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Healthy v cr*ppy: how to spot the difference

Candy, burgers, soda, donuts and so on – we all know this stuff isn’t good for us. Doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s place, but at no time are we, as performance-minded ultrarunners, ever going to chow down on it and think, “this is really good for me and will definitely make me faster, healthier and leaner”. Never going to happen, because although they’re loaded with sugar, packed with additives and more, these products are at least honest. You know they are crap long before you put them in your mouth.

as performance-minded ultrarunners, ever going to chow down on it and think, “this is really good for me and will definitely make me faster, healthier and leaner

Honest nutrition…

Sports nutrition though is rarely honest. While it loudly proclaims health and performance from its packaging, labeling, marketing and more, dig into the ingredients and you’ll find they’re basically the same as the candy, chocolate bars and other sweet treats you’d run a mile from if you were after something healthy.

You only have to look at the flavors to see this in full glaring Technicolor.

Sports nutrition is a world of raspberry ripple, chocolate fudge, salted caramel, vanilla cream, pecan pie and more and sadly, these flavors most commonly associated with sweet junk foods have not miraculously been turned into purveyors of the finest health and performance just because they are now called ‘sports nutrition’, are wrapped in a shiny packet with a runner/bodybuilder/fitness model on the front  and cost several times more than their candy shop equivalents.

Nope, read the ingredients and you’ll find as many or more varieties of processed sugars, colorants, additives and preservatives than you will in the candy.

If you’re confused by all this, don’t worry. You’re not alone. This picture snapped in a central London supermarket recently sums up the conundrum perfectly. As you can see the store in question has removed sweets from their checkout to be healthy. A good move and to be applauded. Except in place of the sweets they’ve put… sports nutrition loaded with the same ingredients they just got rid of with the sweets. Oh, and a way higher price tag. Doh.


Candy is honest, sports nutrition is not.


So how do you tell the difference between healthy and crappy? There are two simple methods:

1 Ignore the claims, read the ingredients:

Any ingredient with ‘ose’ in the ending is sugar. So is maltodextrin, cane juice, rice syrup and everything else on this list of the 56 other names for sugar. If there’s loads in there, it’s expensive candy.

Beware multiple sources too, as these are often used to dilute the sugar throughout the label and hide the total amount – if only one source were used it would often be the number one ingredient and, rightly, healthy consumers would run a mile from it.

2 Does it look like a candy bar or have a candy bar flavor?

Then it’s expensive candy. Forget the marketing hype and the perfect abs of the model on the packet and engage common sense instead, this will work much better.

It’s as simple as that. You can eat as much candy and junk food as you like, and when you’re running hard there’s a time and place for those things if you enjoy them, but by employing the two rules above you never need to fall into the trap of eating junk while being blindsided into thinking it’s actually good for you. Just as with our earlier post on fat-burning, you are now in control of your nutritional choices. Nice work!


1Warren Pole should know a thing or two about the difference between crap ingredients and good ones, he has spent the last few years of his life perfecting his healthy gels with 33Shake.  We have partnered with the 33shake team because we love good products, good people, and small business!


Scott is the founder of Becoming Ultra and spends most of his time with his family and ideas to get people moving!

1 thought on “Healthy vs. Crappy: How to spot the difference.”

  1. It is very simple. If there is a list of ingredients, then it’s not healthy. If you get it from the produce aisle and there’s no writing on it, then it’s most likely a healthy snack.

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