My Thoughts on the New Ironman Perform Sports Drink from Powerbar

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Articles, Nutrition

There’s a new drink on the sports scene, called the “Ironman Perform Sports Drink” from Powerbar. Since many triathletes and active individuals read BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and this is the drink that will be served at all WTC Ironman and Half-Ironman triathlon events, I wanted to give you my personal thoughts on the Ironman Perform Sports Drinks. But first, a quick sports drink primer.

Surely, you’ve heard of Gatorade, Powerade and other sports drinks. Although the unfortunate fact is that they’re being sipped by sedentary kids and adults at desks, sports drinks were originally designed with one sole purpose: to maintain hydration, electrolyte and glucose levels during exercise. Since an exercising individual working hard enough to sweat can lose about a liter of water per hour, and a 2 percent loss of body weight from sweat can lead to a 10 percent performance decrease, it’s pretty logical that sports drinks are a good way to enhance performance during exercise in the heat.

Of course, preventing dehydration isn’t the only goal of a sports drink. Electrolytes in sports drinks maintain proper mineral levels for nervous system function and muscle contractions. Sugar in sports drinks (usually in the form of a simple carbohydrate) provides energy for intense exercise, and since the body only stores enough glucose for about 90 minutes of exercise, consuming carbohydrates from sports drinks during exercise has a proven benefit.

So how is the new Ironman Perform sports drink any different than predecessors such as Gatorade or Powerade?

Powerbar describes Ironman Perform as: “a serious sports drink specifically developed by the sports nutrition experts at PowerBar®. Designed to enhance performance, keep you hydrated and help you push your limits when you need maximum energy delivery and cramp-crushing electrolytes.”

Let’s dig a bit deeper.

An 8-fluid ounce serving includes:

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17 grams of carbohydrates in a glucose to fructose blend (which some studies have found to improve endurance performance by 8 percent compared to a glucose-only blend)

190 mg sodium

70 calories (*ahem*, notice that this is in a 8 ounce serving – the actually bottles are 20 ounces, so closer to 200 calories in a bottle – it always perplexes why they can’t just tell you how many calories/sodium are in the entire bottle, rather than the unrealistic 8 ounce portion)

My thoughts on the Ironman Perform sugar blend: it is true that utilizing two sugar transport systems, rather than one, can increase the total rate of carbohydrate absorption, which leads to more energy available to be burned as muscle fuel. This can help limited reserves of liver glycogen and blood glucose last longer.

My thoughts on the Ironman Perform sodium levels: I’d still like to see a product hit the market that has all the trace minerals we lose during exercise, along with magnesium and potassium, in addition to just sodium. That being said, with about 475mg sodium in a bottle of Ironman Perform, the average endurance exerciser would need close to two bottles an hour for adequate sodium intake (losses are around 1.5-2.5g/hr, but you don’t necessarily need to replace all that, but a good portion of it), which would also mean they’d be consuming 350 calories, and 40 ounces of fluid.

My thoughts on the Ironman Perform concentration/osmolality: Osmolality is a measure of the concentration of a sports drink, (the osmolality of a fluid is a measure of the number of particles in a solution) and since your blood runs around 280 and 310 osmoles, it is important to keep the osmolality of the fluids going into your stomach close to the range of that of blood (especially for endurance events).  For you geeks who want a comprehensive article on osmolality, click here.  I don’t know the osmolality of the Powerbar Ironman Perform and I couldn’t find it anywhere, but if it’s close to Gatorade, it’s around 375 (the difference from Gatorade being that the source of the particles in Powerbar Ironman Perform is from two different sugars). So this might be a bit high, because when osmolality goes above 300 or below 280 osmolality, your gut must pull minerals and fluids out of the blood to allow for adequate calorie absorption.

My thoughts on the practical use of Ironman Perform Sports Drink: Folks, if I were going to rely on Ironman Perform Sports Drink as a primary fuel during, for example, Ironman, then I would need to drink at least two bottles of the stuff (40 ounces) per hour. Since fluid intoxication and performance-detracting, potentially life-threatening hyponatremia can set in once the body exceeds 32 ounces of fluid per hour, I don’t think it would be prudent to use this stuff as a primary fuel. You’d just have to drink too much fluid to replace all your calorie and salt needs. But how about grabbing an 8 ounce serving of it while you run or bike by an aid station, or using Ironman Perform as *part* of your nutrition strategy? Considering that you’re getting 190mg of sodium and 70 calories from an 8oz portion,  you’re still going to have to “fill in the holes” with salt pills or other carbohydrate sources such as gels.

My final thoughts on Ironman Perform: So for basketball, soccer, football, etc., Ironman Perform Sports Drink is fine, and is probably going to keep you hydrated and fed, since glycogen depletion is not a huge issue and you don’t have to drink 40oz of the stuff each hour. But for a long endurance event, like Ironman triathlon, in which glycogen depletion is an issue, my recommendations remain the same as I lay out to the endurance athletes I coach and in the Triathlon Dominator Ironman Plan: keep things simple and clean – drink pure water, talk salt pills like Athlytes or Endurolytes, and eat gels/bars. Unless you’re a really small person and not burning many calories or losing much fluid per hour, you’d just have to drink way too much of the stuff to get what you need. If anything, I’d like to see it mixed in a more concentrated solution.

If you really have to have it during something like an Ironman triathlon, and you drink one 20oz bottle per hour, also include 1-2 gels or 100-200 calories of extra fuel sources per hour, plus an extra salt capsule or two.

Have you tried Ironman Perform Sports Drink or do you have an opinion or argument? Leave your comments and questions below!

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22 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the New Ironman Perform Sports Drink from Powerbar

  1. Rebecca Quinn says:

    Just now came across this thread, and as I'm training for my first IM (Louisville) I am soaking up all the nutrition advice I can. I have started using Perform on my long bike rides and have had no problems yet, but I also haven't had a ride where I'm sweating excessively (I live in Florida, so that will come soon). I plan to have Perform and water in my bottles and refill on course, and supplement with some sort of electrolyte tab (I just bought some salt sticks to try, haven't tried them before). I tried Nuun and hated it. I can also stomach the Bonk Breaker bars on the bike and non-caffeinated Gu and Gu Chomps. So I guess my question is, if I am able to tolerate these in training I should be okay for the race, right? My biggest concern is that I probably won't consume as much in training as I will during the race, so I won't know for sure how that will impact my stomach or energy level.

  2. Bill Salbador says:

    Wow, there is some real Powerbar bashing going on here! It actually isn’t that bad (at least when I mix it myself from powder, I can’t really comment on the premixed bottles). My experience has been that it tastes pretty good as long as it’s cold but it is much less appealing once it warms up! Unfortunately I’ve found that to be the case with most sports drinks. The only one I’ve found that actually continues to be palatable after drinking several hours and even after getting warm is Gleukose. Hats off to the guy who likes Cytomax that stuff tastes wretched to me!!!

  3. Benoit Lamarche says:

    Thank you for your article and comments. I do research for a living and I thought your perspective was very objective and straigt to the point. I just completed my first IM in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, which by the way was a great (positive experience); I was reluctant however to depend on the Perform drink, which I was not familiar with. I filled all the bottles I could to go as far as possible with my own stuff (Cytomax) and when I tried Perform, I just couldn't bare the taste… I had to sustain myself with water and carbs/electrolytes from other sources nut in the end all went well. FInal word, I though Perform tastes really bad and will never use it…

  4. Mtn biker says:

    This stuff is not new. It is the same product as Powerbar Endurance – which has been discontinued and rebranded as "Ironman Perform." Same thing with the recovery drink – Powerbar Recovery is now Ironman Restore. I had been using Powerbar Endurnace/Recovery for years (with good results) so I was a little freaked out when I couldn't find it anymore – until I realized Ironman Perform/Restore are the exact same products.

  5. Chris says:

    Aloha Ben
    Any thought on custom made products such as "Infinit"?
    I have been using my blend for a year and it has worked great, of course the problem is keeping my own stash on the run portion of a 1/2 IM?
    Mahalo
    CG
    Honolulu Hawaii

    1. Yes, I am a fan of Infinit – depending on the blend you use! And you can always use it on the bike and then switch to course nutrition on the run…

  6. Gail says:

    My friend had just done the Louisville IM recently and she said the IM Perform hurt her stomach for days. I bought 3 bottles to try in training and I never had a problem. However, during the recent Kona Ironman, I drank about 4 bottles of it during the ride and then drank it throughout the run. After the race, I was nausiated and sick for hours. I continued to have terrible burning in my stomach for four days afterwards. I had to take Prevacid daily (something I never have had to take before). I’ve done numerous sprints, Olympics, 13 half ironmans, 2 ironmans, and have been in this sport for 9 years without ever having this problem before. The only thing I did differently was having the Ironman Perform during the race instead of Gatorade or Gatorade endurance. I just wondered if other people are having similar issues with long distance racing and Perform. I wonder if this drink is fine in smaller quantities but perhaps in larger amounts can cause gastritis? I wonder about the acidity of it? Wondering if anyone else has consumed 3-4+ bottles in a race and how they fared?

    1. Penny says:

      My friend just did her 15th IM in Louisville over the weekend and she was not able to do her best on the run because of gastro issues due to the Perform drink on the bike. She believes it cost her a slot for Kona b/c she trains with Gatorade and tried to rely on Perform in the same way she does Gatorade (no additional salt/electrolyte tabs). She used gels and power bars like she always has… the only difference being the Perform. From now on she will train for IM events using supplemental tabs for adequate salt/electrolyte balance.

  7. Patrick and Jeff, the response to your comments is basically the same:

    Sure, it's OK stuff, but there's no way it can be used by ITSELF, and caution should be used if it is relied upon as a primary carbohydrate and electrolyte source. Exogenous salt pills, gels or other salt/calorie sources will almost always be necessary.

  8. Patrick A says:

    -cont-
    I see Perform as nothing more than the replacement fuel for WTC "Ironman" races. In that sense, it only has to be as good as Gatoraid Endurance, which I believe it is. I like that maltodextrin replaces sucrose as a sweetener. I like that both drinks have essentially the same amount of sodium, despite Perform tasting far less salty. I like that Perform's taste is much more subtle, or more accurately it doesn't have Gatoraid Endurance's powerfully sweet taste that gets downright unbearable hour after hour.

    The only pertinent argument I've heard against it is that is stains water bottles. I've only used it in the bottles provided. Still, I think it's an honest attempt to cater to the endurance athlete; something not enough nutrition companies do. And if you plan on racing an Ironman or an Ironman 70.3, you better get used to it either way.

  9. Patrick A says:

    I'd like to speak in defense of the Ironman Perform drink. I think we're all getting a little carried away with the skeptic, anti-establishment mentailty. It's a pretty elementary idea that one would fuel only with a sport drink for races long enough to require supplemental fueling techniques. The drink has pitfalls, sure, but it's not any more of a bad idea than fueling only with gels, only with fruit or only with any other sport drink for a marathon or long-course triathlon. The fact is, Ironman Perform should be used in combination with other fueling and hydrating practices that cater to your specific nutritional needs. There is no "one size fits all" scenario.

  10. Jeff Hoening says:

    and wonder how many IM pros will actually drink this stuff on the course? Thanks for the objective review, Ben.

  11. Jeff Hoening says:

    Well said, Ben. Marketing hype all the way. Agree 100% on the water only + GU Roctane + S Caps (salt/potassium caps) during events as this has worked extremely well for me. I hear of athletes getting sugar-saturated resulting in gastro issues all the time. PowerBar and Gatorade are huge companies with equally huge marketing budgets.

    BTW, love the idea of breaking up your show into Q&A and Featured Topic. 45 min to 1 hour is my favorite length for a show. Great work, man

  12. Jill says:

    thanks for this Ben. Good info that I can share with my runners.
    Hmmmm….I'm interested in trying the coconut water & nuun combo on my next long run. Actually, sounds kinda tasty

  13. GU Brew (powder), Coconut Water with a nuun tab mixed in, Hammer Gel HEED

  14. Rooney says:

    What are your top 3 recommended sports drinks?

  15. @liorsion says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the article, not that we'll get to see this in Israel anytime soon, but the logic behind is interesting to read.

    Have you ever used a sports drink that was your primary fuel source? Looking at most of the drinks I know, I always find myself in need of an extra 150-200 cal/hour + salt pills anyway..

    1. I've used Perpetuum by Hammer Gel, but it was logistically difficult not to let it spoil – and still had to add extra salt pills to it. Incidentally, I always use liquid fuel for Sprint and Olympic distance races – GU Electrolyte Brew.

  16. Good article and very good research… we know Ben Greenfield researches everything that he gives his recommendations on. We are looking forward to his analysis of our alkaline mineral water.

  17. Karen says:

    I've found that Ironman Perform Sports Drink stains my water bottles orange. Not the best tasting either, but will use during some of my training since it will be the main option at IM WI.

    1. Ingredients: Water, C2MAX energy blend (maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose), less than 1%: citric acid, trisodium citrate, natural flavor, salt, magnesium citrate, potassium citrate, turmeric for color.

      Almost certainly that turmeric. Interestingly, note that it DOES have magnesium and potassium, which I was aware of. This is a positive development.

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