Unlike many of my peers who are converting to low card diets and fueling I still run with carbs. As this is a product review I am not going to cover the carbohydrate /low carbohydrate debate. That said, since becoming an ultra runner I have adjusted my diet and eat less of the traditional carbohydrates especially wheat based. I also eat less fruit, and I have increased my protein and fat intake slightly, and put even more emphasis on vegetables and salad. My stomach and digestive system can be quite sensitive and I used to suffer from frequent bouts of gastric distress. I have found that fueling with a combination of real food and sports energy products and taking a reasonable amount of protein in my pre-run/race meal helps. The lack of a sweet tooth is also a tad problematic, I don’t like sweet things and have often found that at some point I just cannot take anything else sweet.
It has taken literally years of experimentation, and I have tried many brands of energy drink and gel. The main issue with drinks were the flavour and the effects on my digestion. As for the gels some tasted bad, flavours often tasting artificial; some upset my stomach; some were too thick or an odd texture; and some were OK which the best I can say about them. Most were efficient at delivering the energy, but the efficiency of the delivery often varied.
Then came Torq, tried off the back of a review of gels in a running magazine where it scored highly. The testers all praised the delivery and the natural flavours. It was worth a try. I was running out of options. Torq was probably most well known within the cycling community for which it was developed, but is becoming more widely known and used within the triathlon and running community. We all have the same needs and use the same products.
The first Torq product I tried was the gels, rhubarb and custard to be precise. It was a revelation. The consistency was pleasant and they were easy to take, and they actually tasted like rhubarb and custard! There was even the tang that you get with rhubarb and a hint of vanilla from the custard. They were sweet but not too sweet and it just did not feel like you were taking a gel. Wow! I then tried strawberry yoghurt, orange and banana and forest fruits with guarana. Each flavour combination is natural and provides a ‘true’ flavour. They also include some natural tang taking the edge of the sweetness. Another plus point is how well they sit in my stomach, The 2:1 Maltodextrin:Fructose blend claims to provide a 40% better delivery of energy, and that seems to be the case. The energy delivery seems even and efficient, with no spike or sudden drop.
The Torq Energy drink uses the same 2:1 blend and comes in a number of flavours. I have opted for the organic natural (flavourless) and the pink grapefruit. The natural is a nice change, but also a bit of a brain tease: it tastes like water therefore a bit of your brain thinks that it is not energy, which can have a bit of a psychological impact. After a few trials my brain caught and got the hang of things. It is ideal for when you get to that point where you are tired and energy is low, and struggling to take nutrition and not wanting anything sweet. I am not exaggerating when I say that the pink grapefruit is the best energy drink I have ever used. It is light, refreshing with a delicate flavour that really does taste like pink grapefruit. There is no cloying sweetness. These drinks are easy on the stomach too and I have had no issues with gastric distress.
I generally do not use recovery drinks, and if I do it tends to be non sports specific chocolate milk or a yoghurt drink. For the Antarctic races though I need to really focus on recovery and refuelling in the short time that I have between the marathon and the ultra. So, I have been trialling the Torq Mandarin Yoghurt recovery drink. It is taking a bit of getting used to. As with the other products the flavour is fine; it tastes natural and of mandarin and yoghurt. The drink is thick, a bit thicker than a yoghurt drink. I am not so fond of that but can take it. However, I find there is also an after taste that is a little unpleasant and vaguely meaty. It is not something that I would adopt for regular use, but I will persevere for this challenge, and experiment with the mix in terms of quantity of powder to water and see if that makes it more palatable and improves the consistency.
One final product that I have been trialing is the Carnitine. It is an amino acid-like substance is naturally present in meat (particularly red meat) which has been linked to the increased metabolism of fat. In an endurance event it could increase aerobic power, spare muscle glycogen and prolong time to exhaustion. This could be useful in Antarctica. I have used gels with L-carnitine in them and have found them to be beneficial for long and intense efforts. It may be psychological, but I find then beneficial on climbs/hills. It is still relatively early days for this and I am working on the best way to use it and incorporate it into my foods and drinks.
To conclude Torq is working for me and will be an integral part of my Antarctic nutrition and fueling plan.