Friday, November 4, 2011

Orbana Healthy Energy Drink Review

A couple of weeks ago, I won a contest on "Running and Rambling" that gave me 5 packets of powdered sports drink for free.  The winners were supposed to use the drink and write a review.  I'm a blogger, so I like to write. Ask my opinion about running stuff, and you'll get an answer!  After two disappointing trail ultras, I was looking for a way to consume more calories during a race. Maybe this new drink would be my answer to bonking. I'm pretty sure the answer is more miles in training, but I'll try drinking first. Seems easier than actually running.

The product I won is called Orbana Healthy Energy.  It's a powdered "sports drink."  I never heard of it before this give-away.  It's made in England and just recently started to be distributed in the US.

Nutrition Facts/Contents: Orbana is a combination of maltodextrin, fructose, and dextrose to provide sustained energy without peaks and valleys.  The single serving packet is 1.76oz (50grams) and supplies 190 calories.  It also has some amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It has no artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. I guess that's why it's called "Orbana Healthy Energy" drink.  It doesn't have any of the"bad" stuff in there. That's a nice change from my normal neon-colored Gatorade--that ain't natural!

Cost: I got my 5 samples for free. I found the product on Amazon selling 5 packets for $13.46 ($2.69 each) and 16 packs for $41.85 ($2.62 each). Expensive for a regular sports drink.  Reasonable cost if it's significantly better than Gatorade (or other standard sports drinks). The reviews on Amazon are very good.

Color and Flavor: Sort of a pale yellow color. I appreciate that there are no artificial colors in the powder. As stated above, it doesn't have any artificial sweeteners or preservatives either.  The packet said "orange, lemon, pineapple."  I suppose that's what it tasted like...hard to tell, but it was a citrus flavor and pineapple was definitely in there. Yeah, lemony too. And a hint of orange. I used the powder at almost half strength (one 1.76oz packet in a 20oz water bottle). This isn't too far off the suggested "during activity" dilution. Before and after exercise, they recommend mixing one packet in 8-10 oz of water.  That would be fairly strong. I liked the fresh and clean taste with 18-20oz of water. It never upset my stomach.

Mixing: It takes a bit of extra mixing to get all of the powder dissolved. Not terrible, but there is more powder than I'm used to using (I often use powdered Gatorade). Since I'm a runner, I just fill a water bottle about 1/3 full, add the powder, and shake. Then fill bottle with water and shake again. It gets continuously "stirred" as I run. My main complaint with the powder is that it's fairly "voluminous"--there's a lot of powder to mix in a small amount of water!  It would be difficult to carry the powder pouches on the run.  If you have access to drop bags, your car, or a crew supplying you, then it wouldn't be an issue for a long run or race.

Energy: I tried one packet on a weekend just to see if it would work OK...or at least not cause problems. I had a 30 mile trail race coming up, so I figured it would be wise to test it out when it didn't make a difference--so I mixed it up (one powder packet to about 18oz of water), drank it, then mowed the lawn and did some other yard work.  It tasted fine and didn't bother my stomach.  Did I have "extra" energy?  Maybe.  I finished the lawn mowing and still felt good enough to trim some hedges, rake leaves, and bag up yard waste. Not the best test of athletic endurance...that came a week later at my McNotAgain 30-Mile Trail Race!

The 30-mile trail race is run on a 10-mile loop at McNaughton Park in Pekin, IL.  I started with a 20oz water bottle mixed with Orbana.  At the 5 mile mark, I'd be done with the drink and simply fill my bottle with pure water for the next 5 miles.  At the start/finish area, I'd refill with water and mix in the Orbana.  I used 3 packets for the three 10-mile loops.  It would have been nice to have more Orbana at the mid-point aid station so I would be drinking it for the full 30 miles.  I did feel the drink worked better than just water and better than my typical Gatorade.  It tasted fine, gave no energy highs/lows, and supplied a modest amount of electrolytes (Orbana has 135mg of sodium and potassium).  I take Succeed S-Caps during long races and training runs so my sports drink doesn't need to supply much in terms of electrolytes.  Still, the sodium and potassium is a good idea. I think the calories, and extra vitamins and amino acids, helped provide a bit more energy than I've had in recent runs and races.  Would be interesting to try Orbana for a full 30-50 miles and see how I felt. For what it's worth, I did feel better AFTER the race than I typically do...was it the new drink?  Weather (which was nice and cool)? My conditioning/training (not likely)?

My main complaint with this drink is that it's rather expensive and bulky to carry.  I can find solutions to the bulkiness (loop courses, drop bags, friends/crew, etc).  The cost is another issue...but if it really does make a positive would be worth the price. I'll buy a bigger supply and try it out on some fall and winter long runs (20+ milers).  If it seems to work well in training, I'll buy more and test it out in early spring trail ultras (30-50 milers).  I will be on the same McNaughton Park trail course in April running either 50 or 100 miles.  It would be awesome to have my drinking/eating dialed-in by that race.  And I'm willing to pay extra for a product that would get me through a long ultra marathon.  For now, I think it's a good product with high potential for endurance athletes. I'd suggest other runners giving it a try.

NOTE:  A version of this review should show up, along with other Orbana reviews, on the Running and Rambling blog in late November.  If you haven't read this blog, it's a good one. One of only 4 or 5 running-related blogs I consistently follow. Good writing, good product reviews, and great scenic pictures. And they picked me in a random give-away! A big thank you to Orbana for sponsoring the product give-away.

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