Product Review: BeetElite

photo(19)

Finishing the Mt Evans Ascent, fueled by beets!

A lot of athletes are chowing down on beets these days, and with good reason. Studies have shown that beets can help improve athletic performance due to their high concentration of nitrates. These nitrates, once converted in the body to nitric oxide, cause vasodilation, letting oxygenated blood get to working muscles quicker and more efficiently. (See my blog “To Beet or Not to Beet” for more info on the benefits of beets and beet juice).  https://mountaingirlnutritionandfitness.com/2013/04/16/to-beet-or-not-to-beet-that-is-the-question/

If you train and compete at altitude like I do, you probably have a greater appreciation for oxygen than most! So any advantage with oxygen sounds like a sweet deal right? But what if you don’t like the earthy taste of beets or can’t stomach the 2-3 cups of beet juice that some of the studies used?

Enter BeetElite. BeetElite is a beet supplement. It’s actually concentrated organic beetroot crystals that you mix with a small amount of water. A single serving packet (10 grams) is mixed with 4 oz of water and consumed just 30 minutes before exercise. Each packet is supposed to be equivalent to 6 whole beets worth of nitrates. Beet juice, on the other hand, needs to be consumed 2-3 hours before exercise to be in full effect, which means it takes a lot more advanced planning. You also need to drink at least 500mL (about 2 cups) to get the full effect of beet juice. So what’s the deal with BeetElite? Read on!

Price: $34.99 for 10 single serving packets ($3.50 per serving), or $44.99 for a 20-serving canister ($2.25/serving). If you buy a 16.9 oz (500mL) bottle of beet juice at Whole Foods it will set you back $5.99. Given that most studies used about 500mL (which is about equivalent to 3 beets, this actually makes the BeetElite a better deal.

 

Nutrition Breakdown: A single serving pouch has 30 cBeetEliteNutritionFactsalories, 0 grams fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

 

Ingredients: organic beetroot crystals, natural flavors, malic acid, stevia leaf extract.

The beetroot crystals are formed from organic beets. Malic acid is a common food additive, found naturally in fruits such as apples and rhubarb and used to impart a tart flavor. There are some studies that associate malic acid itself with improved sports performance. It is considered safe. Natural flavors could mean anything. I emailed the company for more specifics about that but have not heard back yet. Stevia leaf extract comes from the Stevia plant. While stevia leaf is natural, the extract is a little bit more processed. It is generally considered safe by the FDA and is probably fine in small amounts.

 

Taste: I have to admit that I don’t actually like beets. I eat them occasionally due to their health and performance benefits but I don’t enjoy the taste at all. (check out my  Beet and Goat Cheese Salad  recipe for a palatable way to eat them!)

BeetElite comes in a regular and black cherry flavor. So far I’ve only tried the black cherry flavor, and I actually found it to be quite good. It barely tasted like beets and was slightly sweet. Plus, being only 4 oz made it easy to drink. I just ordered some of the regular flavor and am hoping it’s not too beety!

Personal Experience: I’ve used Beet Elite (and beet juice) here and there before tough training runs and rides or races. Most recently I used it before the Mt Evans Ascent, which I did well at. Since I haven’t done an actual study on myself (and probably never will), it is hard to truly say whether or not BeetElite makes a difference. Did I feel strong at the Mt Evans race? Yes. Had I also trained hard for it? Yes. There is always the placebo effect to consider as well, but I’ve always said that if the placebo effect works, who cares? It’s still a benefit (although an expensive one I guess!)

I didn’t have any GI issues using BeetElite, which is always something I’m concerned about when trying a new product. It was convenient to use too. For the Mt Evans Ascent I actually mixed the BeetElite into a Generation UCAN shake and was pleasantly surprised at how the flavors and textures mixed. Maybe I’m on to something here?! Overall I would say I had a good experience with BeetElite.

Bottom Line: Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge, and there are lots of good studies on beet juice and athletic performance, so I think incorporating beets, beet juice, or a beet supplement is a good idea. Using the BeetElite is certainly easier and more convenient than chugging beet juice before a race and is also a great option for those who cannot tolerate the flavor of beets and beet juice. I really like that it only needs to be consumed 30 minutes before exercise and that only 4 oz is needed. It’s also great that it comes in portable little packets-can you imagine going through airport security with a bottle of beet juice?!

Even though I can’t say for sure if I personally noticed an effect with BeetElite, there is enough good data out there that I believe it very well could’ve helped me and I will continue to use it here and there (but not everywhere).

It’s important to remember though, that a supplement will never make up for poor training and nutrition, so don’t expect any miracles with BeetElite or beet juice if you aren’t training and eating well. As always, take supplements with caution and use them appropriately. I would not recommend using BeetElite all the time (only for tough training sessions and races). Also make sure not to over use it. BeetElite recommends no more than 2 packets in 24 hours.

 

 

*Disclaimer: I was provided one-time free samples of this product for being a sports nutrition coach with Peaks Coaching Group. I have since purchased my own.

Product Review: Bulumu Granola

I first discovered Bulumu granola a couple of years ago when I bumped into Bulumu co-founder (and my former high school classmate-disclosure) Jasmine sampling it at my local Whole Foods. Excited for her and happy to buy local, I decided to buy a bag. I’ve been buying it off and on ever since.

photo(17)

Bulumu takes a hike!

Bulumu stands for “Buckle up, Love you, Miss you”, which is apparently how Jasmine and her mom would sign off on emails while she was traveling the world in pursuit of her dreams of being a professional triathlete. Bulumu is marketed as being an all natural, lower fat version of granola and is somewhat marketed towards athletes and active people in particular. It claims to sit lighter in your stomach than typical granolas and therefore to be a good pre-workout option that won’t cause GI distress.

Nutrition Information: This may vary slightly amongst the different flavors, but ¼ cup (1 serving) has about 110 calories, 2 grams fat, 18 grams carb, 6 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber and 3 grams protein. That is a lot less sugar and fat than the average granola, making Bulumu a good option for granola lovers who are watching their weight or sugar and/or fat intake. It’s also significantly lower in calories, as most granolas average 140-180 calories per ¼ cup portion (due to containing more fat and sugar).

Marketed as “wheat free, dairy free, soy free, and low fat”, Bulumu is a good option for those with allergies or intolerances to wheat, dairy, or soy. (If you think you have an allergy to fat we need to talk!)

Ingredients are mostly organic and for the orange ginger + cranberry flavor (my personal favorite) are as follows: rolled oats, organic agave nectar, orange juice concentrate, walnuts, dried cranberries (cranberries, sunflower oil), crystallized ginger (baby ginger, cane sugar), honey, ginger juice (ginger, citric acid), natural orange flavoring.

You’ve probably heard the adage that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a product you probably shouldn’t buy it. No worries here as there are no funky unnatural ingredients in Bulumu, another thing I like about the product.

Price: Bulumu seems to cost about $1 per bag more than most other comparable granolas (Kashi, Kind etc). It typically goes for $5.99 at Whole Foods and for some reason last I checked it was more- $6.99- at King Soopers. A bag contains 11 servings, which breaks down to about $0.55 per serving.

Taste review: Bulumu does taste a bit different that typical granolas, mostly due to the lower fat and sugar content. It’s not as sweet as most granolas, nor as crunchy. The consistency is also a bit different, as Bulumu does not come in typical granola clusters. As the website says, “OATS DON’T GROW IN “CLUSTERS”.™ That’s why we toast our oats individually without all the oil and sugar”.

Although I’ve only seen (and tried) 3 flavors in the grocery stores, according to the website there are 4: orange ginger + cranberry, vanilla almond + fruit, cinnamon chai + walnut, honey hemp + blueberry, and maple pecan + vanilla.

As to its claims about being a good pre-workout fuel, I can’t totally say. I’ve never been one for plain granola, so I typically use Bulumu in Greek yogurt, which doesn’t tend to do well with my stomach before workouts. It makes sense based on the ingredients, but I don’ think I’ll ever down a handful of dry granola before a run to confirm!

Overall: I like the concept of Bulumu, that it’s geared towards athletes and active people and attempts be as unprocessed and natural as granola can be. I also like that it’s a Colorado brand so I feel like I am supporting a local business when I splurge on a bag of it. It is a bit pricey though for those of us watching our budget, and some might find the flavor a bit plain if used to traditional granolas. However, I do think it’s a healthy option and will probably continue to buy it occasionally-when it’s on sale.

 

 

For more info check out Bulumu’s website at http://bulumulife.com/

Product Review: Energy Gels

photo(12)I’ve admitted this before, but I feel like a kid in a candy store when I go to the sports nutrition section of REI.  I guess it’s because I’m a sports dietitian and an athlete, but I find all of the product options exciting and interesting.  Gels, bars, waffles, chews, beans, powders…there is so much to try, I just can’t wait for my next run or ride to test out something new (and maybe better than what I’m already doing).  I can, however, see how it might be completely overwhelming for someone not as much of a sports nutrition nerd as me.  So let’s break it down, starting with energy gels.  Gels are one of my personal favorite sports nutrition products because of their ease and digestibility.  They are easy to carry and easy to digest.  If you prefer real food during exercise and it works with your stomach great, but if not gels might just be your best bet.  Below is a product comparison of four of the most popular energy gel brands on the market .  Each obviously varies slightly by flavor.  The descriptions below are based on my favorite flavors of each brand, which are noted under the product column.

Product Price (varies by retailer) Nutrition Breakdown and Ingredients (per gel) Taste and Texture(5 = paste, 1= water) Overall Rating(5= awesome, 1= awful)
 Clif Shot (CS) Citrus $1.25 per gel (at REI)$29.99 for 24 pack (on Clif Bar website)  100 calories24 grams carb90 mg sodium

0, 25, 50 mg caffeine options

Made with maltrodextrin and cane syrup.

90% organic

3.5- CS is a thicker texture than HS and PG and about equal with Gu.I find it too thick to swallow if I am exercising intensely (like mountain running) but use it on less intense runs and rides.  The taste is great! Citrus tastes like Mountain Dew. 4- Clif Shot is one of my favorite products despite the slightly thick consistency.  It seems to digest well and it has a decent amount of sodium compared to HS and Gu.
 Gu (Cu) Peanut Butter

 

$1.35 per gel (at REI)$31.50 for 24 pack(on Gu website) 100 calories20 grams carb65 mg sodium

0, 20, 40 mg caffeine options

Peanut butter flavor has 1.5 gram fat and 1 gram protein

Made with maltordextrin and fructose.

4- The peanut butter flavor is thicker than the others, but Gu is generally more thick than PG or HS.I find the peanut butter Gu too thick to use when I’m running, but love it when I’m cycling.  The taste is great- peanut buttery and slightly sweet! 4- Although I love the flavor the peanut butter gel is super thick and it’s hard to get all of it out of the package without using your teeth.
 Honey Stinger    (HS) Fruit Smoothie $1.35 per gel$1.39 per gel (organic)$32.40 per 24 pack

$33.36 per 24 pack (organic) (on Honey Stinger website)

 

100 calories23 gram carb50 mg sodium

0 or 31 mg caffeine options

Made with tapioca syrup and honey.

3- HS has a thinner texture than Gu or CS but thicker than PG. I like all of the fruit flavors. 4- Great taste and texture but less caffeine options and less sodium than the others.
 Power Gel (PG) Tangerine

 

$1.25 per gel (at REI)$30.00 for 24 pack(on PowerBar website) 110 calories27 grams carb200 mg sodium

0, 25, 50 gram caffeine options

Made with maltodextrin and fructose.

2- PG is significantly more watery than the other brands. That’s why it’s my go to for trail runs. 4-I like that PG has more sodium than the others since I believe sodium is critical for endurance exercise.  The consistency makes it easy to get down during intense exercise.
Winners:  Prices are pretty comparable per gel.  If you want to break it down to price per gram of carbohydrate Power Gel wins. -Each gel has 2 or more carbohydrate sources in it, which is good as this has been shown to improve carbohydrate uptake and utilization in working muscles.-Honey Stinger and Clif are more organic if that is a concern.-Power Gel has more sodium which is good if you are a heavy sweater. Each brand has flavors that I think taste good. The texture is more of a preference thing.  I like the texture of PG best but the flavors of the others slightly better. Who am I kidding, I like them all! My overall winner is PowerGel though due to best price, more sodium, and good texture for strenuous exercise.  That being said, it’s important to experiment and find what works best for you!

Product Review: Generation UCAN

I’ve decided to add a new feature to my blog: product reviews!

First up: Generation UCAN.   I first tried Generation UCAN last summer, back when I still believed my stomach couldn’t handle much carbohydrate during exercise.  Turned out it was the type of carbohydrate drink I was using that was the problem, not the carbs themselves, but I’ve still stuck with UCAN for many of my longer workouts.  Generation UCAN is different from other sports drinks on the market in a lot of ways.  It’s made from a “superstarch”, which is a complex carbohydrate derived from non-GMO corn according to the website.  The theory is that this superstarch helps stabilize blood sugar during exercise without causing a spike in insulin or gastric distress.  The gist is that the superstarch moves quickly out of the stomach but is slowly broken down in your small intestine, which minimizes GI distress and also provides a slow and steady carbohydrate source that allows your body to more efficiently rely on its own fat stores for fuel during exercise.  This means you don’t have to worry as much about taking in carbohydrate during your workout.  Utilizing your own fat stores also in theory helps improve overall body composition.

photo(5)Generation UCAN has 2 products, a “sports drink mix” and a “protein-enhanced sports drink mix”.  The sports drink mix comes in 4 flavors: lemonade, cranberry raspberry, blueberry pomegranate, and plain, and is meant to be used as a pre-workout drink and can also be used during really long workouts (supposedly you only need 1 packet for every 2-3 hours of activity).  The protein enhanced version comes in chocolate and vanilla and is meant mainly to be a post workout recovery beverage.

Price: Prices have gone up since I first started using Generation UCAN.  I’m too much of a commitment phobe to get the tub, so I buy the individual packages which are now $19.50 for 6 packets ($3.25 per pouch) of the sports drink .  The tubs are $60 for 30 servings ($2 per serving, however  a serving is defined as 25 grams where as the single serving pouches are 37-38 grams). So if we go gram for gram the pouches are  $0.087/gram and the tubs are 0.080/gram- basically the same.  The protein-enhanced flavors are $25.50 for 6 single serving pouches ($4.25 per 51-56 gram pouch- $0.083/gram) or $60 for a 25 serving tub (interestingly listed as 30 gram servings-$0.080/gram). So again, you don’t really save much by getting more at once. The good news is that if you order online they will occasionally send you discount codes.  Still, the price is higher than many other sports drinks on the market.

Nutrition breakdown: Generation UCAN sports drinks contain about 32 grams of carbohydrate (it varies slightly by flavor) per pouch.  Typical sports nutrition recommendations are for 30-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour, so if you only use 1 packet for 2-3 hours of activity you are getting way less than the recommendation-but that’s kind of the point.  The protein-enhanced sports drink has about 13 grams of protein per pouch, which is right in line with post workout recovery recommendations for protein. Nutrition labels for selected flavors listed below.

Pomegranate blueberry

UCAN nutrition info pom blue

Vanilla

nutrn-vannila-big

Taste review: I started by ordering a sample package that included 1 of each flavor.  The plain sounded too unappealing to me and ended up getting handed off to a willing boyfriend/taste tester who no longer remembers what he thought of the product.  No help there!  The lemonade I honestly didn’t care for. The flavor was too mild and not as lemonade-y as I’d hoped.  Sorta like foamy lemon water. The cranberry raspberry and blueberry pomegranate I enjoyed the taste of.  The vanilla and chocolate I really enjoyed the taste of (especially when mixed with milk instead of water).  I have to admit that the texture is a little odd and may take a bit of getting used to.  The superstarch is a very fine powder, that when shaken up, creates a sort of foamy protein shake texture (even the non protein-enhanced flavors do this).  The texture is not bad per se, just different than any other sports drink I’ve tried.  It could be a turn off to some, especially when used during exercise, which I have not yet tried.

Does it work:  Well, there is a fairly convincing scientific study referenced on the website,  but not a ton of details about the study provided.  Did I personally notice a difference? Well sort of, but I am also a big believer in the placebo effect and I, of course, knew when I was drinking it before a run and when I was not.  There is starting to be more anecdotal evidence about metabolic efficiency and training and eating a certain way in order to improve your fat burning during exercise, and Generation UCAN falls nicely in line with this.  It’s an intriguing concept for sure. We (the nutrition world) are still waiting on more actual studies about metabolic efficiency as it’s a fairly new concept, but there are athletes and RDs using it with great success.

I’ve never had any GI distress with the product, and I did feel like I had more sustained energy last summer as I was upping my miles.  Overall, I think it does work, just maybe not quite as amazingly as the website may have you believing! (Seriously, watching the videos about it on the website the other day got me all excited to use it on my next run-excellent marketing!).

Bottom line:  I overall like this product.  It’s probably best utilized by endurance athletes, and particularly ultra endurance athletes who really have to focus on their nutrition strategy.  It’s definitely helpful for those who struggle with carb intake and GI distress during exercise.  Other than price I see no downside to the product, unless you can’t handle the texture. Whether it really does what it claims or not, if you feel better when using it I say go for it. I for one plan on continuing to incorporate it into my long workouts.

For more information visit http://generationucan.com/home.html

*I have no affiliations with Generation UCAN.  Products tested were purchased with my own hard earned bucks.