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iquid and gel-based sports foods have been very popular recently, although normal foods and home-made energy bars can be a less expensive alternative. Steve Born wrote some of these reviews of energy gels.

We have an article with some great tips about energy drinks to check out.

MET-RX is designed as a meal replacement and even though Seana Hogan and Rob Kish use it during RAAM I feel that they have to dilute it somewhat and add carbs to it. One serving has 37 grams of protein and only 24 grams of carbs. That's an awful lot of protein for your body to process while on your bike and not enough carbs to fuel your energy needs, so supplement with products such as carboplex or carbohydrate-rich drinks and foods. I would use it as a meal replacement and as a recovery drink. After your workout, 1 Met-Rx, 2.5 cups rice dream, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 pkg frozen strawberries, 1/2 bannana mixed in a blender makes a great shake. In that aspect it is a very good product. I have used it for a few years although now I am using TWINLAB'S RX FUEL, a very similar product that I believe is superior to MET-RX in a few ways.

Cytomax is made by CHAMPION NUTRITION, a very reputable company (did you know that about 1/3 of the supplements on the health food store shelves don't contain what they say is on their label? It's a real crap shoot unless you know who the reputable companies are). CHAMPION is one of the best companies and Cytomax is a good product. The only thorn in it's side is two separate studies that CHAMPION funded to "prove" the effectiveness of it's "ace-in-the-hole" ingredient, alpha poly lactate. To it's embarrassment, both tests showed this ingredient does not "beat the burn" as CHAMPION likes to put it. In fact, in large doses, alpha poly lactate was detrimental to performance. So, does this make Cytomax a bad product? No, but you're probably paying a little extra for a "special" ingredient that has been proven ineffective. The amounts in Cytomax are negligible and pale to the real quality of the product which is its carbohydrate source. If you like it, by all means keep using it.

Optimizer by UNIPRO is another great product from another one of the good companies. There are three types of drinks in UNIPRO'S arsenal I believe. One is called Endura which is similar (and I believe superior) to Cytomax, another is called Endura Optimizer which is more of a shake type of drink (a little thicker than regular Endura), and the third is Pro Optimizer. The Pro Optimizer is more of a pre- or post-workout drink and the Endura Optimizer is one you could use on the bike. Why? Well, the Pro Optimizer has pretty high levels of vitamins and minerals in it and while none of these levels are even remotely toxic (you'd have to take bucketfuls of any nutrient to illicit any toxic symptoms), it may be hard on your disgestive system to accommodate that many nutrients if you drink it hour after hour. The Endura Optimizer is the same basic formula as the Pro but a little less intense on the vitamins.

So, if you are tired of using those I can offer a few suggestions. For a totally different flavor try Energy Surge by E-CAPS. I have been using the drink for as long as it's been out and it's awesome. It has a neutral flavor and it is guaranteed (according to the company) not to upset your stomach. I've turned a few people onto this product and all of them love it.

If you are looking for something different than Cytomax TWINLAB'S Carbo Fuel is a good choice although it only comes in orange flavor. For the ultimate endurance drink I would recommend SPIZ. This is a product invented by Randy Ice, the same guy who helped develop Ultra Energy a few years ago. This was developed for RAAM riders as the main source of calories and nutrients. You can live off this stuff! It has over 500 calories a serving, nearly 100 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of protein (and not cheap protein... the best protein available: whey protein which is the most usable and best absorbed protein available), and 5+ grams of fats in the form of essential fatty acids. The vitamin/mineral complex uses the most expensive forms of nutrients and because it was designed to be used on a consistent basis on the bike, the amounts aren't so high that they'll upset your stomach.

So, what to use? Well, it depends on your workouts. A drink like Cytomax or things similar are good for short to moderate workouts. As the length and intensity increases so does your need for protein. Energy Surge and Endura Optimizer are two good choices. For the long stuff I think SPIZ can't be beat. These are good things to use on the bike. For after the workout then you could use MET-RX (although I don't think this is the best choice). You see, the protein in Met-RX is great but there aren't enough carbs. It was designed for bodybuilders really, who are always seemingly trying to jam tons of protein down. After an extended workout you need carbs first with some protein added. That's where the Pro Optimizer would be great. A similar product is TWINLAB'S OptiFuel 2 or AST RESEARCH'S Vyocylate or a variety of other products. Or you could get some unflavored CarboPlex (from UNIPRO) and add it to your MET-RX. Whatever you do, try to get 60-100 grams of carbs in your system within one hour (the sooner the better) after your workout. This is the "window of opportunity" your liver allows for the carbs to be most efficiently stored as glycogen, to be used the next time your body needs energy.

Personally, I would not use MET-RX during a ride. I've tried it and it's just too thick and there's too much of one thing and not enough of another in the product for it to be your best choice. Another thing I love to use is GU. That stuff is great (especially the chocolate) for not only extended energy but also, because it has a little natural caffeine in it, it gives you some gentle but instant energy.

GU and similar products seem to average about 100 calories for $1.25 (or about 10 times as much as fig newtons) but they do seem relatively easy to eat and digest. However, the little one ounce packages have got to go; one solution is to get a refillable tube from a camping supply house. These are generally like toothpaste tubes, except that you can open the other end and fill them yourself. Anyway, fill one of these with your gel, put a pop open cap on the other end, and you have easy access to a whole lot more than 100 calories.

Carb-Boom is another good choice. Each packet contains 310 calories, rather than the 100 which is more typical, with 78 grams of complex carbohydrates. Carb-Boom claims to be stable in the stomach and leave out the knots some other sports foods give riders. Carb-Boom runs about $1.50 per packet.
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