On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Vega Sport Performance System

I have a question for you... How do you energize, sustain and recover from your workouts now?

For me, that answer is: badly. In fact, this post has one main point, which is that I do not fuel myself appropriately. In fact, I'm probably the absolute wrong person to offer a review of a fueling system.

First off, background on me and fueling:
Going into marathon season, I dutifully bought a multi-pack special of Gu and Gu Chews off of Active Schwaggle (good lord, how I hate that name). This was to compliment the box of Shot Blocks that I dutifully bought last year in anticipation of marathon season.

Do you know how many of that box I still have? True: I haven't opened any of the Shot Blocks. I've used one pack of Gu Chews. During marathon training, in its entirety, I took two Gus, and both were provided by the Front Runners. I took a Gu and a pack of sport beans during Marine Corps, a Gu during NYCM, and I used up a Gu during the Flying Monkey Marathon (okay, fine, I dropped it in the porta potty and left it for dead, unopened - you would have done the same).

I don't fuel well. Another example? My ideal pre-race/long run breakfast is pretty much anything, and my ideal time to eat it is as I'm beginning my run. Literally as I'm beginning my run. I eat as I'm walking out the door, as I'm waiting for my Garmin to get a signal.

Second off, Vega Sport:
Recently I was contacted by Vega and asked if I'd be willing to try some of their products. Free stuff? Um, yeah. They said that I'd get a 2-3 day supply. With my record, that's more like a 2-3 year supply... if I take up ultrarunning, that is. Otherwise I'll have this stuff through its expiration. And probably beyond. (And then I'll use it after it's expired and wonder why it upsets my stomach.)

They bill themselves as holistic and all-natural and vegan and really really good for you. I'm going to be honest here: given my history with not really using gels, I wasn't too concerned about their all-naturalness. Instead, I had two big concerns: price, and taste. Oh, yeah, and effectiveness.

Here is what I was sent, with an asterisk next to what I tried:-Pre-workout energizer*
-Electrolyte hydrator*
-Endurance gel*
-Endurance bar
-Performance protein
-Recovery accelerator
-Protein bar*

Of the products I used, I will purchase the endurance gel to use in the future. It was delicious. The consistency was less, I don't know, even? than Gu. It felt and tasted more like jam, in a good way. I ate it; it went down easily (without water!), and I perked up immediately.

The protein bar - I did not care for this at all. To be fair, I'm not a big fan of bars in general, and I was eating this one half hungover on the way to a race that I was kind of nervous about. I PR'd the race, running the 15k five minutes faster than last year (and last year's time felt like a reach).

I also tried the pre-workout energizer, which didn't do much for me. The taste was... okay. I couldn't finish the whole bottle, which is normal for me as I don't typically drink before I run. It was a slightly thicker consistency with a neutral flavor. I didn't notice any measurable difference in my run that day. (In fact, I had a pretty miserable run, although I blame it on the fact that I was slogging along with people typically faster than I.) The electrolyte hydrator was much less sweet than Gatorade (EXCELLENT) but had - to me - a slightly odd aftertaste

I should add another caveat to this: I am not someone who takes any sort of supplements. On days that I remember, I might eat a gummy children's vitamin. During harder runs, I might use nuun or gatorade. Other than that, protein powders and any other nutrients that don't come from food are not a part of my diet. My little brother, on the other hand, does take vitamins and supplements and protein powders, so I asked him to try the protein powder. He recoiled when he noticed the relatively steep sodium content - at 520mg, that's 20% of your daily value. (For comparison, the GNC whey that my roommate chugs recreationally has only 160mg.)

Now, finally: price. Frankly, the prices seem steep to me, but I think most nuun-gu-gatorade-clif products are overpriced. It's obvious that a lot of thought went into the creation of these products, and I do love the push toward all natural, plant-based products - isn't that what we should be consuming?

A comparison. Here are the ingredients in a packet of Tri-berry Gu:

Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, GU Amino Acid Blend (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine, Histidine), Natural And Artificial Berry Flavor, Potassium And Sodium Citrate, GU Antioxidant Blend (Natural Vitamin E And Vitamin C), Calcium Carbonate, Fumaric Acid, Sea Salt, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, GU Herbal Blend [Chamomile, Cola Nut (Has Caffeine), Ginger], Citric Acid, Pectin

And here are the ingredients in a raspberry Vega Endurance Gel: 

Dates; Filtered Water; Energysource®** (Grape Juice, Natural Rice Dextrins); Sorghum Malt; Electrolyte Blend (Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Vitamin C, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Chromium); Coconut Oil; Citric Acid; Natural Raspberry and Strawberry Flavors.

Looking at the ingredient lists, I'm grateful that Vega and their products exist in the market. Which would you rather consume?


  1. Thanks for sharing! Have been looking for an alternative, and this seems worth the try. And, uhm...you got contacted to test this stuff out? I really have to start working on my blog - I want free food! :)

  2. Wait, you've run marathons on one Gel??? I definitely like the idea that these are more natural..I find my stomach is happier with Hammer/Clif gels than the other stuff.

  3. Uh... I've run marathons on zero gels, actually. To each his own?

  4. Oooh... I didn't realize that they made gels! I will have to try those the next time I need them, since I would MUCH rather eat something that I can pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients in.

  5. I tried their protein drinks... And I just couldn't choke it down. I am usually ok to go 75-90 minutes without needing something to refuel. But whatever it is can't require chewing. I just don't have that kind of coordination. You know... Running, chewing and breathing. Running and drinking is also dangerous.

  6. the mere thought of sucking down a GU makes me vomit in my mouth....i'd rather do shots of fish sauce than consume that viscus gunk again...i'm a fan of the sports beans since they taste the most like real food (though they're awfully hard to eat while running)