Review of Healthy Sports Nutrition and Energy Items
It feels like new sports nutrition items are constantly popping up. How do you know which ones taste good and which ones really work? Don't worry! We've taken all of our newest natural options and tried them for you. We've even broken each one down by taste, texture, energy and ease of use.

Huma Chia Energy Gel

Huma Chia Energy GEL

These handy gels are packed full of energy, thanks to the abundance of chia seeds. Chia seeds are a super food with amazing anecdotal health benefits, including a natural way to boost energy, stabilize blood sugar, slow digestion and lowering cholesterol. In fact, chia seeds are even being studied as a possible treatment for type-2 diabetes. Chia is full of dietary fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium (one serving of chia seeds has 18% of the RDA), manganese, phosphorus and protein. They can help you feel full faster, fight belly fat and improve your heart health, as well as offering a natural source of energy while you're exercising. Huma Chia Energy GEL is vegan friendly and gluten and dairy free.

Taste. I tried the strawberry flavor and the mango flavor. You can faintly taste the chia seeds in both but it's not at all a turn off.  While the strawberry tastes like strawberries and mango tastes like mango, the flavors aren't at all overpowering or fake, which I like. These are naturally sweet and don't feel overloaded with sugar. They taste bright. That might sound weird, but once you try one you'll see what I mean.

Texture. Gel texture (thicker than liquid, but less thick than goo) with a tiny bit of chia seed texture. Normally I'm not a huge gel fan but these aren't bad, I actually think the hint of chia helps.

Energy. If I had to sum up the energy of a Huma gel in one word, it would be "natural." You don't feel it coming on and you don't feel it wearing off, there are no artificial spikes or wild ups and downs. It's a much smoother feeling. If you hate feeling that "over-caffeinated" buzzing feeling then these are perfect for you. After eating a package of Huma I didn't feel a big difference. In fact, it was about twenty minutes later when I remembered to check in with myself that I realized I was more alert and more awake. It does what it claims to do: releases long-lasting energy naturally.

Ease of Use. Extremely simple. Their small size makes them easy to carry. They're easy to tear open so enjoying one while running shouldn't be a problem. They fit easily into every running pack I own, also a plus.

Bottom Line. If even half of the touted health benefits of the chia seed are true, then you can feel good about adding these to you exercise regimen. The fact that they give you extra energy without any sharp highs or lows is an added benefit. I like the taste, I like the feeling, overall, I like them.

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Nuun & Camelbak

Nuun Energy

These little tablets pack a big punch. Out of all the natural energy supplements I tried, these had the biggest effect. It's important that you follow the directions and use a full 16 oz of water. The first time I tried one of these, I didn't. I only used half the amount of water instructed and my Nuun tablet worked a little too well. I had way too much energy and wanted to keep moving much longer than I had originally planned. Nuun is fast acting. You won't need to wait long to feel the effects.

Taste. It tastes like flavored water (so pretty good).

Texture. Once the tablet dissolves in water there is no texture. As long as it completely dissolves you won't have any chalkiness or powdery taste.

Energy. These little tablets have tons of energy; granted they do have Vitamin B and caffeine but this stuff really works. Out of all of the energy supplements I tried, Nuun definitely gave me the most energy.

Ease of Use. Dropping a tablet into water isn't hard but it could be tricky to do while running. As long as you prepare your water before you leave, this is as easy as can be.

Bottom Line. If you are looking for a flavored water option to fight off dehydration and give you extra energy, you won't go wrong with Nuun.

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Camelbak Elixir

Just like Nuun these are tablets that you dissolve into water. These tablets are sugar free, only 10 calories and packed full of electrolytes. I like that these don't leave any residue behind. I tried one in a clear water bottle and it left nothing. If you're putting one into your Camelbak pack, you don't have to worry about a lingering powder trail.

Taste. Flavored water. There are many flavors to choose from, I like Raspberry Lime and Tangerine Orange (which has caffeine). It does have some effervescence which is refreshing.

Texture. Once the tablet dissolves in water there is no texture. As long as it completely dissolves you won't have any chalkiness or powdery taste.

Energy. The Tropical Punch and Tangerine Orange both come "with energy" while the others don't. If you are looking for an energy boost, stick with those flavors. I found that the Camelbak Energy tabs gave me less energy than the Nuun, but they definitely still work.

Ease of Use. Drop tablet into water. Wait. Simple.

Bottom Line. Extra electrolytes helps stave off dehydration. These little tablets could be lifesavers during a hot summer. Definitely refreshing.

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Generation UCAN

Generation UCAN

Generation UCAN is one of the more interesting options I tried. It was originally created to be a slower burning carbohydrate for children who have a genetic disorder that makes it harder to convert stored glycogen to glucose, which results in blood-sugar issues. Generation UCAN is made with SuperStarch. According to, "SuperStarch is a complex carbohydrate (derived from non-GMO corn) that uniquely stabilizes blood sugar and causes virtually no reaction from the fat-storage hormone insulin." Not only does this offer no crash, no insulin spike and an easily digestible option, it can help with burning fat.

I tried the vanilla flavor in plain water and in a smoothie. The plain water wasn't bad but it wasn't my favorite tasting thing in the world. However, inside a fruit smoothie, it was much better. Both times I only made it through the first 25% before beginning to feel more alert and energized.

Taste. This one is a little tricky. As I mentioned, the UCAN is much better in a smoothie. In plain water the vanilla flavor reminded me a bit of Ensure… a bit on the fake side. I prefer the vanilla flavor to the tropical orange.

Texture. In plain water you really have to mix well, otherwise you're left with a bit of a chalk-like texture. However, blended up, you don't notice it at all. It adds thickness and almost a creaminess to a smoothie which is actually quite nice.

Energy. The first time I drank Generation UCAN (in plain water) I was really tired, so tired I was having a hard time focusing on anything. By the time I was halfway through my drink, I was awake, alert and ready to move. However, it didn't feel like a jolt of energy. It is much smoother and lasts longer than most of the other options I tried. Like they say, there are no spikes or crashes.

Ease of Use. One of the harder natural energy supplements to make, that said, it's by no means difficult. You either add it to water and mix/shake or stick it in a blender and push a button. Not hard, but harder than tearing open a package. However, Generation UCAN does sell a patented blender bottle which I have heard makes preparing it a lot easier, but I didn’t try it so I can't tell you about it.

Bottom Line. You have to do some extra work to make this but it's worth it. This is one of those times when the product delivers as advertised. On their website they have an entire section explaining the science behind Generation UCAN.  Many elite athletes use Generation UCAN, including the recent winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi. I totally understand why; in fact, I am considering adding Generation UCAN to my daily routine. In addition, it is supposed to fight belly fat, I'll let you know if this is true. The bottom line? This is truly a revolutionary product that may help your overall health.

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ProBar Bolt Energy Chews

These little chews are packed with superfruits, full of B vitamins, complex carbohydrates, electrolytes and antioxidants. These aren't as smooth as the Huma gel: You can feel the effects more acutely. Organic, gluten and dairy free.

Taste. These taste like gummy candies. In fact, if I didn't know they were all-natural, I wouldn't have believed it. It's a little too easy to keep eating them. I tried orange, berry and raspberry. They were all pretty good.

Texture. Just like gummy candy but they didn't stick to my teeth the way candy can.

Energy. I ate my chews, started walking, and when I broke into my run I suddenly realized that I felt more alert, both physically and mentally. They must have worn off but I didn't notice it. The berry and raspberry flavors both have caffeine from Yerba Mate and it does make a difference.

Ease of Use. Super easy, tear open the package and pop in your mouth.

Bottom Line. Taste good and deliver energy. That said, I preferred the bars.

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PROBAR Fuel Bars

Our old friend the chia seed is back! These bars are made with a full serving of superfruits , chia seeds and raw oats. They are vegan friendly, certified organic, non-GMo and gluten and dairy free.

Taste. I tried both the strawberry and blueberry flavors, both were good. They have just the right amount of natural sweetness. That said neither flavor tasted too much like their respective fruits. The strawberry one especially tasted less like strawberries and more like dates. That was okay by me as I happen to love dates. And, I'd rather have less of a strawberry taste then any fake strawberry flavoring added.

Texture. These bars are moist, chewy and almost dense, kind of like a fruit brownie without being gooey or a fig newton without being cakey.

Energy. I felt more energy from the PROBAR Fuel bar than from the PROBAR chews. In fact, after having a cup of coffee and then a PROBAR I had a moment of "did I overdo it" panic but it passed quickly.

Ease of Use. Super easy, tear open and eat.

Bottom Line. At only 160 calories these are a great way to start your day, no matter what you're doing. I ate one before a run and one before going to work and sitting at my desk. I was more energized, more alert, more focused and more productive. During my run I felt more energized and when I finished I wasn't nearly as hungry as I usually am.

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Honey Stinger

Honey Stinger

Finally, a healthy candy bar! Okay, these aren't actually candy bars but they may as well be, they taste that good. These could seriously get you into trouble, especially if you have five of them sitting on your desk all day staring at you while you write reviews. These bars have 10g of protein and can be used as a meal replacement or snack. They are made with pure honey, 22 vitamins and minerals, whey protein and are gluten free.

Taste. I had the Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond flavor and it tasted really good. I'll say it again because it bears repeating, out of all the nutrition items I've tried, this tastes more like a candy bar than any other.

Texture. The texture is good, no chalky weirdness or unforeseen aftertaste.

Energy. These are protein bars rather than energy bars. One bar is quite filling and they work great as a snack but if you are looking for added energy, these might not be the right choice.

Ease of use. Easy, open and eat. The only issue is that these do contain chocolate which melts. Therefore, do not carry one around in your bag for emergencies if you're going to be walking or running a few miles in the hot sun.

Bottom Line. If you're looking for a sweet way to get your protein, this is it. They taste so good, they don't feel healthy. If you're looking for more energy, you may want to look elsewhere. However, if you want a great tasting option, this is it.

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