by Joel Stanford
Before I bore you with my deeper thoughts on this product, let me tell you about my general impressions. The first time I consumed one of these was on a trail loop Erik Stanley had me and my fellow Off Rogues plowing through. The circuit, which ranges across the far western ends of the Barton Greenbelt is the very definition of hilly, rocky, and punishing. I was 13 miles into a 20 mile run, monstrously hungry from a lack of breakfast, tired of all the hills, and having lustful thoughts about the silver package of life sustaining sugars nestled in my handheld’s pocket. Relenting to temptation (and against Schrup’s sage advice on avoiding gels in training), I greedily tore off the top of the package while pounding down yet another hill and squeezed a bit into my mouth. My eyes widened, my taste buds sang happily, and I began to claw desperately at the packaging, squeezing out every last drop. Imagine the taste of incredibly delicious dark chocolate cupcake frosting blended with mermaid tears, or the sensations of drinking lustily from Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. The taste and consistency was the best I’ve had in a gel. Granted, hunger makes everything taste better, but these are light years beyond the thick, nausea inducing gels of every runner’s dismay. The thin consistency (more of a liquid than a gel), the saltiness, and the dark chocolate flavor profile are fantastic. After about 15 minutes the sugars and caffeine whomped into my system in a very satisfactory manner, and I eagerly burned through the rest of the run. Subsequent tests on a 23 mile trail run (I consumed two packets over the course of this), and on a 30.5 mile road run (one packet at mile 14, and one fruit bar at mile 20 – I felt absolutely fantastic throughout) cemented my impressions that this is a solid, very delicious, and functional product. The protein component leaves tiny bit of chalk on the back of the throat, but this is quickly dispatched with a swig of water.
So what’s up with this product, and why is it twice as costly as other gels?
If you’re shopping for a more robust energy gel, there are limited options out there beyond the basic long chain/short chain sugar blends that are so common (Gu, Accel, Clif, and so forth). A burgeoning category, notably explored by Gu with their Roctane gels is that of an energy gel with a bit of protein or amino acids thrown in. Sports drinks have existed for some time with protein in them, but outside of the ultra running set, these typically aren’t used in race or training situations, but rather for recovery. The science on these remains vague and a bit sketchy (witness Gu’s claims about Roctane), but it does make sense that one could perhaps utilize small amounts of protein during very long endurance events where your body has a long time to break down what you’re giving it. It always helps to have a basis of comparison, and for the purposes of this review, Roctane seems the closest competitor in terms of claims, composition, and price. Gu goes for individual amino acids (plus a high sodium content), while 2nd Surge goes sledgehammer route with complete proteins – which could also potentially be a bit less digestible. The amount of protein in 2nd Surge is equivalent to that found in a tablespoon of Peanut Butter (a fantastic pre-run snack in small amounts).
Upon receiving my review package of these gels from Rogue, I turned the box over, scanned the ingredients, and then winced a bit. The claim? The gels prominently display the words “all natural” on the box and individual packets. The reality? The first ingredient is agave nectar, which is actually very similar to corn syrup both in terms of the amount of chemical wizardry and processing that goes into it, and the ratios of fructose and glucose (never mind the marketing). Nevertheless, the nutritional profile of the gels are intriguing. There are three different sugar ingredients – including the long chain sugars (brown rice syrup) that are so important in terms of sustained energy, and the shorter chain hummingbird fuels agave nectar (fructose and glucose), and common cane sugar. What does all of this mean? If you’re sensitive to sugar spikes, you might want to stay away. This product has a higher amount of simple sugars than many of its competitors, and some have complained of a spike/crash after consuming it.
It seems that this is marketed as a race day product, but I personally would only recommend it for marathon distances, grueling runs greater than 3 hours, or ultras (where that protein could be a lifesaver). In those situations, I think this is a unique and very desirable product, particularly from the aforementioned taste and texture perspective.
Pros: Taste, texture, viscosity, and the intriguing inclusion of a bit of protein. Highly unique. Zero digestibility issues for this tester, and it really did seem to “stick to my ribs”, in that I didn’t have hunger sensations as quickly as I do with other gels.
Cons: Mr. Schrup will be very angry if you use this during training. The caffeine content is almost obscenely high at 100MG (crashing non-addicts like myself into a wall of fatigue hours after a 2 packet run had ended). They aren’t really “natural”, and the included “antioxidant blend” won’t help you one bit.