Product Review: First Endurance EFS Electrolyte Drink

As an athlete, I’ve been somewhat of a connoisseur of sports nutrition over the past several years. When I started training for iron-distance triathlons, I figured out rather quickly that I needed to find something that would fuel me without making me feel like a ton of bricks or like I wanted to expel said nutrition from some part of my body. Seems easy enough, right? 

Wrong.

I won’t turn this into a long post about all the things that didn’t work – but I should say first what I didn’t like about my old products. Here’s my list of complaints:

1. Too sweet. I would be in the middle of workouts thinking about brushing my teeth. That’s gross.
2. Grainy. The mix wouldn’t dissolve all the way and wouldn’t mix well.
3. Chalky. Some of the “endurance” powders tasted chalky or thick.
4. Too low of electrolyte count. I would need pills on top of my drink mix. Carrying them in my jersey was a pain and fumbling with pills while sweaty was gross. 
5. Stomach distress. My stomach would feel bloated after some drinks, and bloat on the bike is awful. Sloshy stomach on the run is even worse. I set Porta Potty PRs in my second Ironman race. Not the payoff from training that I had hoped for.

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The list goes on, but I’ll focus on what did work: First Endurance EFS Liquid Shots, and EFS Electrolyte Drink

I converted last year to the First Endurance line after hearing their EFS drink worked well for a friend, and the liquid shots were intriguing to me as well because of their amazing texture (not too thick, with no gelling agents). I also saw the EFS Electrolyte drink was the highest electrolyte content available, which I believed would help with my cramping and dehydration, as well as refuel my muscles faster than drink + pills. 

My first go with EFS Electrolyte drink was with the Tart Lemon-Lime flavor. All natural flavors, no colors, and no artificial sweeteners made me wonder what it would taste like, but the taste is awesome and can be mixed at various strengths to suit one’s individual preferences. I keep mine at the recommended amount of 1.5 scoops for an 18 oz bottle, and I find it to be just right.

The first thing I noticed was the texture of the powder – it’s almost totally smooth and dissolves instantly into my bottle. No epic shaking necessary and no clumping at the bottom of the bottle. The next thing I noticed was that it tasted good cold and warm, which is not always the case (a previous nutrition choice of mine actually soured/went bad in the heat – a lesson learned the hard way…). And the calorie count is right on for me. With 96 calories per scoop, I’m getting about 150 per bottle. This can be mixed at double strength for a 300 calorie bottle, but I haven’t had to try it that way yet. 

ImageThere’s a reason why this product has almost 50 five-star reviews on its website: it really works. The gluten-free formula sits well for me, fuels me for strong efforts (I’ve used it both cycling and running), and doesn’t slosh around. It tastes great any way I make it and it mixes quickly. This one drink gives me pretty much everything I need to make the most of my performance. In both training and racing, I’ve been happy with my switch to EFS Electrolyte Drink. So happy that I applied for sponsorship from them, because this is awesome stuff. 

Jugs are sold online and in cycling and running shops. Definitely worth a shot if you’re looking for peak performance without having to think too much about timing of extra pills.

Here’s the specs from the website
THE HIGHEST ELECTROLYTE CONTENT AVAILABLE
Clinical research shows endurance athletes require much higher levels of electrolytes than most sports drinks provide to prevent cramping and dehydration (4). The new EFS drinks now contains over 1,160mg of all 5 electrolytes per serving, more than any electrolyte drink on the market. 

THE LATEST AMINO ACID TECHNOLOGY
The Amino Acids in the EFS drinks are AjiPure amino acids, the purest, most- bioavailable source of free-form amino acids available. AjiPure amino acids have purity levels of 99%-100%. This results in faster and more complete absorption. 

SUPERIOR CALCIUM BIOAVALIBILITYImage
The new EFS formulas utilize two unique sources of calcium and magnesium. DiCalcium malate and Dimagnesium malate have superior bioavailability compared to other mineral sources. In a bioavailability study, absorption rates were between 20% and 100% higher using DiCalcium and DiMagnesium malates (1). 

NOW WITH MALIC ACID
The new EFS drink contains 700mg of Malic Acid, which was not found in the previous formula. Malic acid stimulates oxygen consumption by increasing mitochondrial uptake, improving mitochondrial respiration and increasing energy producti

 

HITS Naples 140.6 race report – race and results

 Race Day
I woke up at 4:55 am and had a bagel with peanut butter, honey, and banana, along with a cup of coffee and water. I double checked my nutrition, filled my bottles, put on my chip, and we were out the door around 6 am to get to transition, which was 5 miles away.

The traffic leading up to transition was stopped, because it was one road leading to a parking garage and an outdoor lot. I got out of the car and walked with my stuff the last quarter mile or so. Actually, I jogged straight to the portapotty, and then into transition for body marking. I set up transition, which did not have racks for bikes; the bike tire gets racked in a low bin make out of wood. This makes for bins near the tires for extra items, which was great for putting my wetsuit in and out of the way during T1. I put my wetsuit on halfway, grabbed my goggles, cap and Aquaphor, and head towards the beach as they closed transition at 6:40 am. After a few more rest stops, I put my cap on, put Aquaphor on my neck, wrists, and ankles, and zipped up. The race director did the final speech, and we all went towards shore. The race was both half distance and full distance athletes starting at the same time: 70.3 did one loop of the swim, and 140.6 did two loops.

The Swim (1:15:00, 20th place)
My goggles are not great. I have not been able to find a goggle that fits my narrow face without sucking my eyeballs out. The ones I was using, TYR Nano, would have worked okay… but when I put them on I still have a bit of Aquaphor on my hand, which made it impossible to see out of the lenses. I calmly found a spectator in a t-shirt on the shore and asked him to clean them for me, as my wetsuit wasn’t going to help me much. Thank you, kind sir! I went into the water and popped down to get water in my suit. The water temperature was perfect both before and during the swim. Not too cold, but no overheating either. As I fixed my goggles, the gun went off and the race started. This was not at all concerning to me, as I am totally fine with taking off in the swim whenever. I’m finding that I don’t need to start as far back as typically have, but I do not need to be on the front line for a swim. I started off calmly and without problem.

This was, without question, my best swim ever. Lake Placid might be my favorite swim ever because of the underwater cord, but in terms of my physical and mental performance, this was my best. I did swim off course a bit, but I also did all of the swim alone, without drafting, as there just weren’t enough people. I did single side breathing most of the time, stayed in a comfortable breathing pattern, and switched sides occasionally, particularly when the sun came up on the second loop. After the first loop I had to run up on the sand (only about three feet) and go around the buoy. I wished for some water to drink after the first loop but there was none. After a few high fives, it was back in the water with myself and the other full athletes, and off again. I adjusted my goggles and got a few extra breaths in, and took off again. I was focused on kicking and pulling, and spent the swim focusing on my form.

T1 (2:52)
I came out of the water alone and started running the quarter mile to transition as I stripped my wetsuit. Once near transition there were real wetsuit strippers. I ran into transition and saw a LOT of bikes. Usually about half are gone by the time I’m in, but most were still there. I knew I had a decent swim. I tried to put some spray sunblock on but could not get the nozzle to open, so I abandoned it quickly. I forgot a towel to dry my feet, so I used my morning shirt and then put my socks and shoes on. I put my race belt on backwards (on purpose), helmet on and clipped, sunglasses in my mouth, and ran out and across the street to mount my bike.

The bike (5:30:28, 4th fastest)
I had a solid plan: ride easy for the first 30 miles, more steady for the next 30, faster for 60-90, and easier for 90-112. In theory this is great, but I know that the 80 to 90 mile segment has historically felt like it was hours long, so it would be difficult to do. I started passing people within the first 5 miles of the ride, but some were 70.3 athletes, which I could tell from their race numbers.

At mile 5, I passed my wife, who wore an orange shirt (perfect for sighting!). I yelled to her for some sunblock on my way back, but I knew I would be fried by that time. She rang the cowbell and yelled, and I was gone. I passed more people from mile 10 to 28, where the half athletes turned around, until I was mostly alone. The wind was about 15 to 20 miles per hour, and switched direction frequently, which was confusing. I took in only water until mile 15, when I took an EFS shot.

My bike nutrition was three flasks of First Endurance EFS liquid shots (1200 calories), to be supplemented with on course drinks. The EFS shots worked very well for me in training, particularly on my Knighthood ride, and did not cause stomach distress, which had been a problem for me at Ironman Lake Place 2012. I had one bad drink at the first stop (they mixed the recovery drink instead of the electrolyte drink, noticeable to me by taste, so I tossed it) and I had one missed drink handoff before the halfway point. I did not finish the one bottle of their electrolyte drink, but I did finish my three flasks of First Endurance EFS shots. The final flask was a mixture of the EFS liquid shot and half serving of PreRace, to make a sort of rocket fuel for the run. I wanted to make sure my stomach would be okay before taking this. To my surprise, I felt great on the entire ride, despite the heat and excessive sweating. I did not make any bathroom stops, which was slightly concerning.

The course was an out and back, so I could see the leaders as I approached the halfway point. The 1, 2, and 3 guys were a good distance ahead and I knew I would not catch them. But I was surprised to count off 4, 5, 6, 7 and then the guy in front of me at the turn, putting me in 8th place at the halfway point. I passed 8 and 7 within a mile of the turnaround, and kept a steady pace. I kept repeating to myself that I had to “stay within myself,” meaning not exert any extra energy at this point, and that the goal was to put together a solid run after this, which helped me keep the cadence high and steady. I passed the number 6 guy about 28 miles out, and stayed in 5th place until T2.

T2 (1:28, fastest T2)
I knew I could chop huge chunks of time off my PR with faster transitions. I At mile 107 I passed my wife again and got sunscreen, so I had to put some on before the run. I dismounted, ran to my rack, swapped my shoes, squirted a ton of sunscreen in my hands and on my arms, and ran out dripping white. I rubbed it in as I ran.

The run (4:03:36, 4th fastest)
2014-01-11 17.40.32There were no clocks so I had no idea what my race time was at this point. I ran out steady, knowing that I have a tendency to run out too fast and slow down. I wanted an even pace for the race, and I knew that if I could keep running, I’d likely stay in the top 5 because it was so hot that most of the runners around me were walking and holding side cramps. This was the case with the number 4 guy, who I passed around mile 3. At the turn around at mile 6.55 I used the portapotty, and at the mile 7 rest stop I sat to put vasoline on my left foot, which developed a hot spot during the bike segment. At that time, a volunteer poured ice water on my head – it was wonderful, except that my left shoe got soaked. I ran away with a squish-squish-squish in my left shoe. I passed the two guys behind me around then, noting that they were about a mile back. It would have taken a very strong marathon effort to pass me, but I had to make sure to keep my pace up. I stopped again at mile 9 aid s

At the turnaround near the finish line, they told me I was in 5th place. I was confused because I was passing people on the run who I wasn’t sure was part of the full race. I was happy with 5th, and took off again. I chose not to do a special needs bag, but I would in the future put a pair of socks in there.tation to ring out my left sock and blot my left shoe to take up some of the water. I had one gel here, my first of the run.

The second half marathon was steady, and I focused on mile by mile progress. I didn’t walk at all, except the length of the tables at the aid stations. I drank a little coke at every other table. Around mile 14, my stomach started making a sloshy popping noise, so I backed off the liquid, even though my body said it wanted more. I think the heat – it was 85 degrees with no shade – was telling me I should continue to drink. I didn’t have any more until mile 20, when I had a second gel.

On the way back for my final 10K of the race, I kept a steady pace. At that point I knew the 1, 2, and 3 guys were too far ahead of me to catch. I was on track to finish just around my goal time of 11 hours, when I saw my wife about 2 miles out. I asked what time it was and she said 5:40, meaning I had 20 minutes to get there. I instantly picked up the pace to about sub 7 -minute miles and kept that pace through the final two miles. It actually felt great to open up my stride a bit from the iron shuffle I had been doing. I knew I could hold it for 2 miles, and then at one mile the finish line was close enough to really go in for it. I finished the final two miles in about 13:30, and crossed the line with a finish time of 10:53:26, blowing away my 11 hour goal.

At the line they announced me as 5th, and then told me I was actually 4th overall. The 5th place finisher arrived over 8 minutes later.

2014-01-11 17.56.00 2014-01-11 18.05.46

Final 20-mile run

Today was my final 20-mile run leading up to the HITS Naples Full triathlon. It was a struggle to get out of the door, and a struggle to stay out. It is December 22 and it was 70 degrees in NYC today, so there was no excuse not to do the run. I originally planned a ride to Bear Mountain, but didn’t leave early enough. Looking over my schedule, I decided the run was more important, so run it was.

I tried to really nail my nutrition this run. I was right on in terms of intake, using First Endurance EFS shots of Kona Mocha at :45, 1:25, 2:05, and 2:45. The first 11 miles were outside – over the Queens bridge, into Brooklyn, over the Williamsburg bridge, and home for water. I didn’t carry any and I needed it badly. The second half was a struggle again, but my negotiation was to do it on the treadmill so I could drink.

Pace was around 8:20/mile average, and distance was over 20 miles, but the treadmill stopped once so I lost the exact number.

In all, tough run mentally but this was huge confidence builder for me in my final week of hard training.

New Sponsor

I am happy to announce I’ve been sponsored by First Endurance nutrition for the coming season! I’ve been a fan of their products for a while, particularly the OptygenHP and Ultragen recovery drink. It’s awesome to have the support of a company dedicated to peak performance. From their site:

First Endurance integrates the latest clinical research with the input from the best cyclists, runners and triathletes in the world to provide the ultimate endurance-specific sports nutrition. The First Endurance product line was designed from the beginning to work as a complete endurance system. Each product has been designed to compliment the others. First Endurance offers everything an endurance athlete needs to maximize endurance and performance. There’s no reason or need to use anything else.