Rebecca Hay is a practising and accredited sports dietitian and joint founder of nutrition advice website, The Athlete's Kitchen.
She currently works with athletes of all ages, from primary school children right up to elite athletes, and across a variety of sports from cycling, athletics, and triathlon, to rowing and soccer.
An avid cyclist, she continues to compete in Masters cycling events. This makes her ideally qualified to put Wiggle's Nutrition range to the test, so we sent her a bundle of nutritional joy to get her thoughts. In this, the first article of three, Rebecca tests the Wiggle Nutrition Hydration Tabs and Energy Drink.
Athletes of all abilities are interested in the best and most convenient ways to consume fluid and energy when training and racing.
Runners and cyclists, in particular, need to be efficient with their nutritional requirement combinations. They need options to fit different weather conditions, intensities, and length of activity, as well as being able to fit these things in their jersey pockets or running belts. Cyclists also have limited opportunities to drink and eat because of the external factors they need to work around, such as other riders, the road surface, and other road users. This can limit their opportunity to eat or drink when needed.
The Wiggle nutrition range attempts to solve all these issues with a variety of sports nutrition products which can be combined in many ways to suit almost every athlete in any situation. The variety of carbohydrate sources - in the bars, gels, and energy drink - means athletes can consume more than 60-70g carbohydrate per hour. This means more energy is absorbed to support working at high-intensities with a high-energy output.
For endurance athletes, this can provide greater gastrointestinal comfort as well as the all-important performance benefits.
Over the last few weeks I have been fortunate to trial the whole Wiggle nutrition range and have not been disappointed with the flexibility, nutritional content, and, importantly, the taste of the products.
While you can make your own ride food (and I am a big supporter of this), it is not always practical, especially when juggling family, work, or education, along with training. Having a flexible selection of tasty, pre-packaged options makes life much easier at 6am when you are heading off for a Sunday long ride or run.
Some thought still needs to go into what you take with you – things like weather conditions, expected fluid losses, estimated sodium losses, intensity of your planned activity, how long you will be exercising, and perhaps most important, the form of energy you need to consume while on the move.
The packaging for each of the Wiggle Nutrition products clearly states the type of exercise for which they have been specifically designed, but they could all be used in a variety of scenarios for before, during and after activity.
Wiggle Nutrition Hydration Tablets
Hydration Tablets are a great option for athletes who sweat a lot. Sweating depletes your electrolyte levels, which will make it more difficult for your body to use the energy it has stored for motion. So even though you may have plenty of fuel in the form of carbohydrates, you won't be able to use it efficiently.
These tablets are great to use on their own or combined with an energy drink if higher levels of sodium - an important electrolyte - are needed. Energy and sodium needs are surprisingly variable between athletes while exercising, so having the option to supplement one without the other is important for an individualised approach to hydration.
Those who sweat at high volumes may choose to use the hydration tabs rather than an energy rich sports drink, meaning they can consume more fluids without overloading on carbohydrates from a combined energy and electrolyte drink.
We also know fluid uptake is more efficient when sodium is present - it makes it easier to absorb and hang onto that fluid. If you tend to lose a lot of salt when sweating, you may choose to use this product as well and at a slightly higher concentration than indicated on the instructions. Some basic fluid balance measures should be done by all athletes, particularly those competing in endurance sports, to determine how much fluid should be consumed each hour and in recovery.
More specific measures can be done on your individual sodium content loss through sweat, helping you fine-tune a hydration strategy even further. Hydration tablets are useful for this very specific tuning.
Each Wiggle Nutrition Hydration Tablet provides 370mg sodium: the equivalent of 0.9 of a teaspoon of salt. Sweat sodium losses can range on average from 500 to 800mg sodium per litre of sweat. So, two of these tablets in one litre of water would replace most of the sodium lost in one litre of sweat.
I would also suggest using these after exercise as well if fluid losses have been particularly high.
Taste and flavour
There are lots of flavour options here with lemon, strawberry, orange and blackcurrant to choose from, so it's easy to find a flavour that suits you. There is a sweetener added to these tablets – sucralose – so they do taste very sweet. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, try the Wiggle Nutrition Energy Drink instead, which may be more to your taste.
Great option for those looking to replenish electrolytes without overloading on carbs, a bit sweet for my personal preference but plenty of flavours to choose from.
Wiggle Nutrition Energy Drink
The Energy Drink is a little different to some of the more established brands.
The specific differences are:
- The carbohydrate content sits at 9% (9g per 100ml). Most sports drinks range from 6-8%. So a 500ml serve of this product will provide 45g of carbohydrate.
- The carbohydrate comes from three different sources; dextrose, maltodextrin and fructose.
- The sodium content is 148mg per 500ml serve.
The carbohydrate content and blend is important as there are limitations with how much glucose our gastrointestinal system can absorb. It sits at around 1g of glucose per minute or around 60-70g of glucose per hour.
Maltodextrin (glucose) is absorbed rapidly from the intestine into the blood stream, so is a great choice for a sports drink. Dextrose (another glucose derived from corn) is also absorbed in the same manner as maltodextrin.
Fructose is different, absorbed through an alternative receptor from the intestine. This means it does not clog up the same path used by the glucose-based ingredients to move from the intestine into the blood stream, where it is then transported to working muscles. This multiple carbohydrate blend in sports drinks is very attractive as it allows for more energy to be absorbed without the risk of flooding the intestine with glucose which can increase the risk of gut discomfort and distress.
There is no specific information available on the packaging of the product that tells me how much of each of these carbohydrates are present in the Energy Drink mix. Given that Maltodextrin and Dextrose are the first two ingredients, we can deduce these are the most abundant ingredients in the product. The ideal ratio of glucose:fructose in sports drinks is 2:1. The use of these carbohydrate blends is consistent across the range with the Energy Drink and the Energy Gel products.
The sodium content is on the lower end of the range that most sports drinks sit within – most sit between 230 and 575mg per 500ml serve. This may not be an issue for some athletes but may mean those with higher sodium needs should supplement with the Hydration Tabs or other sodium rich product.
Taste and flavour
Lots of options for flavours here: berry, orange and lemon & lime. I have been testing the berry flavour and have quite enjoyed it. I find it tastes less sweet than the hydration tabs.
A great blend of carbohydrate sources to give you an energy kick while training, with good flavours and taste to boot. If you’re a sweat heavily, combine with the Hydration Tablets to up the sodium content.