I wrote recently, with tongue only slightly in cheek, that garibaldi biscuits dipped in salted caramel sauce might just be the greatest source of sports nutrition in the known universe.
They do say that variety is the spice of life though, so I like to mix it up from time to time. The fact is, I’m not averse to using proper, scientific, cycling specific sports nutrition too. My issue with this stuff has always been one of flavour, and of how well my digestive system copes with all that pure energy.
I recently got the chance to test the full range of the Torq fuelling system – gels, bars, chews, and energy drink. The idea is that each of these products contains 30g of carbohydrates, and represents a ‘Torq unit’. Torq recommend that you consume 2-3 of these ‘units’ per hour during your ride, in whatever combination you choose.
On a long (5 hour) ride through Yorkshire recently – up the Buttertubs Pass, over the Coal Road, the full works – I tested this refuelling system, and diligently followed Torq’s recommendations about the amount of energy I took on board.
I have to caveat this by pointing out that any number of variables can come into play regarding how good I feel on the bike – mood, amount of sleep, recent mileage, weather, previous night’s consumption of alcohol – but after five hours it was probably a fundamental lack of talent (rather than a lack of calories) that was causing me to slow.
Beyond a very normal hunger, I didn’t experience that aching ravenous chasm that comes when you haven’t got your refuelling right. It’s fair to say that I was paying more attention to taking on board calories than I normally might, but it seemed to be working.
The natural ingredients and lack of unnecessary additives in Torq products is a big selling point for me, but ultimately it’s the flavours that really hit the spot. The bars, for example, are moist and go down well, and in the raspberry and apple version you can even see the little raspberry seeds in there – proof that they definitely contain actual, real raspberries.
The gels taste very sweet, but not chemical-ly like some brands do – both the raspberry ripple and the rhubarb and custard that I tried taste genuinely good. In the context of a gloopy gel, anyway.
They’re also brilliantly easy to rip open and get at on the move.
The chew is a bar of very chewy stuff, which does take a bit of getting through, and is maybe not one to tackle if you happen to be gasping for breath at the time. But again it tastes good. As a bit of variety the chewiness is quite pleasant if you’ve been taking on board energy drink and gels, and need something to get your teeth into for a bit of a change.
As for the energy drink you get the hit of carbohydrate along with electrolytes, minerals, and all the other necessary stuff. Again, it has that natural taste and isn’t overly sweet.
With some energy products the very thought of forcing them down mid-ride turns my stomach. I’m not about to start naming brands – there are at least two of them, for the record – but for my money Torq are a very pleasant and superior alternative.
Without meaning to sound like some kind of weird ‘foodie’ you can actually pick out the different flavour in the gels – the apple and the crumble, for example, or the rhubarb and custard – and the bars and chews taste of, and clearly contain, actual fruit.
You can buy cheaper energy products than Torq, but personally I wouldn’t bother. They taste good, they avoid unnecessary additives, and they deliver the hit of energy as promised.