Raisins vs. Jelly Beans for Athletic Performance

Raisins vs. Jelly Beans for Athletic Performance
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Raisins may be preferable to sports supplement jelly beans and commercial energy gels.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

After about an hour of strenuous exercise, long-distance athletes can really start to deplete their glycogen stores—the body’s source of quick energy. Studies dating back to the 30s found that by hooking athletes on a treadmill up to an IV drip of sugar water, you could delay fatigue, and that drinking sugar water could help as well.  So, the sports supplement industry has come up with an array of energy drinks, shots, gels, bars, chews—even sports jelly beans, used (what a coincidence!), by the Jelly Belly Cycling Team. In fact, the Jelly Belly Candy Company paid for a study that found that said sports jellybeans could shave four or five seconds off of a 10K cycling trial, compared to sports drinks or gels.

But, what about compared to raisins? Given that “professional, collegiate, and recreational sporting events are supplement centered and heavily marketed to, athletes at all levels may be left with the impression that ‘specially designed’ supplements are essential for optimal performance. Yet, these products are often expensive, and cheaper, natural foods that may provide a healthier alternative are often overlooked. There are low-cost, natural food products rich in [carbs], such as sun-dried raisins…that have the potential to improve performance to a similar degree. [R]aisins are nutritious, convenient, typically palatable, and are a cost-effective source of [concentrated carbohydrates].”

But, do they work as well? They work exactly as well. Exact same time. Same thing comparing raisins to a commercial sports gel—same respiratory exchange, same carb and fat oxidation, same energy expenditure. In fact, the only significant difference between raisins and jelly beans was in “hedonic scores”—pleasantness scoring—and, raisins beat out the jelly beans. Compared to jelly beans with flavors like “Extreme Watermelon,” there was a greater preference for just raisin-flavored raisins.

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Image thanks to Chris Brown via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

After about an hour of strenuous exercise, long-distance athletes can really start to deplete their glycogen stores—the body’s source of quick energy. Studies dating back to the 30s found that by hooking athletes on a treadmill up to an IV drip of sugar water, you could delay fatigue, and that drinking sugar water could help as well.  So, the sports supplement industry has come up with an array of energy drinks, shots, gels, bars, chews—even sports jelly beans, used (what a coincidence!), by the Jelly Belly Cycling Team. In fact, the Jelly Belly Candy Company paid for a study that found that said sports jellybeans could shave four or five seconds off of a 10K cycling trial, compared to sports drinks or gels.

But, what about compared to raisins? Given that “professional, collegiate, and recreational sporting events are supplement centered and heavily marketed to, athletes at all levels may be left with the impression that ‘specially designed’ supplements are essential for optimal performance. Yet, these products are often expensive, and cheaper, natural foods that may provide a healthier alternative are often overlooked. There are low-cost, natural food products rich in [carbs], such as sun-dried raisins…that have the potential to improve performance to a similar degree. [R]aisins are nutritious, convenient, typically palatable, and are a cost-effective source of [concentrated carbohydrates].”

But, do they work as well? They work exactly as well. Exact same time. Same thing comparing raisins to a commercial sports gel—same respiratory exchange, same carb and fat oxidation, same energy expenditure. In fact, the only significant difference between raisins and jelly beans was in “hedonic scores”—pleasantness scoring—and, raisins beat out the jelly beans. Compared to jelly beans with flavors like “Extreme Watermelon,” there was a greater preference for just raisin-flavored raisins.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Chris Brown via flickr

Nota del Doctor

Other sports supplements may be worse than just a waste of money. See, for example, Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine? and Heavy Metals in Protein Powder Supplements.

This is the fourth of a four-part video series on the latest science on dried fruit. Check out the previous three here:

Compare the antioxidant content of raisins to other dried fruits in my videos Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol and Better Than Goji Berries.

And check out Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart—but only the non-jelly variety!

For more context, you can refer to the following associated blog posts: Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol and Raisins vs. Energy Gels for Athletic Performance.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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