By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Amino acids, polycose glucose polymers, balanced electrolytes… The chemistry project of modern endurance nutrition often loses sight that athletes need two things, fluid and calories, and they need them fast. Race and training food needs to be palatable when eaten warm out of a jersey pocket four hours into a five hour ride. It needs to be packed with calories for quick absorption and no stomach upset. Cyclists learned this in the 1920’s and during the post war era before there was a category called “sports nutrition”.
Riders in the early Tours de France would carry small meat sandwichs with cheese and miniature casks of wine to sustain themselves during mountain stages that were often over 200 miles long. Famous photos show cyclists using tobacco cigarettes to “open their lungs” for better breathing and ingesting strong espresso coffee as a stimulant on the bike. As recently as the iconic Eddy Borysewicz book of the 1980’s, Bicycle Road Racing, the famous author/Olympic coach told cyclists in time trials to carry a “small flask of coffee” to drink at the turnaround of a 40 kilometer time trial.
Sports nutrition has come a long way but one pleasant confection invented before the sport of bicycle racing and triathlons continues to compare well against the most recent, advanced sports nutritionals; the “Stroopwafel”.
I discovered stroopwafels in the Belgian city of Liberchies where I lived while racing on the amateur Nike/Velo-News/Gatorade cycling team. The stroopwafel was a staple of the endurance cycling diet. It packs dense and readily available simple carbohydrates in an easy to carry format that survives in a jersey pocket on freezing, rainy days as well as boiling hot summer afternoons. Stroopwafels were packed in mussette bags handed up to us a few hours into a race over the Belgian Ardennes or the Dutch lowlands. It was common for a rider to grab the Stroopwafels from their mussette and discard the rest to fans at the side of the road. We knew the stroopwafels worked. A few stroopwafels and a “bidon” or water bottle of strong, sweet tea was all we needed for the next 100 kilometers.
That the stroopwafel never made the leap from boutique patisseries or pastry shops in the U.S. to the cycling and endurance sports market was largely a matter of communication than practicality. That, and a U.S. propensity to make sports nutrition more of a science project with gels and bars and powders, kept the stroopwafel in the confection category and out of the “sports nutrition” category. Lance Armstrong is largely responsible for changing that.
Armstrong recognized the utility of the stroopwafel within the U.S. cycling and endurance sports nutrition industry and spearheaded the effort to market a stroopwafel product to the U.S. endurance sports market. The Honey Stinger Waffle is a hybrid of the original European stroopwafel and shows Armstrong’s obsessive attention to detail. The waffles are individually wrapped to fit preciously in a jersey pocket. The Honey Stinger Waffle is USDA certified “Organic”. Even the package is engineered to be opened easily with one hand (and your teeth) quickly on the bike.
The Honey Stinger Waffle is about 83 millimeters in diameter, a size that is common with the top of most coffee cups. For pre and apres cycling nutrition the waffle can be placed over a common diameter tea or coffee mug where the vapour from the warm drink melts the flavored filling turning this practical sports nutritional into a luxurious confection. The package fits jersey pockets easily and lays flat so you can carry up to a half dozen waffles easily in a jersey pocket.
A Valid “Punch” of Quick Calories: Even Better Than Gels.
A Honey Stinger Waffle packs an impressive 160 calories of energy into an easy to carry and light weight 28 gram packet. Compared to a common/popular energy gel that is 48% more calories in a package that is 18% lighter weight than gel. A Honey Stinger Waffle packs 5.7 calories per gram of weight into its package while a common energy gel only has 2.9 calories per gram of weight.
The original stroopwafels we used in Europe were wrapped in foil by our soigneurs when the mussette bags were prepared for racing or training days. The Honey Stinger Waffle is a more convenient adaptation with better packaging and more stringent control on ingredients that complies with the “organic” standards of the USDA. The Honey Stinger Waffle is sold in five flavors; Lemon, Honey, Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry. While the other flavors including the new chocolate are excellent, its hard to get past the delightful taste of the original organic Honey flavor. Honey Stinger is known for their organic Honey energy gel and their new waffles are a welcomed addition to their organic sports nutrition line up. These waffles are also a pleasant break from gels and bars. They pack valid sports nutrition into a confection that even goes well with ice cream. When was the last time you ate energy gel with vanilla ice cream?