Product Reviews February 11, 2013

'High 5' Sports Nutrition

It had been about 2 years since I had made a deliberate attempt at cycling 100 miles. I had come close a couple of times, notably during the Haywards Heath Howler and then again during one of the days at Cycle Oregon. However, I decided I should make the time and ride 100 miles, if only to prove I still had the distance in my legs! As a consequence during August last year, I managed two rides of in excess of what I've learnt the Americans term 'a century'. The first was with Frank, the second I did on my own. 

One of the giveaways at RIDE24 was a High 5 'Racepack', which consisted of a number of nutritional supplements designed to improve performance. These were gratefully received, put away and promptly forgotten about, mainly because there were barrels of free High 5 to be consumed during the race. No point using them now, save the packs for later........

I find Lucozade Sport 'as is' too strong and sweet, so as a minimum that needs to be watered down. High 5 on the other hand is not only easy to consume, it also helps quench your thirst. However, I wasn't convinced of its ability to improve my performance. At best, I'm sure it had only a limited effect during RIDE24 because the weather conditions we endured provided the biggest variable. It wasn't a question if we would finish, but come the early hours of the morning, in the driving rain and howling wind, it was apparent the event would be more of a war of attrition than an exercise in race winning cycling strategy. 

Rule number one (which I'm not always very good at following) is eat well before a long ride. It is going to make a difference. So I did. Pasta, vegetables and meat. Washed down with orange juice, water and a flapjack. A cyclists breakfast! After stuffing inners, a few tools and other odds and sods into my back pockets I was ready to ride. I picked up Frank and we made our way along the coast from Shoreham to Seaford where we pitched North all the way up to Withyham. From here we headed West towards Chailey and Ditchling Common, and eventually back to Shoreham along the back of the Downs. It was Frank's first crack at 100 miles and he found it hard going. In retrospect, we ate too late because our speed had dropped off significantly sometime beforehand. This withstanding it was still a successful ride, clocking 107 miles in 7 hours 20 minutes of elapsed cycle time. 

Second time around, I kept my preparation the same. Weather conditions were also the same, the only difference was what I was drinking. This time I was fuelled up on High 5. In one bottle I had the standard 2:1 fructose formula whereas in bottle 2 I had the 4:1 whey protein endurance drink. The plan was to drink the 2:1 version first as my body wold be using the latent energy I had available plus the food I had consumed earlier. This would keep me going for about 40 miles and then I'd start on the endurance drink. I figured I would probably refill the bottles at least once each, so I had additional sachets of 2:1 to use when I purchased more water. With that, I was set to go. 

A couple of additional elements may have helped. Firstly I now knew the route, so there was no need to consult the map for guidance. Secondly it was another lovely day, perfect for cycling. Lastly, I had my mind set on a one stop strategy and being able to go at my speed throughout the ride would probbaly be an advantage. 

Some days you just get on the bike and you know it's going to be a good ride. The GPS was detecting my progress and I went through the first 20 miles in a touch under 1 hour 10 minutes. Bang on for a 6 hour ride. Same again at the 40 mile mark, 2 hours 20 and when I clicked through 50 miles at 2 hour 57, having reached Crowborough, I knew I was on for a strong cycle. I had spent the last 30 minutes climbing in some way, shape or form, and the legs still had plenty of life. The next challenge was 'The Wall' aka, Kidd's Hill. Slow and steady, I overtook a man on a recumbent who wished me well as I passed. The final 20 miles was completely against the clock. Sub 6 hours was absolutely possible and I was going to do my utmost to ensure I clocked 5 something. It was me against the Garmin. I had only briefly stopped for more water, and although I was quite hungry I still felt ok. The hydration strategy had worked well. 

I finished the ride having clocked 101 miles in 5 hours 57 minutes. I felt great. Obviously tired, but still quite lively - to the point where I felt I could continue without too much problem. There's no doubt I would have to eat, but I attribute this performance to (a) being in 'the zone' and (b) the High 5. There's no discernible reason why in two weeks I could produce such an improved result over the same course. Maybe I had 'under' ridden in one instance and 'over' ridden in the other, but that's equivalent to about 17 1/2 miles difference between stints!

Since then I've also been using 'Zero'. This is even more straightforward to use. Drop one or two tablets into your water bottle, it disappears and leaves a still, flavoured electrolyte drink fortified with magnesium. They come in a handy tube so you can stuff them in your back pocket if you're out on a ride. In my opinion, the berry flavour is probably best for taste. It is not overpowering and does not leave an aftertaste. The tablets are not as effective as the sachets however they don't have the after effects that the powders have on me (I typically experience some toilet-related after effects the following day). Nevertheless the main purpose of these supplements is to offset the possibility of cramp, and as yet I have not suffered. 

I don't claim that this 'test' is definitive proof of High 5 positively effecting your performance, but I have continued to use it so because it I believe it does. As its Winter now I have also been using it before and after my sessions on the rower where my legs often stiffen up the day after exercising. Again, it hasn't stopped this happening but it has reduced it. In the final analysis, I would say High 5 is worth a try using, especially if you get given a race pack thrust in your hand at a sportive. You never know, you too might take an hour off your 100 mile time!

A 1.6 kilo tub of 4:1 High 5 endurance powder costs about £35 and contains 66 24gram servings, 2 per 750ml of water. There are 20 tablets of High5 Zero per tube, minimum of 1 tablet per 750 ml of water, price about £7. Both products are available from www.wiggle.co.uk.

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