By Jason B
I have been running marathons and ultra-marathons since 1998 and I have refined my nutrition so that I understand what works for me. This is a blessing and a curse because there are so many new products that launch each year to help runners achieve their best. 33Shake is one such company. They make Chia Energy Gels and Pre/Post workout shakes. I will be reviewing both of their products.
33Shake was founded in England in 2012 after the founders, Erica and Warren, became disenchanted with the energy gels currently available on the market. They believed that they could do better and that led them to develop the Chia Energy Gels. They followed up the gel with the development of a Pre/Post workout shake. Their website has a good layout with tons of information on their products.
I will be reviewing both of their products and will start with an overview of the gel. The gels come in a satchel or small pouch. The satchel is larger than most gels, about the width of two standard gels side by side. It has screw off top versus a tear off top. The ingredients are dry in the pouch and the user has to add water or other liquid of choice to the dry ingredients to make the gel. To use the gel simply unscrew the lid, blow into the satchel to inflate and add liquid. Wait 10 minutes and then the gel is ready to use and is good for 24 hours. The ingredient list is quite simple – Chia seeds, Coconut Palm Sugar, Organic Madagascan Vanilla, and Himalayan Pink Salt. The gel is certified organic by the Soil Association. The gels are whole foods so they have a shorter shelf life, and the ones I received have a date of May 2018. Each gel has 95 calories.
The Pre/Post Workout Shakes also come as a dry mix in three flavors – original, cacao, and mocha. They offer several ways to serve the shake. The first is to combine the mixture with 200ml (or about 1 cup) of milk or milk substitute and a banana in a blender and blend for 60 seconds. They also suggest adding ice or frozen banana slices. There are also directions for those that don’t have or don’t want to use a blender. Combine the mix with 200ml of milk or milk substitute, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes. Like the gels, the shakes feature real food so have a shorter shelf life. The ones I received had a use before date of October 2017. Each shake has around 270 calories before adding liquid or bananas. The ingredient list is too long for me to replicate here, I believe it has 33 ingredients hence the name, but the main ingredient is Organic Flax Seeds.
I wanted to get an idea of what the hype was all about so I used a gel on a 15 mile training run this past weekend. I clearly missed the inflation step as I tried to get water from the faucet into the packet, however, I eventually got enough water in there to mix up the gel for my run. The larger size package made me have to look for new place to stash the gel. I eventually settled on squishing it up and pushing it in the pocket on my hand held bottle instead of trying to shove it in a pocket on my vest. This seemed to work fine. I used the gel about half way through my run on a hot, humid day in New Orleans. I was not sure what to expect, but the gel tasted great. There was a slightly sweet taste and vanilla flavor that was very pleasing to my palate. I also like the texture of the gel and the slight crunch of the Chia seeds. My energy seemed to be good for the remainder of the run, but the heat and humidity of a midafternoon run definitely wore on me.
Once I completed my run, it was time to try the shake. I did not feel like getting the blender out, so I followed the non-blender directions. When I poured out the shake mix, it looked like I was pouring granola into a cup. It is definitely dense and filled with food pieces. I added the milk stirred vigorously and let it sit for 5 minutes. I used the original flavor and it had a hint of cinnamon and was sort of like drinking granola. However, it was good and did help stave off the hunger pains that had developed at the end of my run and during my cool down.
Reviewing food is very subjective; however, I look for the following characteristics. The first is do I enjoy the product and want to use it? Second is ease of use, do I have to deal with messy wrappers and trash and sticky fingers? Third I look at taste. Finally, I look at performance. Does it help me succeed? Do I feel refreshed after drinking the shake? Can I use multiple gels in a single long distance training run or race without feeling sick?
Thanks for taking the time to read my initial review of the gels and shakes from 33Shake. Check back in a few weeks for my final thoughts.
Final Update August 16, 2017
I have consumed the chia gels and Pre/Post workout shakes from 33Shake and I have been quite pleased. I don’t want to give away all my pro tips, but the gels are the bomb. Read on for my final thoughts.
I have used the 33shake chia gels and Pre/Post workout shakes during the following activities since my initial review – a 40 mile, 2 night backpacking trip on the Black Creek Trail in Mississippi, 10 mile swamp run around the trails at Fontainebleau State Park and North Lake Nature Center in Mandeville, Louisiana, during the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego, and the Rock and Roll Seattle Half Marathon. Conditions for most of the trips were typical Southeastern USA – hot and humid with temperatures in the 90s and no precipitation. The exceptions were my west coast runs, San Diego was actually cool in the 60s with an overcast sky, and Seattle was in the upper 70s and sunny.
I think this company is cool and innovative to try and bring something new to the market. I will start my review with the Chia Energy Gels. I thoroughly enjoyed them. They are easy to use. I have filled some up before my run and also filled up some during my run, and each time they have come out great. I did not experience any leakage from the satchel when I filled them up before starting my runs. I did make sure the lid was on super tight. I looked forward to the 33shake gels more so than normal gels. The slightly sweet taste is delicious, but what I liked most was the texture. It wasn’t the typical mushy gel, the chia seeds had some texture, and it was pleasing to the palate. It was a sad day when I used my last gel. The gels were easy to use: inflate the satchel, add water and wait.
The subjective part of the gel is did it work? I didn’t do any scientific testing, but for me I definitely got a boost from taking the gel, and I felt like it lasted a little bit longer than other gels, but again it could be a placebo effect. For the San Diego marathon the aid stations were fairly close together. I would generally fill up the gel pack and then take it when I got to the next aid station. This method seemed to work well for me and kept me moving. I can’t say with any certainty that the product worked better than other gels, but I felt like the product worked and helped provide energy to keep running or hiking. I will be adding 33Shake Chia Gels into my normal rotation.
The only nitpick I have with the gels is that packaging is bigger and takes up more space. This was not a concern when I was backpacking because I could fill them and put them in my hipbelt pocket, but ultra-running gear was not so accepting. I ended up using the phone pocket or the large water bottle pocket on my Ultimate Direction Marathon vest to hold multiple 33shake gels.
The second product that I reviewed is the 33Shake Pre/Post workout shakes. These I didn’t necessarily take on runs but used them after some of my training runs to see the recovery effects. I know my stomach doesn’t do well with milk before long runs so the idea of using them as a pre-workout shake was not appealing. I tried making the shakes with the blender, ice and frozen bananas as recommended and this resulted in a pretty good shake, but I had to use a lot of ice to get our Vitamix to work correctly. Also it still had a lot of texture so that I felt like I was still drinking granola. For my last shake, I went back to the hand method described earlier. The shakes did a nice job knocking the edge off of my hunger. The taste of the shakes were kind of bland to me, with the exception of the granola bits that were very tasty. However, I never really got used to drinking granola. That being said, taste is very subjective and others may find the taste to be amazing. More important to me, the shakes did fill my need for sustenance after a run and I did feel good after drinking them.
So I am split, I really like the gels but the shakes didn’t do much for me. I plan on continuing to use the gels, I like the way that they taste and the texture is a nice break from regular gels. I will keep searching for my preferred recovery drink as the 33Shake Pre/Post workout shakes were not quite what I was looking for.
Thanks to 4alloutdoors.org and 33Shake for providing the products for this review.