Thursday, 3 October 2013

Supplement Review: Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer, Regular vs. Sugar-Free

Some days it can be hard to find the energy to get up and out the door for a workout.  There are many ways to help boost your energy reserves prior to exercise, and energy drinks have become a popular choice.  

However, the fizzy stuff that comes in cans ranging in size from small to monstrous also comes with a range of health risks, including racing heartbeat, insomnia, dysglycemia, and more, which affect the long-term health of the athlete, someone who would otherwise be considered in great health.  There have even been strings of sudden deaths of young athletes on the field from cardiac arrest, which have been attributed to overuse of these drinks.

Natural (and safer) ways to energize your body and mind before and during endurance exercise include dates with nuts or seeds, a banana, green or yerba mate tea, sweet potatoes, or brown rice.  Finding something easy to consume and portable can be especially advantageous.

Regular, açai-berry
Here I’ll review the first stage of a line of sport supplements I use regularly and have come to love.  The Vega Sport line is laid out quite simply, with colour-coded products for each stage of exercise: before (“Prepare”, yellow), during (“Sustain”, red), and after (“Recover”, blue).  There are products in each stage that are staples in my supplement cabinet to fuel my workouts, and one of these is the Pre-Workout Energizer.

Like most of the Vega Sport products, this is a drink powder that is mixed with water.  Until recently, there was only one form of this product that came in two flavours, lemon-lime and açai-berry, that come in individual-serving packets as well as 30-serving canisters.  The açai-berry is my flavour of choice, and I find it tastes like berry iced tea when I mix the full serving size with 12 oz. of water.  For days when I know my workout won’t be as intense, I’ll only use half a scoop in half the amount of water.

Sugar-free, açai-berry
Not too long ago, a sugar-free form of the Pre-Workout Energizer was introduced, in the same two flavours as the regular version, and also available in single-serve packets and 30-serving canisters.  I noticed that this new version was priced lower than the original ($1.69 vs. $2.49 for the singles; prices vary per retailer), so I picked up singles of both flavours to try.

Both versions contain lots of organic and high-quality energy-boosting ingredients, including yerba mate and green teas, medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil, and pain-reducing herbal ingredients like turmeric.  (Note – due to its turmeric content, the product may stain your sports bottles if not washed or rinsed right away.)  The regular version also contains brown rice syrup as a source of sweetness as well as fast and sustained release carbohydrate.  The sugar-free version is sweetened with stevia leaf extract.

Here is my comparison for each version.

Regular
Sugar-Free
Taste (mixed with 12 oz. water)
Like iced tea!
Stevia is pretty noticeable, flavour may be improved by a bit more water or blending with fruit (see below for a recipe idea)
Mixability
A little grainy, but otherwise good; give it a shake every now and then if you’ll take a while finishing it
Very smooth, perhaps due to lack of sugars to dissolve
Functionality
Great sustained energy, fast-acting, hydrating
Great sustained energy, fast-acting, hydrating
Packaging
Individual – a little hard to open, which may be annoying on-the-go
Canister – the original canisters are a bit cumbersome to cart along in a gym bag, but not as big as the protein powder canisters; new smaller canisters are appearing on store shelves as stores sell off their older stock
Individual – easier to open, with tear-off notches; smaller packets that are slightly larger than the Electrolyte Hydrator packets
Canister – these are the new much smaller ones, very portable
Unwelcome side effects
May cause mild jitters and the need to go to the washroom, which can be disadvantageous in the middle of a workout; try drinking it slowly over the course of half an hour, about 20-30 minutes before exercise, or using half the serving size
May cause mild jitters and a stronger need to go to the washroom than the original; same recommendation, or stick with the regular product
May be ideal for
Endurance exercise, high-energy cardio, workouts that burn lots of calories
People who are watching their sugar intake while wanting the energy to get a great workout


Overall, I love the Pre-Workout Energizer, and use it as an additional, quick and portable option for my workouts.  Though I also love pretty much all the Vega Sport products, I have to admit that I am honestly not as much a fan of the sugar-free product, but perhaps that is the result of being accustomed to the flavour of the regular product.  I tried it again recently, blending it in a smoothie instead of straight:
My PWE smoothie.

- 1 organic pear
½ scoop unflavoured hemp protein powder
- 1 packet/scoop sugar-free açai-berry Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer
- 12 oz. (1½ cups) water
- 4 ice cubes
Seed and dice the pear.  Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Drink immediately.  Variation: replace the pear with a banana.

I did find that blending the product into a pre-workout smoothie helped the flavour.  Doing so on a regular basis, however, would probably negate any money saved by buying the cheaper sugar-free product.

Overall, if you're very busy and need a pre-workout energy solution that is portable and easy-to-consume, I highly recommend the Vega Sport line.  Choose whichever one is right for you.  

For those who like to plan ahead, and to save money, you can try to make your own simplified version to keep in your fridge:

- 1 Tbsp. organic yerba mate loose-leaf tea
- 4 cups hot water
- 2 tsp. raw honey or maple syrup
- a pitcher with lots of ice
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
Brew the loose-leaf tea in the hot water.  Add the raw honey (if using) to the steeping tea so it dissolves completely.  Steep about 15 minutes and remove or strain out the tea leaves, pouring the hot water into the pitcher filled with ice.  (This is the flash-chill method to make iced tea.  Alternatively, place the pitcher of freshly steeped tea in the fridge for several hours until cold.)  Stir and add more ice if needed until cold.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the pitcher.  Makes about 4-6 cups of iced tea, depending on how much ice you use.  Drink 1 cup as needed about half an hour before exercise.  Also great to improve alertness and focus throughout the day.

Now go and get the best out of your workout!

The advice in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor or health professional.  Use caution when adding new supplements to your health regimen.  Vega Sport supplements are generally not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, or for people under 18 years of age.  Always read the labels for product-specific contraindications.  Product info is also available online at http://myvega.com/.  I am not affiliated with the supplement company mentioned in this post and receive no compensation for my review.

11 comments:

  1. My brother is running a gym and he told me about sugar-free vega Sport energy products. Those are good source of fast energy and can be used for increasing stamina. We should buy supplements of these quality only.

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  4. I use the Vega Sport pre workout energizer before running half marathons. It helps me stay the course. I have not had any stomach upsets or jitters. I take it on an empty stomach after a cup of coffee.

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