Run With An Idea – are sports nutrition products a waste of money?

Run with An Idea is back for 2014 with a new set of topics aimed at sparking debate among the fitness community. This fortnight the subject is sports nutrition products. Are they a waste of money?

For me, the answer is no – they’re not a waste of money, provided you find the right ones to support your training objectives. Over the course of my fitness journey I’ve learned a lot about the importance of correct nutrition and how much it can help or hinder progress.

There are two areas in particular where I’ve found sports nutrition products to be particularly effective. The first has been in my quest to build muscle and shed fat. Most people know that in order to build muscle you need to feed your body with protein in the half hour after your workout. Ideally I’d do this with real food, but that’s not always practical. Protein shakes have become an important supplement for me as an easy and convenient way to make sure that I’m giving my body what it needs post workout.

10530943-1389104703-716211My current favourite is Impact Whey from My Protein. At £12.79 for a 1kg bag I think it’s great value for money. Mixed with either water, milk or milk substitute it’s a quick and tasty way to get some protein on board. It comes in a range of flavours – my personal favourites are toffee and latte – but plain old vanilla is also very good.

GC084030_R_H200W000I also now use protein shakes as recovery drinks after a long run. While they’re a bit more expensive I like the convenience of these ready to drink bottles of Maximuscle Promax Protein Milk. The people at GNC recently sent me some of these to try and I’m a fan. Some might argue that a chocolate milkshake would do the same job but for me there’s not enough protein and too much sugar in those for my training goals. At around £2.50 – £3 per bottle these aren’t something I’d use everyday but they’re a great option for when you just need something to grab – like after a long run when you just want to collapse!

The other area where I think sports nutrition is effective is in fuelling on long runs. Now that I’m training for my second marathon gels will become an important part of my fuelling strategy.

GC098848_R_H200W000I’ve tried many of them over the years and my current favourites are Power Bar which come in a nice range of flavours and really give me an energy boost mid run. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Torq gels and am planning on trying those out as my training progresses.

Could I get the same energy boost from a packet of jelly babies that cost half the price? Quite possibly. But I’m not a big fan of eating on the run so gels are a convenient option for me and I’m happy to spend the money on them.

The one thing I do have a bit of an issue with is the way that gels are sometimes marketed. The advice on most packs is to take one every half an hour or so during a run. For me, that’s far too much and would probably leave me feeling pretty sick. It’s a personal thing of course but I find one an hour to be adequate most of the time and can’t help but think that the ‘advice’ to take them more often might be partly a sales technique. Or am I being cynical?

Of course there are hundreds, if not thousands of other sports nutrition products on the market. It can be a bit of a minefield if you’re not sure which ones are right for you. But in my experience once you’ve found ones that support your training goals then they’re definitely good value for money and something that I see as an essential part of my nutrition and fuelling strategies.

But that’s just my view and the point of Run With An Idea is to spark some debate about the topic. So, over to you. Do you use sports nutrition products or do you think they’re a waste of money? Let me know in the comments…

15 thoughts

  1. I’m a big fan of Sunwarrior’s protein, and use it for recovery. If I stop taking it for a week or so I definitely notice a difference in terms of soreness and recovering in time for the next workout. It might be placebo effect, but if it works, it works. I use Vega’s energy gels on the run, instead of taking it all on in one go I tend to hold it in my hand for 2 miles and have a bit every 0.5 mile this works way better digestive wise for me, and I’ve had no issues with them. I also like dried fruit and nakd bars for a cheaper option.

  2. Nice article Becca. I use Green & Blacks organic hot chocolate with hot full fat milk for recovery after long sessions. It’s also great for warming up after training in the cold. I also swear by Powerbar gels and could eat the banana and strawberry flavour recreationally! The London Marathon put me off Orange Lucozade gels forever!!!

  3. Interesting topic.
    I went through a phase in my early running when I was using a range of products.
    Nowadays I prefer to get all my nutrition from whole foods.
    The only thing I tend to use are the Nuun electrolyte tablets in my water for long runs.
    And recently I have been experimenting using baby food (Ella’s kitchen) as fuel for long runs.
    No, I am not joking even though I had people laugh in my face:)
    Strictly the 100% fruit ones. It all organic, fruit sugar in its natural state, and cheap. not to mention my stomach prefers them a lot more than any kind of gels.
    Plus they have a cup so I don’t have eat the whole thing at once nor I have to carry it in my hand until I finish them off.

  4. Great post Becca. I also use protein and energy gels. There is a time and place for both, but I completely agree that they are worth it.

  5. I use both products also. Now that I am almost 50 I’ve decided to start using the post race/workout beverages like Muscle Milk and Gatorade Recovery. If I run a 5K, or for less than an hour, I usually do not use these products. In these situations I am usually in a place where I can eat real food, which is probably the best way to re-fuel your body.

    1. Completely agree. If I’m in a position to eat normal food after a workout then that’s my preference. I just find the shakes convenient for if I’m not, or if I can’t stomach a proper meal straight away.

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