Marathon and ultra runners are bound to burn through a decent number of energy gels in their training and races. With most energy gels priced between two to four dollars, the cost can add up quicker than you realize.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks for that new pair of running shoes, Heinz has recently claimed that their ketchup packets could be the ideal replacement for those pricey gels.
The company’s “Run On Heinz” campaign has garnered a lot of attention in the running community.
Heinz has even gone as far as to post the location of free ketchup packets along routes in the shape of their keystone logo. These ketchup maps can be found on many of the biggest fitness apps, such as Strava.
The ketchup routes are currently located in New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.
Although there are many ketchup lovers out there, even the most passionate may be wondering if you really can swap your nutritious gels, which have exhaustive research and development behind them, for simple ketchup packets.
We not only took a look at what the experts had to say on this campaign, but gave it a try ourselves to see if Heinz could really make its way into the world of sports nutrition.
There were three main factors to take into account when considering using Heinz packets as energy gels including taste, nutritional profile, and logistics.
Taste is a significant factor when runners are considering what gels they want to use during training and races. It can be hard enough to stomach unpalatable gel flavours as is, but during strenuous efforts especially.
Having a gel that tastes good to you makes it more appealing to consume when you’re in a hard training session or race. As a result, you’re more likely to stay on top of fueling and avoid hitting the dreaded wall.
Traditional gels come in all kinds of flavours, whereas, Heinz ketchup is limited to its familiar tangy tomato taste. This could be a flavour you enjoy, but for others who don’t like ketchup as much, it would be a major reason to avoid using Heinz as sports nutrition.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy endurance runners will use during racing and training. To sustain a strenuous effort for a prolonged period of time, you need to be replenishing some of the carbohydrates you are using.
Heinz ketchup does, in fact, contain primarily carbohydrates as a result of the sugar from the tomatoes.
What this means is that from a nutritional standpoint, Heinz would be a viable option if you needed to avoid hitting the wall.
Most energy gels contain between 25 and 30 grams of carbohydrates, with some containing even more.
The current recommendation for endurance athletes is that, depending on the length and intensity of exercise, they would need anywhere from 30-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
Considering that Heinz ketchup packets are around 10ml, each only containing around 2.6 grams of carbohydrates, you would need about 12 packets to reach the lower end of this range.
Needless to say, you would need to be carrying a whole lot of Heinz ketchup packets to meet your fueling needs.
Although I knew using Heinz ketchup packets during my workouts wouldn’t be the most logistical sports nutrition plan, I couldn’t help but give it a try. As someone who puts ketchup on everything, I thought this would be a fun experiment.
I headed out on a two hour training session, during which I would usually consume about 50 grams of carbohydrates total. I planned to consume the same amount of carbohydrates that I normally would despite the large amount of ketchup packets I would be carrying.
As you may have expected, bringing 20 ketchup packets on a training session was pretty ridiculous. I can normally get away with sticking a gel or two in my shorts or sports bra, but this required a waist bag.
Another logistical challenge was actually consuming all of the little packets. Opening 20 packets of ketchup in two hours meant I had to average one packet every six minutes.
In terms of flavour, the first three or four weren’t too bad, especially considering I am a big ketchup fan.
However, the flavour fatigue became really noticeable after the first hour. With every packet I opened, I was fall more and more out of love with ketchup and my body was begging for a different flavour.
Despite the logistical challenges and flavour fatigue, I will give credit to Heinz, as I never did hit the wall. I felt energized through the whole session and was able to finish feeling good.
So, will I be carrying Heinz packets in future races or training? Probably not. But I know that if I’m ever in a pinch and about to hit a wall, Heinz could come in and save the day.