First things first: I know practically nothing about supplements. I’m as much a sports nutritionist as I am a polar bear*. Okay, so I use the occasional gel, but my choice of product is based purely on the packaging and whether the gel tastes like cough medicine, and I don’t think I’ve ever even considered comparing the ingredients. For all I know they could be made of brandy, heroin and mashed kitten embryos.
So to say I was nonplussed when, out of the blue, some nice people from supplementcentre.com got in touch and asked if I’d like to try some of their products is a bit of an understatement. They have over 7 billion products in their range** and I think it’s fair to say I really didn’t have a clue what I was looking at. In the end I opted for an energy supplement as it seemed more in keeping with my chosen sport of running-about-a-bit and less intended for big men in little vests who like to lift fridges over their heads and grunt.
A few days later, the postman delivered my sample of “Matrix Energy Boost”, and very nearly put his back out doing it. I was expecting a few sachets or perhaps a small tub, but instead I got a mahoosive 2.2kg drum that you could comfortably fit your head in.
The packaging design was unfussy, the sort of thing you’d expect to find home-made Ukrainian diesel in. I was quite relieved by this, because I’d seen a lot of supplement packaging that was little more than a screaming declaration of masculinity, bizarrely designed to look like hand grenades, clenched fists or life-sized flaming Chuck Norris heads.
Matrix Energy Boost is designed to provide hydration and energy through a combination of carbohydrates (fructose, maltodextrin and dextrose. No, me neither), caffeine and salt. Like similar products, the idea of this stuff is to keep you going for longer, while maintaining performance levels. I added a scoop to my water bottle and headed out for a quick 10k, keen to put it to the test. My first impressions were that it mixed very easily, with no powdery aftertaste, and no clumps at the bottom of the bottle. The citrus taste was spot on too, and reminded me of sherbet without being too sickly-sweet.
But so far that just makes it expensive powdered squash; what about the results? Well, that’s where this product fell down for me. I didn’t feel any different to any normal run, or at least no different than I’d feel from using an off-the-shelf sports drink such as Lucozade, Gatorade or any of the countless other Ades*** (although a drink made with the Matrix powder currently works out at around 36p for 500ml so it’s at least got value firmly on its side). Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting this stuff to turn me into Usain Bolt or Scott Jurek, but I was hoping for at least a little pep towards the end of the run, when energy levels commonly start to drop. But no, the results at this stage were firmly meh.
I persevered, and the following week tried using the Matrix Energy Boost to fuel my weekly long run. The 15 miles went well, and I felt reasonably fresh up until the last couple of miles, when fatigue started kicking me in the shins and calling me names. Nothing new there. Deciding to be a bit sciencey, I tried the same route the following week but this time only drank plain old water (in the same quantities and at similar times). If anything, I felt fresher than I had the week before, which puzzled the hell out of me (although I am easily puzzled).
Some people might enjoy better results with this stuff, but it definitely wasn’t for me.
What I will say is that, while I didn’t get on with the supplement itself, I have a lot of good stuff to say about where it came from. I found their website nicely laid out and easy to navigate, with plenty of information in plain English rather than relying on an intimate knowledge of scientific supplement jargon. If, like me, you’re as intimidated by the dizzying world of supplements as you are by the thought of being trapped in a lift with a taser-wielding velociraptor, then you might be pleasantly surprised by this place. They also do a handy beginner’s guide to supplements, which you can download here.
I was sent the aforementioned ginormous bucket of Matrix Energy Boost for the purpose of testing, but received no payment or other incentive for writing this. I mean seriously, as if anyone would pay me for this nonsense.
Want more? Really? You’re a bit odd. Well, if you insist, you can have a look back through some old blog posts here at borntoplod.com, follow me around on the twitter (@borntoplodblog) or pop over to Facebook and check out my page. Or I’m more than happy to embroider some running anecdotes onto a commemorative tea-towel for you.
* and I’m not. I checked. ** Okay, not quite that many, but still lots. *** Not Ade Edmonson though. He’s not a sports drink. Again, I checked.