Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Maurten Review: Fuel Better!

Article by Michael Ellenberger & Jamie Hershfang

Michael is a patent attorney and 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon.

Jamie is 27 years old and has a 1:19 half marathon PR. She has run 5 marathons, current PR is 2:49 and typically runs 90-100 miles per week. She recently completed a 100k in 7:36:40 and is training to qualify for the world 100k championships for Team USA. She is the store manager at Fleet Feet Lakeview in Chicago. She trains in a variety of shoes, and races in the Nike Next%.

Introduction: Hydrogel Sports Fuel

If you’ve watched the elite runners in any of the world’s recent marathons (“recent” being a relative term these days), then you’ve probably seen Maurten in use. The seemingly unbranded packaging - a really slick black and white design - has been packing up in more and more run specialty stores over the past few weeks. The Maurten products are more expensive than your average GU, but the company prides itself on not giving sponsorships - runners who use it, use it by choice. In fact, products can be ordered without Maurten branding so as to not offend rival sponsors. 

And the results? Well Maurten would say they speak for themselves. Indeed, besides Kipchoge’s famous sub-2:00:00 marathon effort - for which he used Maurten bottles - the most recent twenty-four Marathon Majors winners have all used Maurten along the way. If you think that you can be your best by using what the best use, then you can stop reading - the best use Maurten. 

But Maurten has science to back up its results; in developing class-leading carbohydrate-rich and natural sports fueling products, they have paired the world’s leading scientific researchers with the world’s leading runners (and endurance athletes, generally) to create what they proclaim to be clean, easy-to-digest, high-energy nutrition. 

So - we tested them! Jamie is a long-distance runner in the truest sense, regularly racking up 100 mile weeks, whereas Michael has been recently ringing in around 40-60 miles, both in the hot and muggy Chicago climate, where a sports drink can go a long way...


Michael: The Drink Mix 320 is Maurten’s most concentrated drink mix, and can be consumed either during activity, or prior to as a form of carbo loading. I tried both, and ultimately was pleased with both. On the treadmill (where I found it easier to carry a bottle, and where I knew I could sweat), I consumed an entire 500mL of water with the Mix 320 (80g of carbs) over the course of an hour (Maurten says runners can consume up to 90g per hour effectively). Because I was running moderate (an easy first 30, with some progression towards the end), I don’t think that I needed the carbs - but I certainly appreciated them, and was less fatigued that I would be on a usual “unsupported” run. Taste- and more importantly stomach-handling-wise, I had no issues whatsoever. It is somewhat “hefty” - a pretty sweet concoction - and I think taking it with a gel, except in longer sessions, would be too much for my stomach to handle, though. There’s no flavor (that’s the case for all of these) but, considering its composition, there is a definite sweetness. 

In another instance, I drank a bottle of the Mix 320 the evening before a 90 minute long run (for which I woke up, drank maybe 8mL of water, and got out the door - no food or carried fluids) and had great results. I was not full or exhausted, nor did I experience “sloshy stomach.” Now, 90 minutes of running is probably slightly too short to fully appreciate the use case, but is still a long enough run that I felt I benefitted by the carbo loading. 

Jamie: The Drink Mix 320 is something I drank before longer sustained efforts over 90 minutes. Unlike the gels which lack the electrolytes I need, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the drink mix had more than enough to last me through hot, sweaty runs. Over the course of my training, I tend to progress into longer runs teaching my body to become metabolically more efficient by not taking much nutrition. As the intensity and duration increase, I gradually introduce gels and liquid nutrition into my training regimen. It’s the added “boost” that makes me feel good as the mileage increases. This drink mix easily replaces any GUs I would take, as well as salt tabs. I haven’t tried taking the 320 with any GU, but I think it would be a little too much for me. I don’t tend to have many GI issues, however, the sweetness in the Maurten leaves a slightly syrupy aftertaste. 

Like Michael did, I experimented by drinking the 320 mix the night before a hot 22 mile long run. I did feel a little bloated the next morning, but didn’t feel hungry at all during the run. This could also be due to the fact that I tend to eat a high carbohydrate diet. However, the extra electrolytes and carbs couldn’t hurt. 


Michael: The Drink Mix 160 has half the carbohydrates of the Drink Mix 320 (above), and simply tastes a little more diluted - I didn’t try this (because my training just isn’t there yet!), but I would chuck this along a route for a 20 miler before the 320, I think, simply because it’s a little easier to manage. The flavor is more subdued and more, well, water-like, which (on a particularly hot and humid day in Chicago) made it pretty refreshing. It’s certainly the Mix I prefer taking on the move (whereas the 320 would be preferred when taking explicitly for carbo loading, i.e. in the days leading up to marathon).  

Jamie: The Drink Mix 160 definitely goes down a little easier than the 320. It’s fairly equivalent to the gels I would take during a long run, but replaces having to carry anything extra with me. I’ve tried this before an early morning run, in place of a pre run snack, and it does a fair job. It’s hard to say whether my “go to” fig newtons or the drink mix is a better option, but for someone who wakes up hungry in the morning and doesn’t want any GI issues, I can see how this mix would take precedence. 

I would definitely recommend using this in your handheld for those hot medium long runs. It’s just enough fuel to last me my 17 oz of fluid, which I easily take over the course of an hour. It makes the 320 mix really feel like the next level for races, kind of like changing your shoes for workouts and races. The energy is more subtle in the 160, and never felt like I was over fueling. 

GEL 100 - CAF 100

Michael: This is probably the singular Maurten product I was most excited to try, primarily because I have some familiarity with gels (I prefer to take GU Roctane with caffeine) over drink nutrition, when possible, since I tend not to carry a bottle with me unless I can help it. The Gel 100 - Caf 100 (I’ll call it the Caf 100) has 100 mg of caffeine paired with 25 grams of carbohydrates. In that regard, it’s really caffeinated - a GU Roctane in the “Cold Brew Coffee” flavor, which has double the normal caffeine of a caffeinated GU Roctane, has “just” 70mg. So this Caf 100 will keep you awake!

As with the drink mixes, I had fortunately no stomach difficulties taking the Caf 100. What I did have was some mild consuming difficulties (cue the “Airplane!” drinking problem joke) simply in how thick this gel was. While I’ve experienced the frustration of getting a sticky gel on your already sweaty-salty hands during a hard effort, the Maurten took it to another level in my first try, since I ripped it improperly and was left with a mess on my hands (insert groan). But, I won’t belabor the point - it’s worth it. The easily consumable energy feels like it hits instantaneously, and even for such a stiffly caffeinated material, I felt levelheaded and under control - no nausea, no headache, just energy! The only added quirk I’d add here is that the Caf 100 is slightly 

Jamie: As someone who regularly gets their caffeine from other products, I was hesitant to try too much of this gel. I don’t know if it’s just a placebo effect, but the Cold Brew Roctane GU gives me a better “edge” than the CAF 100. If this gel had more electrolytes like the drink mix, I think it could be a real game changer. It sits well in the stomach but doesn’t feel like a long lasting impact like some other caffeinated products offer. For the cost of this gel, I don’t think it will be a part of my regular nutrition regimen. However, without taking any other caffeine, I would say this does a fair job, just not a home run for me. 

GEL 100

Michael: The Gel 100, as you can imagine, is the same as the Caf 100 without the caffeine added. It packs the same 25g of carbohydrates and same thick texture, albeit with a slightly different “taste” (again, there’s no added flavor here) - one that I preferred to the Caf 100, honestly. This was my least favorite of the 4 products reviewed - not because it’s “bad” in any meaningful way, but simply because I found the least use case for it - I would always prefer caffeine over not (every gel I’ve ever taken in a race has been caffeinated, without issue), and the drinks are carbohydrate-heavy enough to function for themselves without needing to “pair” with a gel (though Maurten suggests you can pair the Drink 160 with a gel during workouts!). That said, I think the Gel 100 was easier on the stomach (comparatively speaking) than the Mix 320 or Caf 100, so those who are really cautious of their GI will appreciate its ease of use.

Jamie: The Gel 100 was the first Maurten product I tried. During my first 100k, I alternated between GU Roctane and the Gel 100. Without any real electrolytes in the gel, I carried Infinit GO Far Endurance Fuel in my handheld and took gels every 30 minutes. The subtle flavor of the gel went down easily and gave my mouth a break from the sweet flavors of the Roctane GUs. I tend to prefer the caffeinated Roctane GUs as well, so limiting my caffeine consumption prevented me from having any GI issues. I liked the fact that I could “chew” on this gel with the jello-like consistency. It went down easily and could take this without any water and feel hydrated. For people sensitive to caffeine, the Gel 100 is probably the favorite here. If taken exclusively as your source of fuel for a marathon, hot long run, etc., I would definitely recommend having some sort of electrolyte supplement to take with it. I don’t think it would be enough on its own, however, I am a heavy sweater and crave the salt in the later stages of a run.


Michael: What can I say? How could Kipchoge be wrong? Of course, he isn’t, and neither are any of the world’s best marathoners who have been using Maurten products to great avail in the recent past. It's a damn good line of products, and with the very slight caveats I’ve called out here - the stickiness of the gels, the slight heaviness of the Drink Mix 320 (what do you expect from that many carbs?) and, well, the price - I think Maurten is safely atop the running nutrition world right now. 

Jamie: If it works for Kipchoge, how could it not work for me? People swear by using Maurten, and it’s definitely easy on the stomach. However, as someone who doesn’t tend to have many issues taking regular nutrition products, the cost of Maurten makes it hard for me to keep it as a part of my regular training. I tend to crave flavors during a run, and the simple sugary taste leaves me wanting more. I think it’s something I’ll continue to use in conjunction with my electrolyte supplements, but not exclusively on its own. If the gels were on the same electrolyte level as the mix, then it might convert me over. While I enjoy my GUs and Nuun electrolyte tabs, there’s just something about Maurten that keeps me wanting to test it more! 

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was a provided at no charge. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

As someone who has tried literally everything on the market (not the Maurten stuff I admit but no real desire) and has had all the usual stomach issues , cramping, etc. the Crank Sports Efuel is the best I’ve found for endurance events. Not sure why this product has flown under the main stream radar but it absolutely works and works great. I’ve converted quite a few people to this stuff. If there is one ingredient it “might be” low on that is sodium but that’s an individuals testing process to determine what they need and that’s easily rectified if needed. See Precision Hydration web site for sodium info and sweat testing.
I would strongly urge the RTR crew to evaluate this product and see what they think.

Jeff in MA

Michael said...

Thanks, Jeff! I’ve never heard of this stuff. I tend to not take a ton of nutrition (partially because of previous bad experiences) except in runs > 2 hours, which for me is pretty much only marathon races and the couple longest runs of the block. But I’ve tried to work it in more - not only because it’s hot this summer, but also because, even if I don’t feel depleted, I can get some sort of boost from a drink or gel. So I’ll definitely try and check out Crank Sports’ stuff.