A look behind the ginger flavor trend in sports nutrition.
Ginger ale can calm an upset stomach, and pregnant women take ginger supplements to battle that first trimester nausea, but who would have thought it’d make a great sports nutrition flavor? Several companies, apparently! There are now energy gels, bars, stroopwafels and sports drinks on the market that all feature this flavor, and sports nutritionists aren’t surprised. “Ginger—or rather ginger root—has been called one of the very ‘superfoods’ actually worth that label,” says Jaime Windrow, R.D., a board-certified sports dietitian, ultrarunner, Ironman finisher and nutritionist at The Core Diet. “In a time where athletes are looking to take more of a ‘real food’ approach when possible, it makes sense that ginger is the next ‘thing’ or flavor.”
Among the root’s 100-plus chemical components, the most highly touted and therapeutic is gingerol, the oily resin from the root. That natural oil is responsible for ginger’s unique, spicy flavor and fragrance. Among its many benefits are a few that are particularly helpful for endurance athletes, such as offering an immunity boost, aiding digestion and acting as an anti-inflammatory and anti-pain agent (possibly reducing pain and soreness). “And unlike NSAIDs, ginger doesn’t appear to harm the stomach or kidneys, as long as doses are taken in normal or recommended amounts, no more than 4 grams of ginger per day,” Windrow says.
While some products use actual ginger in their products, others use “ginger flavoring,” which is proprietary information for most companies. “The question still remains whether these ginger ‘flavors’ can hold up [nutritionally] to their original counterpart,” Windrow says, and the answer is likely no. But even in minuscule amounts, you may be able to reap some of the multitude of health benefits found in ginger. If nothing else, ginger fans will enjoy the flavor and perhaps stomach-calming properties of these products.
GU Gingerade Energy Gel, $1.50
Testers loved that this gel allows you to enjoy the flavor without it being overpowering. Reminiscent of ginger ale, it’s not as sweet as other gels, yet has the classic GU texture. In each 1.1-ounce pouch are 100 calories, 23 grams of carbs, 65 milligrams of sodium and 30 milligrams of potassium plus a hefty dose of amino acids.
Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar With Ginger And Miso, $2.65
This quirky-sounding flavor for Skratch’s first line of bars is surprisingly tasty—made with a mix of candied ginger, soy sauce, red miso and red pepper flakes, it has a savory taste and crunchy, seedy texture with a kick of spice at the end. It’s a perfect afternoon snack or pre-run fuel. Each bar has 210 calories, 27 grams of carbs and 5 grams of protein.
VFuel Endurance Drink Mix Ginger Twist, $2.49 Per Single-Serving Packet
Flavored with ginger powder and lime flavor, this powdered drink mix has a citrusy, light and sweet taste, with just a hint of ginger at the end. It’s made with dextrose, which is reported to be more easily digestible than other carbohydrates, and each serving contains 200 calories, 49 grams of carbs, 235 milligrams of sodium and 85 milligrams of potassium.