Stealth Nutrition, aka Secret Training, like to do sports nutrition differently. On the shelves at the Stealth shop there is an array of unusual products, including ‘real fruit’ gels, Omega shots, ‘Juice bars’, fibre powder, and vitamin D3 supplements.
Obviously, it’s no normal man who’s the brains behind a company like this. Stealth founder Tim Lawson is a former European Champion track cyclist, a founding member of Science in Sport, and widely acknowledged to be the man to apply radical and forward thinking to sports nutrition. His scientific approach is more than evident in his products, and I’ve been lucky enough to sample some of the more unusual of these:
- Juice Bars
- ‘Real Fruit’ gels
- Ellagithin fibre powder
Orange and Pineapple Juice Bar
Many riders, myself included, find that, at times, it’s too hard to eat a solid bar as you pant your way through the lanes. At the same time, you may just want ‘food’; not a gel or energy drink. The geniuses (genii?) at Stealth have produced something to solve this conundrum – the Juice Bar, which is sold as an ‘easy to eat energy bar with prolonged energy release’.
Before trying it, the thing I was most intrigued by was the texture, and it’s pretty hard to describe; sort of a very firm jelly / dough like texture. It’s got the satisfying bite of a normal bar, but it’s super-easy to chow down on and goes down really easily. Another great thing about Steath’s ambition to make an easily used solid nutrition product is that it’s really easy to open and get in to with one hand. On biting / tearing off the top (as you would a gel), you just squeeze the end and the bar slides forth. Kind of like a Callipo lolly, but probably not one you’d give to a kid on the beach, or the resultant energy rush may result in a sandcastle the size of that biggun in Winsor. Another sort of similarity between the juice bar and a gel is that it’s nice and skinny – the product is nice and aero in the pocket, and so allows you to load plenty into your jersey should you be in for a long day out.
Of the flavours available, the orange and pineapple which I tried was really good; slightly zingy and refreshing. It’s got that sweet and zesty vibe of a carton of juice and so really hits the spot on a hard and hot day out.
Each bar contains 27g of carbs, which is perhaps a little on the light side for an energy bar (which typically contain 30-40g of carb), but pretty standard fare for an energy gel. However, these aren’t any ordinary carbs. As is standard of the complex thinking behind all Stealth products, the main sugar source of the Juice Bar is Palatinose, a substance found in honey. The beauty of this is that it provides a prolonged energy release, sort of akin to oats. Most energy products are maltodextrin rich, and this is super-quick energy release, which can cause spikes and lows in blood sugar, which ain’t great on a longer ride. Palatinose also aids fat oxidation, and, for even the most mountain-goaty of us, we’ve got plenty of fat to burn, so using this first to keep the legs moving means our carb stores are saved for those full gas efforts that can make or break your ride or race.
I really rate these, and can see myself using them a fair bit – particularly when out in the maintains. I reckon the ‘food’ texture but ease of chewing, great refreshing flavour, and steady energy release could make them bang on for a long day in the cols.
RATING: Hors Categorie
- Clever texture that really works as intended.
- Clever fuelling mechanism.
Banana ‘Real Fruit’ gel
The basic premise behind the Fruit Gels is that it has ‘the taste of a smoothie and performance of an energy gel’. On reading the ingredients, it’s reassuring to see that the gel is 20% banana – unlikely many fruit flavoured gels, this actually is ‘real fruit’, not just a tube of weird chemicals.
With 22g of carb per gel, the Fruit Gel stacks up well against competitor ‘not so real anything’ gels, with 20-25g being the standard. This fuel is delivered by maltodextrin, rice starch, and fructose – and this mix of energy sources is key. By using various different energy delivery methods, you’re able to take up more sugars in total, and at a variety of rates… meaning your legs will move more quickly, for longer, and without the spikes referred to in the Juice Bar review above. When I’ve used them i’ve not felt the immediate buzz that some gels deliver, but they’ve certainly kept the energy levels up – in the way that a bar, or indeed, a banana, act more as brick in the belly rather than a turbo injection into the tank.
The gel is quite large, at 60ml per sachet, yet the texture isn’t overly runny. It goes down pretty quickly and easily, no matter how hard you’re pushing. However, being at the larger end of the gel spectrum, be aware of its size and volume when using it if you’re used to smaller products, or your lovely banana goo will be more down your face and top tube than down your throat.
The main thing that appeals to me with the gel however, is the flavour and feel. It tastes great, sort of like a banana on steroids, with a slightly sweetened banana taste that really does have a fresh smoothie vibe. And although there are a lot of non-banana things in the gel, it really does feel like a ‘natural’ product, not just a pile of chemicals. Sort of like a sports baby food.
I really rate these, and having spoken to others, these gels are a ‘try once buy forever’ product. Nearly everyone I know who’s tried one just keeps going back for more. Bananas do come in big bunches after all….
RATING: Categorie One.
- Taste ace.
- Not full of crap.
- A little bit hefty in the pocket however.
Ellagithin Fibre Powder
This one is labelled a ‘marginal gain’ in the Stealth online store, and it really is a ‘nice to have but not essential’ item. It’s more or less a bag of concentrated pomegranate extract, with a few other bits and bobs in the mix. The basic premise behind using the powder – which I’ve been adding to porridge or smoothies – is that it improves your energy metabolism and intestinal health.
So, why do you want to do this?
The science behind why is a little complex, so I’ll try to make it as simple as possible.
Essentially, Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, which forms urolthin A. This is a chemical that improves mitochondrial recycling / efficiency. When training hard, our mitochondria are broken down rapidly. Being able to repair these oxygen ferrying badboys is key to building our endurance engine. Similarly, building mitochondria and their efficiency as oxygen portals is one of the goals of the ‘base’ riding that we’re supposed to do in winter (but probably don’t, as it involves long, slow, miles, probably in the freezing cold and rain). So, again, the powder is aiming at improving your energy metabolism and ability to stay in an aerobic state (as opposed to anaerobic, which is when the man with the hammer looms threateningly over you). So, that’s benefit one.
The second benefit of the powder is that it is fibre-rich, and, given western diets are notoriously deficient in the nutrient, there’s an immediate benefit there. Soluble fibre is required to improve probiotic health, and having healthy guts produces healthy bacteria that controls your metabolism, and prevents the propensity to overeat. So, in short, it helps you maintain a healthy weight… and unfortunately, if you want to go up the hills well, big watts is only one side of the watts / kg equation.
I used the powder at the recommended daily dose for about 6 weeks, and to be honest, it’s very hard to tell the effects. I do think that my appetite levels felt a bit more under control, and I did get some very good rides in over the time, with some notable progressions in my form.
However, for a marginal gain such as this, it’s very hard to quantify how much of an increase in form or change of body composition is the result of any one thing. Nonetheless, the science behind the powder is strong, and I was using it exactly per the instructions, and so I’d say that it definitely contributed. Perhaps this is one to test over a very long term, and maybe with help from a lab? Who knows, but I need all the gains I can get, whether marginal or not.
RATING: Still with the race jury.
- Quite a hard thing to quantify, but evidence is pointing towards a positive verdict.