Energy Gels/Beans/Chews Review Episode I: Jelly Belly Sport Beans

So, for my first energy product test I chose the mild-sounding Sports Bean by Jelly Belly in Lemon Lime flavor…

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Flavor: 10/10 These beans taste like your classic run-of-the-mill Jelly Bellys. There’s no strange aftertaste or funny consistency. I would honestly eat them even if I weren’t exercising!

Convenience: 7/10 They aren’t sticky or messy and didn’t melt (they will in very high temperatures, but I suspect they’ll hold up better than either gels or chews). However, you do have to chew and eat them. Chewing while running is something I’d have to get used to and obviously poses somewhat of a choking risk if you’re not careful. I tried to stop and have a Bean Break, but they’re very chewy and I felt I was losing too much time, so I carried on and just masticated on the moooove!

Ingredients: 7/10 At first I was suspicious that these were normal Jelly Bellys (they tasted too good to be otherwise!) but upon comparison of the ingredients lists, I found I was indeed mistaken. There are fewer artificial ingredients in Sport Beans, as well as the inclusion of salt, vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and potassium, all vital in the protection of muscles, and against fluid loss. Further product research and other customer reviews revealed that there is also about 50mg of caffeine, which is NOT listed in the ingredients, as well as some artificial coloring (I know it’s impossible to escape, but REALLY) for which I docked 3 points. (Caffeine is fine, but I was prepared for a run with a non-caffeinated product. More on this below.)

Price: 2/10 HA. HA. HA. I got these from my local running shop for about a pound. 24-packs retail for £35.52 on the Sport Beans Website. That’s £1.48 per pack and the recommended usage is to have 1 pack before your work out, one park after your work out, and additional beans throughout your workout, as needed. (I did not do this. I had a bagel with cream cheese before my run, beans during, and some dried fruit and nuts after.) Maybe I’m naive, but there has got to be a cheaper way than spending £35.52 every 8 long runs.

Effectiveness: ?/10 Okay, so here’s the story… My run today was terrible. And not in the “Oh I’m so slow and fatigued!” kind of way, in the scary, “I need a medic!” kind of way. As I said above, I didn’t know that the Beans had caffeine in them. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and drank almost an entire cafetiere of coffee, thinking I would be fine. I didn’t start running until around 7-ish. I gave myself plenty of time to wake up, eat, digest my bagel and cream cheese, dress, and get out the door. (This is what I do. I like to have at least an hour to have a proper breakfast and time to sit around and be sleepy before I do anything, physically active or no.) So I had around 200mg+ caffeine before I even left the house.

My run was a very thirsty run, despite the fact that it was through rain and 50-60F degree temperatures. At mile 7, I had my Beans. (**Grossness Alert: skip to the next sentence if you’re squeamish.**) Coming up to mile 10, out of nowhere I kind of puked up in my mouth and swallowed it. (**End Grossness Alert.**) Then the serious nausea set in. I started taking a lot of walking breaks. Around mile 11, I started getting severe chest pains from about the sternum to the diaphragm on the center left hand side. Even at a walking pace, my heart was beating like it was going mental. At mile 12, I was crouched in a ball on the sidewalk. I didn’t make it any further, so I have to try to play bloody catch up now on Monday. My nausea persisted for well over an hour after coming home from my run. It was severe, hangover-like nausea that had me making constant trips from my bed to the toilet.

 “What’s the caffeine connection?” you ask. Well, I’ve had problems with drinking too many cups of coffee before a run in the past, so I did some Googling when I got back and I saw a couple articles, including this one, recommending not consuming any more than 200mg (2 cups of coffee) caffeine before a 10K+ run. You see, I was already a bit over the limit for a normal person. Add to that the extra 50mg of caffeine I ate in Sport Beans, my personal physiological make up (I’m very small, and have a quick heartbeat, so I have a lower tolerance for caffeine and lower threshold for cardiovascular activity than other women my size) and it was a recipe for not only a training run disaster, but serious potential risks to my health.

In short, I couldn’t honestly rate the physical effectiveness Sport Beans based on this particular experiment, because it wasn’t controlled. It wouldn’t be fair to give a low rating based on my experience today, and it wouldn’t be honest to give a high one without trying it out under a more controlled environment.

Results: Inconclusive/24 out of 40 I couldn’t rate the effectiveness of Sport Beans because it was a tainted experiment. (Never fear, I have a packet of Orange flavor Sport Beans in the queue to be tested as well!) However, in the other items I rated, Sport Beans scored a moderate 60% rating.

Have you ever used Sport Beans or any other brand of energy beans? What is your rating?

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