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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Sports-formulated jelly beans just as effective as sports drinks, gels in improving exercise performance

Photo of sports medicine patient in testing
Endurance cyclists were among the subjects in a study that compared the effects of three different forms of carbohydrate supplementation (drink, gel and jelly beans) versus water only.

Sports-formulated jelly beans were just as effective as popular sports drinks and gels in maintaining blood sugar levels and improving exercise performance among competitive endurance athletes who participated in a study by researchers from the UC Davis Sports Medicine Program.

The study results were reported as a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Southwest Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Diego last month.

Cyclists and triathletes in the study completed a series of four, 10-kilometer time trials while ingesting three different kinds of carbohydrate supplements or water only. The athletes achieved 32-to-38-second faster times in the trials with the carbohydrate supplements than they did while consuming only water. In addition, the athletes completed the time trials with the highest average “power outputs” with the sports-formulated jelly beans. Power output is the amount of force applied to the bicycle pedals to go faster.

No study has previously assessed the benefits of sports gels or sports-formulated jelly beans. The UC Davis researchers compared the effects of three different forms carbohydrate supplementation (drink, gel and jelly beans) versus water only during an 80-minute period of moderately intense exercise, followed by a 10K time trial. The subjects were 16 healthy, nonsmoking, competitive male and female cyclists and triathletes between the ages of 23 and 45.

Sports-formulated jelly beans contain electrolytes and vitamins that standard jelly beans do not.

Although a variety of factors contribute to fatigue during prolonged exercise, it is believed that low blood glucose levels can play a role. After one hour of intense exercise, the amount of stored carbohydrate in muscle and liver tissue begins to deplete and blood sugar levels can drop, leading to fatigue. Previous research has shown that consuming carbohydrate supplements during exercise can improve endurance performance by maintaining blood glucose levels and muscle carbohydrate stores.

Photo of Sports Beans

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association suggests 30-to-60 grams of carbohydrate be ingested per hour for moderate-intensity exercise lasting more than one hour.

Based on the study, the UC Davis Sports Medicine Program recommends that athletes consume about one half of a 1-ounce-sized bag of sports-formulated jelly beans for every 20 minutes of exercise, depending on body size.

The  Jelly Belly Candy Co. based in Fairfield, Calif., funded and supplied the jelly bean carbohydrate supplements for the study.