. I would assume the complex carbs makes this absorb more slowly, but it's also high in glucose (the maltose is essentially 2 glucose molecules), and glucose increases blood sugar fast, and requires sufficient of water to make it an isotonic solution (same concentration/osmolarity as blood). You don't see a lot of brown rice syrup in gels, and I'm no expert on using it for exercise fueling. Anyone? That said, the evaporate cane sugar is glucose and fructose, and is less processed/refined allowing it to retain higher nutrition value. Personally, if I do gel, I usually look for one with maltodextrin (well-absorbed) and a thin consistency. 

Additionally Huma's chia seeds provide 1.5g fat and 895mg Omega-3 fatty acids. All you fat-lovers out there should appreciate that! Of course, chia has been shown to be a sustaining fuel for long endurance events. But intensity of exercise and the amount of chia play a role in that for sure (the amount of chia in this gel is rather small). There's also 100-110mg sodium and a bit of fiber.

Bottom line: I'll still limit my gel intake, but I didn't seem to have any issues with this gel and it tasted great and true to flavor. It wasn't too overly sweet nor too sugary tasting either (which I despise in gels).

I just received this book in the mail and CANNOT wait to dive into it! I had a chance to start browsing through it last night, and I'm already impressed. Jason and Carolyn are no joke; they know their stuff! The book is extremely well researched, informative and references a lot of current studies -- love that. I don't think there is another book on female runners quite like this. And even though it's running based in the title, it pretty much can apply to any female endurance athlete, triathlete of otherwise. Plus, while I love the heavy science/research-based side of it, the book is also very practical and reads well no matter who you are.

I can guarantee already that it's a book I'll be recommending to all you female athletes out there (and guys, too, so you can learn about us ladies)! You will learn something new and useful.

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