Thursday, March 8, 2012

Product Review: Orbana Energy Mix

I'm not really much of a "sports drink" guy.  I generally prefer water for my hydration, and for the most part I prefer either gels, sports beans, or chews for my in-run nutrition.  But, awhile ago, I saw this review (from the Running and Rambling blog) for Orbana "Healthy Energy", so I decided to try it.  And, since I've tried it, I figured I might as well write up a review of my experience.
What is Orbana?
Orbana is an energy drink that is primarily designed for endurance athletes, like triatheletes and marathon runners.  It seems to have been primarily designed to be consumed before exercise or during exercise to provide sustained energy during endurance activities (although the Orbana website indicates it can also be used as a recovery drink).

Orbana is produced as a powder that you mix with water.  The powder is designed with a mixture of dextrose (another name for glucose, which is a monosaccharide that is found in many plants, and is a primary source of energy in cells), fructose (a monoaccharide, like glucose, that is another primary cell energy source), and maltodextrin (a short-chain polysaccharide, e.g., a poly-sugar made up of up to about 20 repeating sugar (glucose) units).  The bulk of the energy compounds in Orbana (about 64% by weight) is in the form of maltodextrin, which has a much lower glycemic index value than the monosaccharides and disaccharides that are commonly used for most energy drinks.  The glycemic index is a measure of the effect of the effect of a carbohydrate on the glucose level in a person's blood after consuming the carbohydrate... a higher value indicates a larger spike in blood glucose, and generally a spike that occurs faster and diminishes faster too.  Generally, high glycemic index foods lead to a quick sugar rush that is short lived, followed by a crash.  (Think of kids hopped up on Coca-Cola).  A lower glycemic index indicates a slower release into the blood, but also usually comes with a longer feeling of energy.

Orbana also includes several vitamins, such as B vitamins (like thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, etc., that Orbana claims provides for energy release), antioxidants (Vitamin C and Vitamin E), amino acids (which Orbana claims will (a) contribute to an increase in energy and endurance; and (b) promote quicker recovery by rebuilding damaged proteins), and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and zinc).  (See all the description of the components of the Orbana energy drink here on Orbana's website)

Because of all these ingredients, Orbana refers to its product as "Healthy Energy."  I am not qualified to speak to the "healthiness" of Orbana, but based on my (limited) knowledge of biochemistry and nutrition, Orbana's claims don't seem crazy or far fetched.  At the very least, their claims pass the "smell test" for me, it doesn't reek of total BS.

One really nice thing about Orbana is that it generally has a very pleasant taste that is not too sweet and not too salty tasting (unlike most other sports drinks).  It is kind of citrusy and is very easy to sip or chug quickly, whichever way you prefer.

Where Can I It?

Orbana is a British company, so the product is much more available in the UK than it is here in the United States.As of the time of this writing, for most people, the only place to buy Orbana in the US is through (here for 16 packets or here for 5 packets) or in a handful of specialty stores (although for many people, this won't be an option... for example, the closest retail store to me here in Minnesota is in St. Charles, IL, an extreme western Chicago suburb).  I have ordered it through Amazon, and (just like everything on Amazon), it arrived at my home quickly.

How Does It Work?
Here in the US, you can only buy it in single-serving sachets of the powder.  Each serving is touted as providing for about 2 hours worth of sustained energy release.  So, as a pre-exercise drink, you mix one of the sachets with 8 oz of water and drink it about 15-20 minutes before you start exercising, and it (supposedly) provides for sustained energy release for two hours beyond that.  As a during-exercise drink, you mix the sachet with more water (either 10 or 12 oz, I think) and then drink it as you would drink a normal sports drink.  For recovery, I think you do the same thing as the pre-exercise drink.

What Is Your Experience With Orbana?
I have used Orbana on several occasions now, both for training runs and for races, and both for pre-exercise and during exercise (I have not used it for recovery, because my preferred recovery drink, chocolate milk, is much more tasty).  My experience has been generally very positive.

So far, my great preference for Orbana has been as a pre-exercise drink (although I've only used it once as something I drank during a run).  I used Orbana before I ran the Monster Dash 10 mile race last fall, and I had an awesome race (I was hoping for something in the 1 hour, 35 minute to 1 hour, 37 minute range, and I ran a 1:30:55).  I also used Orbana for the Disney Half Marathon in January, and that was the best and most enjoyable running day of my life.  I have no idea how much of either of those races had to do with the Orbana

The reason I prefer the pre-exercise use rather than the during exercise use is that, for me, when I drank it while exercising, it made me burp a lot and the taste coming back up was not as pleasant as it was going down (sorry to be gross, but hey, this is a product review).  For some reason, when I drank it before exercising, this didn't occur.

Overall, I would highly recommend Orbana.  The only real down side is the cost ($2.62 per sachet if you get the 16-pack from Amazon, and about $2.70 per sachet if you get the 5-pack).  This isn't outrageous or anything, but with gels usually costing around $1-$1.50 and chews normally costing around $1.50-$2, it is a slightly more expensive method of nutrition/hydration.  Personally, for races I think it's totally worth it, and for training, it's really a matter of personal preference (I generally don't use it for training runs, but I will use it for just about every long-distance race that I have to do from now on).

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