More Spring Energy Products Found to Be “Fraudulent,” And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco

We spoke with Jason Koop on why the Awesomesauce debacle goes way beyond the gels

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We discussed the fiasco on the latest episode of The Marathon Handbook Podcast, which you can check out below:

The ultrarunning world recently burst into flames after it was confirmed that Spring Energy’s Awesomesauce Gel was far from Awesome.

Spring Energy, a booming nutrition brand in the ultra and trail running world, alongside a few key brand partners and ambassadors, are under fire for propping up a gel that is not what it claims to be, which is causing a huge uproar in the running community.

The fiasco went viral when the brand was called out by the respected ultra coach and podcaster Jason Koop on Wednesday for creating a “fraudulent” product. This comes after months of speculation within the ultra community that something wasn’t quite right with the company’s popular Awesomesauce gels.

Koop revealed in an initial Instagram Reel that he, along with countless Reddit runners, had grown suspicious of Spring Energy’s claims that its gels contained a significant amount of calories and carbohydrates, which didn’t seem correct for the amount and consistency of the product in each gel.

So Koop decided to buy a bunch of the Awesomesauce gels and ship them to a third-party lab for testing. The results were an ultrarunner’s nightmare.

More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 1

Spring Energy claims that each Awesomesauce Energy Gel contains a whopping 180 calories and 45g of carbs. 

This is an attractive package for ultrarunners looking to stave off a caloric deficit, which, as Koop points out, will make or break a race over time. 

For recreational ultrarunners, it could mean the difference between success and failure after months of hard work. For elite athletes, it could have huge negative consequences on their career if they inexplicably fall apart mid-race. And for all athletes, Koop notes, a misinformed nutrition plan on the trails could lead to a serious health crisis for some.

And at $4.80 a pop, you’d hope to get what you’re paying for from an Awesomesauce gel.

When Koop got the lab analysis result, it showed that each 54g serving contained only 75 calories and 18g of carbs, less than half of what the packaging claims.

We sat down to talk to Jason Koop, and the situation goes far beyond the Awesomesauce gels after two other gels from the brand’s lineup were sent to the lab and turned up short. The fiasco also goes beyond just the gels, as Koop dives into the ethics behind the company and the people involved.

More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 2

What’s The Deal With These Two Other Gels?

Let’s start by sharing the results from the two other gels Koop had tested.

First up: Spring Energy’s Hill Aid Gel

Claims on the label:

  • 120 kcal
  • 20g carbohydrate

Lab testing result:

  • 48kcal
  • 10g carbohydrate
More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 3

Next: Spring Energy’s Canaberry Gel

Claims on the label:

  • 100 kcal
  • 17g carbohydrate

Lab testing result:

  • 43 kcal 
  • 10g carbohydrate
More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 4

As you can see, the other two gels tested also contain about half of the calories and carbohydrates they’re supposed to. But what initially led to Koop getting all these products tested?

Product Testing Timeline

April 12: First thread of dehydration testing arises

April 17: Another dehydration test is completed by another Reddit runner with the same findings

April 17: Another thread appears, this time about a Reddit user who is diabetic and completed blood glucose testing with the product and finds the results inconsistent with the amount of carbohydrates stated on the label. This thread has been removed upon request.

May 5: A GoFundMe is established to pay for testing of 9 products. Results expected before June 1.

May 17: German distributor SportHunger had Spring Energy product tested in a lab and found consistent results to previous Redditor testing. However, this did not go viral, and people continued to state that the claims were “alleged.”

(Translation of post: https://electriccablecar.com/sport-hunger-tests-awesome-sauce/)

May 26: Spring sends out an email addressing Awesomesauce nutrition discrepancy.

May 27: Spring provides their own lab test to a Reddit user, showing 150 calories/serving (Note: Moisture content of Spring test is half of the moisture content found in all other tested samples):

May 28: Jason Koop posts the results of having sent Awesomesauce to a lab. Results are consistent with results from non-Spring parties (75 calories/packet).

May 29: Spring removes nutrition info from the Awesomesauce page on their site. Hours later, the product page is fully removed.

More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 5

May 30: Jason Koop posts a second Reel on Instagram to share results from two other Spring Energy products that were sent to the lab. Compared to the nutrition facts printed on the labels, both Hill Aid and Canaberry gels were short on carbohydrates and calories.

May 30: Spring Energy posts a statement video on Instagram, claiming they meant no harm and are planning on reformulating their recipe and reevaluating their manufacturing process.

Beyond The Gels: The Ethical Dilemma 

Although Koop’s Instagram post may have been the catalyst for the nutritional reality of Spring Energy gels, the issue extends far beyond the gels themselves.

What stands out as a more prominent issue is the ethical ignorance of the people behind Spring Energy.

Two prominent running coaches, David and Megan Roche, who are heavily associated with the brand, are under fire for their reported involvement. Although a statement from David claims that the pair were only involved in taste-testing and naming of the product, Koop believes they need to be held accountable for their involvement. 

Megan currently holds a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and PhD from Stanford University and is also a co-founder and running coach with SWAP Running, which is a big issue in this scenario according to Koop.

“It’s really, really disappointing because when, especially when you have an MD PhD and lending that expertise to a product to market it, the assumption from the marketplace is you are using your MD PhD expertise in some form or fashion to develop that product,” Koop said.

“But that’s just a natural assumption with everything. And both parties kind of ran with that. Both parties kind of ran with this, ‘We developed it. We created it. We, you know, whatever vocabulary they’re actually using.’ And I just think that that’s a big falsehood, a big piece of the lying part of the storyline, the fact that an MD/PhD who’s Hippocratic oath is “Do no harm.” It’s basically zero due diligence.”

“I just can’t imagine a medical doctor who’s Hippocratic oath is “Do no harm” to endorse a product, a new product in the marketplace; that defies physics. A new product product in the marketplace that had a fantastic storyline that ended up being false and actually hurt athletes,” Koop told us.

More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 6

Although her certifications merit a high level of scrutiny, Megan Roche isn’t the only one in the hot seat. Koop explains that he sees the level of accountability on different levels, depending on certification and involvement:

“Here’s the thing. I just think that there’s levels to it. Who’s to speculate how the community actually views this. But the first level of it is, is your peers. So, if a peer says, “Hey, I like this product. Why don’t you try it?” The other person is going to say, “Okay, great. I trust you.” You know, you’re my friend. You’re not trying to do anything wrong to me. Right? They probably have no culpability in the whole thing.”

“The next piece of it are the elite athletes and the ambassadors. So they’re getting paid. Right? Get that out of the way. In some form or fashion, with product coupon codes, they’re either paid a stipend and or they’re paid off of the sales that their discount codes create or whatever. They’re recommending these products. But honestly, even with that financial entanglement, it’s kind of hard to ask them to put up this level of scrutiny. Sure, they should probably demand more of the company to be more transparent. Because it’s still there. But honestly, I don’t think we can put all of that up on them.”

“And then you have the athletes that have a signature product. And that carries a little bit more responsibility. You’re putting your name on it. You have to do a little bit of due diligence. But how much? Certainly above the “friend who recommends it” and certainly above the “ambassador that recommends it” [level]. If you’ve got your name on it, you need to apply some level of scrutiny to the product because people trust you because of your name.”

“And then the apex of it is what we’ve been talking about earlier. It’s the people who are or have claimed to be involved in the development or creation or formulation of the product. They hold a lot of responsibility, regardless if that claim is actually true or not. If you claim to have been responsible for the development of the product, you’re an authority figure, whether you’re athlete or a coach that has a signature product that is involved in the origin of it and, and in this case also has advanced degrees. That situation requires the most scrutiny possible because everybody is going to believe it. And you’re ethically obligated to put the most amount of scrutiny on it.”

One well known Spring Energy ambassador Sage Canaday also finds herself in the center of the controversy, as he had his name across the Spring Energy Canaberry Gel, which was also shown to be nutritionally lacking.

More Spring Energy Products Found to Be "Fraudulent," And an Interview with Coach Jason Koop on the Awesomesauce Fiasco 7

What’s Next For Spring Energy And The Industry?

In a statement video on Instagram, Spring Energy claimed they would be reevaluating and reformulating their products to better meet the needs of athletes. However, plenty of comments online show that regardless of any remanufacturing, too much trust has been lost and many athletes will be moving to other brands.

However, the debacle may also have fractured the trust athletes have with many brands, regardless of whether they themselves used Spring Energy.

Koop says it may be beneficial for other companies to do their own lab testing to prove their brands and products are what they say they are, to help rebuild that trust with their athletes.

“Companies know that a little bit of trust has been deteriorated,” Koop said. “And if I were a PR person at any of those companies, that’s absolutely what I would do. I’d spend a few thousand bucks, get all my products tested. Here we go. We had all our products tested. They’re exactly what they say they are; or they send them over to Informed Choice or NSF or to do that for them. So they don’t hold the risk of people calling them biased.”

We reached out to David and Megan Roche for an interview, but received a statement from David instead. You can read the full statement below:

Our hope is to always lead with love and kindness in the world, especially when it’s frustrating and maddening. This is one of those hard times.

It’s infuriating that the nutrition was wrong on Spring Energy’s Awesomesauce gel, and we are thankful to the smart people who figured it out on Reddit (including a brilliant athlete we coach who started the initial thread). When we described our concerns to Spring, we were assured that the nutrition was correct and they followed all FDA regulations. We left the Spring sponsorship a couple years ago, and we never received compensation for proposing the name/doing taste testing (outside of the $200 per month that we both received as sponsored athletes). Since then, we have publicly directed athletes to other options for high-carb fueling, while hoping to be a source of love and support in the community.

Our podcast covered our concerns as soon as the nutrition results from a German lab test indicated that we wouldn’t be risking making defamatory statements about a small business without substantial evidence. That test showed us that the assurances we and others received were likely lies. Other tests have confirmed the lies.

We are sorry for our involvement in the naming and taste of the gel, and for our prior association with the company. We wish we could go back in time and tell ourselves that nutrition labels can list fraudulent calorie totals, and we wish we could undo the health and performance struggles that so many runners have felt due to the egregious mislabeling.

We love you all! Yes, ALL 🧡🧡🧡 The world can be dark and scary, especially on social media, and we hope that we can help fill your lives with as much light and as many calories as possible 🌈

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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