Review – Wiggle Nutrition Energy Drink

Wiggle energy drink cycling

After discovering the benefits of better quality energy drinks and gels back in 2010 while training for the Back Yamma Big Foot mountain bike race, I’ve been a consistent user of these products. Online bike-store Wiggle has now entered this specialist market with their own-branded range of sports drinks. To examine how the new range stacks up against established brand names, I grabbed the bike, worked up a thirst, and took a quaff for BNA.

Why use a specialist sports drink?

As long ago as the early nineties, I was warned by a pair of sports nutritionists at a surf training camp to avoid using the simple table sugar (sucrose) in lollies and sports drinks to top up my energy levels during events. Sugar was accused of giving a quick energy hit, but then dumping you just as fast – no good at all for success in endurance activities. The advice was certainly consistent with my real world experience.

Fast-forward almost two decades… during a ride out on Perimeter and Long Trails at Terrey Hills, I was feeling awful in the second half of the ride after attempting to top up energy stores by quaffing half a bidon of Staminade; it brought their words sharply back to mind. I was good for a few minutes, but the remainder of the ride back to the trail head was memorably uncomfortable.

Unlike these cheap-to-produce supermarket drinks, which feature just simple table sugar and table salt on the active ingredient list, the more specialized rehydration products use a combination of fructose (fruit sugar) and maltodextrin (a starch) to give you the needed quick lift followed by a much longer sustained burn. In addition to regular salt found in Gatorade, most brands will also include potassium salts and some, like Endura and SiS, magnesium salts as well.

The main benefit I find I get from these specialist products over the supermarket drinks or plain water is that I can sustain a higher intensity for much longer, without digging myself into a blood sugar hole from exhausting my carbohydrate stores. Ultimately, the higher intensity brings about greater fitness gains. Without this help I find my tank runs empty at around an hour on the bike, even after eating a decent breakfast. When I’m really pushing hard, getting solid food down on the bike can be a real challenge, especially on uneven terrain while breathing hard. Fluids are so much easier and safer.

Given that I like to hit up some hill intervals a couple of times a week on the way to work for a 90-120 minute workout, maintaining carb stores is key, not only to training hard, but also to avoiding the post-workout funk that can adversely impact my ability to maintain appropriate work performance in a fast-paced environment.

The problem with many of the better products is the expense. Often they can run at two to three times the cost of the supermarket drinks in powdered form. Previously, I had been using and highly recommending High5 EnergySource, which came in about the same cost as the supermarket sports drinks, but since the second half 2014, the larger 2.2kg tubs have been embargoed by the manufacturer from being sold from overseas into Australia. This forced me to hunt down an affordable alternative, so when Wiggle announced their own line of product, I was excited.

Wiggle Energy Drink Tub

The Orange Wiggle

Now that I have had the chance to use the Wiggle Energy Drink for a couple of months, from a performance perspective I have not been disappointed. Wiggle Energy Drink certainly ticks all the right boxes. It gives a noticeable lift and, equally important, provides a sustained burn. I would put it in the same performance category as the name brands such as Endura Rehydration Energy Fuel, High5 EnergySource and SiS GO Electrolyte. It is easy to maintain the 1 to 1.2g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass per hour at race pace that is recommended by current sports nutrition knowledge for cycling. The premium priced products do have a slight performance edge, but in the value-for-money stakes, Wiggle Energy Drink is a standout.

Wiggle Energy Drink lacks the magnesium salts of Endura and SiS, which are intended to enhance the mitigation of cramping, but this is a plus for digestibility. I find, in common with many others, that higher doses of magnesium need to be eased into, otherwise it can make me feel nauseous when pacing close to my aerobic limits. Wiggle Energy Drink is easy to digest, and I have never felt nauseous or bloated trying to get it down as I have with some others.

Wiggle Energy Drink Orange Powder

The orange flavour of Wiggle’s Energy Drink is relatively strong, but on the plus side it is not too sweet. I find excessive sweetness is a turnoff with some other brands. If you don’t like the flavour of a drink or find it too sweet, the further you get into the ride the easier it becomes to put off drinking as much as you should, letting your tank run low. This is not such an issue with shorter rides and races (say up to 3 hours), but for longer efforts, like 100km mountain bike marathons and group road rides, it will see you bonking or dehydrating, a uniquely unpleasant experience. A palatable flavour is very important; Wiggle Energy Drink successfully ticks this box.

The consistency of the drink was a little thicker than some others. My feeling about this is that it is neither worse nor better, just different. Combined with the strong flavour, you can possibly say this gives it a less sophisticated “finish”, but considering the excellent affordability it is something I am happy to live with.

Wiggle Energy Drink Dosage

The only issue I have with the product is the excessive amount of colouring. When mixed as directed, the orange colour is quite…Orange, with a capital O, as though you’ve just fed a kilogram of carrots to a blender. Just a single ride left an orange stain on the clear plastic bottles I used, and continued use has resulted in a permanent severe discolouration of the Camelbak bottles.

Wiggle Energy Drink Stained Water Bottle
Both water bottles are empty, the bottle on the left is stained bright orange from the Wiggle energy drink

I was concerned about possible health impacts of so much food dye and raised it with Wiggle directly. Their response was as follows:

“I am however pleased to confirm that the recipes for this product have now been reviewed and we have had a response directly from our manufacturer’s Senior QA Manager. They have confirmed that the products in question are both very clean and simple, including only the carbohydrate/energy source, a flavour (natural orange or blackcurrant) and a natural, plant derived colouring in both cases. All ingredients are screened in depth and are all certified food-safe from high quality, food certified/assessed manufacturers.
 
As the colouring in each case is natural it can make them inherently powerful and, as such, some staining is to be expected and is perfectly normal. This should not be something to be concerned about and if you think along the lines of cutting a beetroot or juicing raw carrots, these would also impart quite a powerful stain so the effect is somewhat similar in this case.

The only other ingredients are simply pure salts…”

According to the disclosure panel on the label, the pigment is beta carotene, a plant-derived precursor to Vitamin A which imparts the orange colour to carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato. A further web search provided this writer with comfort that its consumption is regarded as food safe, even at high levels.

My personal view is so much food colouring in this type of product is unnecessary. In competing products colouring is either used minimally to provide the barest visual hint of the flavour variety (usually gone by the time of consumption), or it is omitted entirely. I’ve suggested they may benefit from substantially cutting it back.

Wiggle Energy Liquid

Wiggle Energy Drink flavours are currently limited to blackcurrant and orange. I didn’t try the blackcurrant as it’s typically not one I like. An expanded range of flavours would broaden the product’s appeal.

(Publisher’s Update: Since writing the above, Wiggle have responded positively to this feedback, with a commitment to reducing the amount of food colouring to eliminate the staining issue, and expect to have updated product in place very soon.)

 

The bottom line

This is a very effective product at an attractive price point. If you are looking to race, or to train, or ride at a higher intensity, this product provides exactly the same benefits as the established leading brand names at a fraction of the cost. In fact, it is priced below even the mass-market supermarket sports drinks. The orange flavour is quite palatable, and the product is readily digestible.

The only reason not to buy in the short term would be if you are particular about the cosmetic appearance of your drink bottles, but if you use opaque or insulated bidons this is a non-issue. Wiggle has committed to quickly dealing with the staining issue. Once this has been taken care of I will be a repeat buyer.

 

Pluses:
Very effective – provides quick uplift and a sustained fuel burn.
Not “peaky” like table sugar (sucrose) based mass market equivalents.
Isotonic electrolyte replacement.
Pleasant flavour.
Avoids excessive sweetness.
Easy to digest and gentle on the stomach.
Very attractively priced.

Minuses:
Limited flavour selection at time of writing
Excessive amounts of colouring will stain clear bottles. This is currently being dealt with and is not expected to be an issue going forward.

 

The 2.2 kilogram orange or blackcurrant flavour Wiggle energy drink is available online from Wiggle in the UK for $27.17 plus postage (from $7.24) with pricing subject to change.



Product Details:

Wiggle energy drink (RRP $ 27.17 plus postage)

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About The Author

knows the regular Sydney mountain biking trails inside out and broadens his horizons discovering more.

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