Last Sunday was the 30th annual Boilermaker 15k road race in lovely Utica, NY. This is perhaps the biggest event in central NY during the summer. This year, the Boilermaker attracted over 12,000 entrants along with an elite field of national and international talent. In other words, it’s not your average Sunday morning 5k benefit run won in a blistering 19:36 by a guy wearing Teva sandals. If you’re interested in the results, you can find them here or use the database found here to find results from prior years along with news clips and such.
One of the things I like about this race is the two day long expo. I get to see and meet a lot of people and usually snag a good deal on some running shoes. I also get to pick up our “goodie bags”. Boilermaker goodie bags contain all kinds of stuff, the most important being the 12 ounce pub glass with that year’s race logo on it. Like many local runners, my wife and I will soon be forced to buy new kitchen cabinets in order to store our ever expanding collection. Other items in the goody may include hard candies, band-aid kits, pasta, well, almost anything. One year I received a bag of super hot and spicey deep fried pork rinds. This, of course, went directly to the garbage can.
Notable this year were two food items. The first is the “Snickers Marathon Energy Bar”. In bold yellow print it says “16 Vitamins and Minerals, 14g of Protein”. They were also giving away bite-sized pieces of these things at one of the booths and lots of people were chowing down on them. I never just pick up stuff like this and eat it without reading the ingredients first. Here’s what it contains: Caramel (which contains corn syrup, polydextrose, palm kernal oil, sugar, skim milk, glycerin… OK, we’ve got some sugar, some more sugar, some serious fat, and some protein sources), “Quadratein” (their name for a combination of soy protein, peanut flour, whey protein, and calcium caseinate), peanuts, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (geez, this stuff is getting so common that I expect to find it in my next dress shirt), sugar (why don’t they do the same thing they did with the protein and call this triple sugar combo “Trio-cose” or something like that?), cocoa powder, more glycerin (I guess it wasn’t shiny enough already), tapioca starch, and well, the list continues in like manner. The nutrition info falls out like so: one bar (55g) 210 calories, 70 calories from fat (8 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat), 14g protein, 26g carbs (including 15g of sugars and 5g of fiber). One third of calories from fat plus 3 grams of sat fat is not something that’s going to yield a lot of easy to digest and readily available calories for the road. Likewise, heavy protein content is not an efficient fuel source for aerobic activities.
This is certainly not something you’d want to eat during a marathon. Or right before a marathon. Or immediately following a marathon. Or as a regular part of a marathon training diet. Of course, calling it a “marathon energy bar” is probably a much better marketing move than calling it what it really is: A candy bar with added protein.
Another interesting item in the goodie bag was the Quaker “Breakfast Cookie”. This is advertised as “Made with Whole Grain Oats” and “Good Source of Fiber”. One cookie is 48 grams and contains 180 calories, 50 from fat (6g total, 2g saturated), plus 3g protein and 31g carbs (14g sugars, 4g fiber of which 2g is soluble fiber). There’s also the usual modest amounts of B vitamins and such typical of many breakfast products. The first ingredient on the list is whole grain rolled oats followed by high fructose corn syrup (surprise!). Although I question the dietary wisdom of eating cookies for breakfast (I’ve been known to do it so I know of what I speak), I have to conclude that this “cookie” is in fact modestly superior to the so-called “marathon energy bar” when it comes to the training table of a competitive athlete, although neither is really “where it’s at”. At least the folks at Quaker are honest enough to tell you that it’s a friggin’ cookie and not some pretend engineered nutrition product.
For the record, I didn’t eat either of them.