Over 20,000 runners will take to Miami's streets this Sunday for the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. Running a marathon is no easy feat - it requires months of training, mental and physical endurance and a lot of energy.
Since the human body really wasn't meant to run 26.2 miles, a huge industry has developed to manufacture and market energy bars, drinks, chews and gels that help provide that little surge of power needed to get runners over an energy crash while on the road. And since cocaine is still illegal, most of these products are mixes of sugar and caffeine packaged with lots of verbs and adjectives like "energy," "power," "stamina," and "extreme." We went to the marathon expo to try some of these magical elixirs.
Gu Chomps are sort of like a "sports" gummy bear.The Gu Company was sampling the chomps in two flavors - watermelon and blueberry-pomegranate. To give props to the Gu company, there was actually a sneeze guard set up over the tray of samples. The watermelon tasted tart like a Jolly Rancher, while the blueberry pomegranate was milder and tasted more like a generic berry.
Score: 8. Easy to carry on the run, nice tart flavor and the gummy consistency made it fun to eat.
XS Energy Drink
Drawn in by the loud Latin music, I sidled over to the XS energy drink. Cans the size and shape of Red Bulls were displayed in suitcases, like gold bullion. I was intrigued. Turns out XS is distributed by vitamin giant Amway. The only carbonated drink at the Expo, XS tasted like diet Sunkist soda - which is fine by me.
Score: 8. You gotta love anything that comes in its own briefcase.
Mix 1 Protein Drink
Mix 1 makes protein smoothies. It also has the most enthusiastic marketing manager I've ever encountered. Allyson Stone, the company's marketing manager and I played a game in which I "blind tasted" a sample of Mix 1 and tried to identify the fruit flavor. I'll admit the mango tasted pretty "mango-y". Allyson then proceeded to tell me more than anyone should ever know about the smoothies- using big words like anti-oxidant, lactose-free and superfruit. I just really need to know two things -- does it taste like swill (no) and does it make me superwoman (probably not).
Score: 6. I could correctly identify the fruit in the fruit smoothie.
Vega Sport is the all-natural vegan sports drink, invented by elite cycler, Brendan Brazier. Of all the drinks I tried, Vega Sport definitely tastes the most like something you "should" drink instead of something you "want to" drink. The Vega Sport Lemon-Lime, made with ginseng and ginger was spicy, but the recovery drink tasted like a lawn.
Score: 7. With a taste like that, I just have the feeling that I could kick serious ass after drinking it.
Power Bar Energy Blast
Think of a giant gummy bear that has liquid guts. The cola flavor was a clear beige shell with a brown cola liquid showing through -- it looked a little like an eye staring at me and tasted like the cheap generic colas that my aunt bought from the supermarket.
Score: 2. Looking at it creeped me out a little. Great for Halloween.
This is the Justin Bieber of smoothies! When I walked over to try a smoothie I was accosted by smoothie "superfans". "You have to try the chocolate. I love it so much, I take it into the shower with me", Catalina Voit of Boca Raton confided to me.
Score: 10. The only smoothie with its own fans.
Lance Armstrong is part owner in Honey Stinger, a line of performance products. I tried the Honey Stinger, which is basically a package of honey with some salt in it.
Score: 8. Tastes great if you like honey. Just concerned I don't test positive for steroids.
Girl Scout Cookies
As I was trying to leave the Miami Beach Convention Center before the crash from my sugar rush, I encountered Grace and Cindy Hill from Girl Scout Troop 272 in Miami Beach selling Girl Scout cookies. Cindy told me that Thin Mints were hot sellers, but the runners were snatching up the Peanut Butter cookies for the "protein" in them. "They're a treat for after the run", Grace said.
Score: 10. Duh. They're Girl Scout Cookies!
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If you want to perform your own taste test (or get a free sugar rush), The ING Miami Marathon Health & Fitness Expo at The Miami Beach Convention Center is open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.