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Canadian ultrarunner Reid Coolsaet weighs in on Awesome Sauce controversy

Incorrect labelling on the popular Spring Energy gel's packaging has led to underfuelling in pro runners, among them Canada's Reid Coolsaet, who shared his experience on social media

Reid Coolsaet Photo by: Vasily Samoylov

Carbs, calories and conflicting labels have been the focus of ultra-trail talk on social media over the last few weeks, all circling around Spring Energy’s Awesome Sauce gel. In an Instagram post, Olympic marathoner and ultra-trail runner Reid Coolsaet weighed in on his less-than-ideal experience with the race fuel during the 2023 edition of Pike’s Peak Ascent 21K, in Manitou Springs, Colo.–his last competitive race.

“If I had been consuming Awesome Sauce in the peak of my career or in a race I was gunning for the podium, I’d be super pissed,” he said.

Coolsaet’s post comes on the tail of a controversy about Awesome Sauce that has been steadily gaining steam. In April, an ultrarunner on Reddit shared their doubts about Awesome Sauce’s energy content. The original poster, who stated that they worked as an environmental chemist, noticed that they experienced a “hollowed-out stomach” feeling after consuming an Awesome Sauce gel, which claims to pack 180 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrate. They performed an at-home experiment with a dehydrator and a kitchen scale, concluding that an Awesome Sauce gel provides a runner with only around 60 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrate.

While various elites, amateurs and Internet trolls weighed in on their beliefs around the content of Awesome Sauce, coach and pro ultrarunner Jason Koop purchased some gels and sent them to an independent lab for testing, then shared the results on his website and Instagram. The verdict? Koop reports that an Awesome Sauce gel contains 75 calories (not 180, as labelled), and 18 grams of carbohydrate (as opposed to the 45 grams claimed on the label).

Coolsaet explains the challenges that committing poor fuelling choices (unknowingly) caused him. While he struggled during the final third of Pike’s Peak, he assumed it was due to altitude (the race finishes at over 4,000m). “I didn’t think fueling had anything to do with falling apart because I thought I was consuming about 65 grams of carbs per hour,” said Coolsaet, who was drinking Tailwind and eating Awesome Sauce gels during the race. “Now it sounds like instead of 45 grams of carbs in each Awesome Sauce there are only 18 grams (check out @jasonkoop’s post). So I was really only getting 35 grams of carbs an hour, which isn’t going to cut it when racing for 2-3 hours.”

At the end of April, Spring Energy responded to the Reddit poster, stating that they value constructive criticism and input. “Our analysis supports the accuracy of our product labeling. However, we will reevaluate to make sure our data is accurate,” they wrote.

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