What is the cheapest supplement to improve athletic performance?

competitionA long duration strenuous exercise can easily deplete one’s glycogen stores, our body’s source of quick energy. Already in the 30’s, studies showed that providing athletes on treadmill with sugar water can delay their fatigue. Based on that, today there is an array of products like energy shots, energy gels, energy bars, energy chews and even sports jelly beans to enhance one’s performance. Such products tend to be expensive and not easily available. Are this “specially designed” supplements essential for optimal performance? Or perhaps there is a simple, cost-effective and natural alternative to this kind of energy supplements?

Two recent studies (see below) compared raisins, sports gel and sports jelly beans in their effect on endurance. The studies were designed to examine potential differences in metabolism and cycling performance. The studies were extremely thorough, and included measurements of the time to complete 10-km time trials; power output; blood concentrations of glucose, insulin, lactate, free fatty acids (FFAs), triglycerides, beta-hydroxybutyrate; respiratory exchange ratio during glycogen depletion period; rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and even a “hedonic score” test (namely, how tasty each energy snack is :-)).

In both studies, minor differences in metabolism and no difference in performance were detected between the trials. Raisins are a natural, tasty and cost-effective source of carbohydrate in comparison to sports gel and/or jelly beans before moderate- to high-intensity endurance exercise. In fact, the only significant difference in the studies was in “hedonic scores”, where raisins beat out the jelly beans!

Want to learn more? Watch this 3-minute video about the studies!


A. R. Coggan, E. F. Coyle. Reversal of fatigue during prolonged exercise by carbohydrate infusion or ingestion. J Appl Physiol 1987 63(NA):2388-2395 

M. Kern, C. J. Heslin, R. S. Rezende. Metabolic and performance effects of raisins versus sports gel as pre-exercise feedings in cyclists. J Strength Cond Res 2007 21(4):1204 – 1207 

H. L. Rietschier, T. M. Henagan, C. P. Earnest, B. L. Baker, C. C. Cortez, L. K. Stewart. Sun-dried raisins are a cost-effective alternative to Sports Jelly Beans in prolonged cycling. J Strength Cond Res 2011 25(11):3150 – 3156