Review: Chocolate #9 Energy Gel – Low Glycemic Energy from Agave and Cocoa

Chocolate #9 is unique in the energy gel world. First, it only has two ingredients: Organic Agave and Breakfast Cocoa.

Second, it has an extremely low glycemic index, making it perfect for diabetic athletes…which is likely how they partnered up with Team Type 1 as an official sponsor.

But, even if you’re not diabetic, you may want to take a look at their product. We sampled it around most of our contributors and the overall comments were super positive for both flavor and effectiveness. The formula is also unique in that it doesn’t add any electrolytes, so you’ll have to supplement with some caps or one of the myriad effervescent tablets now available, but it contains 6% of your DV of Iron. There’s more: Because agave has a lower caloric concentration than sucrose, fructose or maltodextrin, there’s only 15g of carbs per packet (versus 21g to 27g for most other gels we compared it to), so you’ll have to consume a bit more of it to provide the same energy.

Lastly, “Breakfast Cocoa” is an FDA term for the type of cocoa used here, which has the highest fat content. Here, it contributes about 1g of fat, good for roughly 10 calories of additional energy.

Because it’s so simple, you’re not getting preservatives or other junk, and it seems to work.  Read on for nutritional facts and comments from our testers…

MARISA (triathlete): When I see the word chocolate, I zoom in on my target and not even a burning building will keep me from obtaining whatever that object is that says I will have chocolate when opened. Naturally, when asked to try Chocolate #9, I elbowed people out of my way to pick up my supply.

The makers of this product have labeled it “Low” on the Glycemic Index and refer to it as “Slo-Burn Energy”. I have tried this product in training and racing (International distance triathlon) and the results are impressive. I also had my boyfriend try it, he has to go for several hours without eating due to his profession. He was very impressed with this little packet of chocolate joy and its mere 70 calories which kept him satiated for over several hours while in the operating room. But performance aside for now, the taste and consistency is similar to chocolate cake batter but with a more intense dark chocolate flavor. If it weren’t for my pre-existing abnormal levels of energy (at times referred to as “hyperactivity”), I’d eat this stuff just because it tastes so darn good. But I refrain to preserve the sanity of the people around me.

Many sport gels result in stomach cramps, bloating, acid reflux, or diarrhea or sometimes all of the above. The contents and osmolarity of sport gels has a lot to do with how a person’s body will digest and assimilate its form of sugar provided. Training and racing intensity levels play the biggest role in whether or not a person is actually going to digest it or if it will in fact be spewed right out of the body just as fast as it when in. The sugars in Chocolate #9 come to us from agave nectar. Essentially, the only two ingredients in this product are agave nectar and dark Belgian style breakfast cocoa processed with alkali (alkali is used in cocoa to buffer acidity).

Simplicity is paramount when considering which nutritional sport supplements should enter your month during activity. However, there are certain elements the body uses up during activity and subsequently needs replaced to be able to perform as desired, those being: glucose, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Anything beyond that is a bonus (or detriment in some cases). Chocolate #9’s formulation contains 15g of sugar, 75mg of sodium, 1g of fat, 1g of fiber, and less than 1g of protein. All sounds pretty good to me. The cocoa contains, in small amounts, naturally occurring caffeine, potassium, and magnesium.

Agave nectar also contain iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Its sugar consists mainly of fructose (which equals “slo-burn”) and a small percentage of glucose (quick energy!). The theory behind this product is seemingly sound. So, how did it stand up during activity: I’d say it met my expectations. No GI distress, interestingly, not even during a lactate threshold heart rate during racing and I did feel that my energy was sustained on some longer bike rides and bike/run training sessions just slightly over 3 hours. In those cases, about a 300-500 calorie breakfast 90 minutes before pedaling, about 12 oz of a 100 calorie sport drink, and only 1 serving of #9 did the trick. At one point during a long ride I noticed a slight hunger pang…all I had was a packet of #9 and that sustained me for another 20 miles. How do I know it wasn’t the breakfast or sport drink? I have tried numerous fuel and hydration combos during the past decade with hopes of finding supernatural “energy” to support my endurance sport training and racing needs and wants and I seem to have a pretty good grasp on what an upset stomach looks and feels like and what a bonk looks and feels like.

Best features: tastes good, does not induce stomach or intestinal upset, has some caffeine (I heart caffeine for its ergogenic properties), and its nutritional simplicity.

Oh yeah, I’d buy the stuff.

BRAD (roadie): Energy gels are usually pretty hard for me to stomach. Fruit flavors taste the worst to me, so I stick to chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and plain flavors when I need some energy out on a ride. I usually choose GU, but I’m always open to new flavors, so I was excited when #9 Chocolate Agave showed up at my door.

Taste
This is definitely a heavy, dark chocolate flavor. It’s sweetened with agave, so the flavor is lacking that familiar sweetness of sugar in chocolate, but #9 imitates a dark chocolate pretty well. Just as you would expect with dark chocolate (think coco powder, not Hersheys), there is a little bit of bitterness to the flavor, which I enjoyed (I’m also a dark chocolate fan.) I was glad to have a full bottle of water to wash this down with though, the bitterness really stuck around after I finished off the packet.

Texture
Most energy gels have a similar consistency, and this one is no exception. It was easy enough to squeeze (and use everything in the packet) and easy to swallow. It sticks to the roof of your mouth for a while before you can it all down, but I have the same problem with every energy gel I try.

Energy
I popped one of these out as I felt a bonk coming on about 2 ½ hours into our planned 4 hour ride, and it got me safely home with enough energy left for a post-ride spin downtown after a quick shower. One packet only has 70 calories compared to 100 calories in my normal chocolate GU packet, but has quite a bit more sugar (13g) than most energy gels (5 grams in GU.) The extra sugar wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, #9 is sweetened with agave so they aren’t bad, complex processed sugars, and are easier for the body to break down.

Other Notes
I also appreciated the amazingly simple ingredients list; organic agave and breakfast cocoa. That’s it! It feels good to give the body some natural energy, and I was surprised #9 Chocolate Agave performed so well for being so simple. And since #9 Chocolate Agave is vegan and diabetic friendly, it is a good natural alternative to some gels with artificial ingredients. It tastes good and works well, so #9 Chocolate Agave gets a thumbs up from me.

ZACH (mountain biker): The packaging is interesting, good choice of color and layout. What’s number 9? I was skeptical off the bat due to the fact that it is vegan, low fat, and low a glycemic index, it seems that this would be counterproductive to providing energy. However, the taste is awesome. I normally steer clear of chocolate energy products because they tend to dry out my mouth while riding, but I think I could do this on a ride. My girlfriend said it tasted like Hershey’s syrup, which could be a good thing. Has a slight metallic aftertaste which could be the alkali from the cocoa processing? While using it on a ride I had no adverse affects, meaning I pretty much kept at the same level. It may have postponed my bonking slightly, but it definitely didn’t give me the boost of GU, which seems to deaden the ache in my legs while riding. The effect for me was similar to Power gel. Overall if you were looking for a vegan, all natural, LGI energy gel look #9 up, for me I’m sticking with GU.

EVAN: Give me more. I love it.

TYLER: It seems to work pretty well while riding, but it does come off a bit sweet for my personal tastes. I like the simple ingredient list, though, and chocolate fans will likely freak out over it.

Comments

Rae Merrill - 11/14/10 - 2:55pm

Sticking with a shake pre-ride and Dextro tablets during. Gel’s are a single shot deal which makes them expensive and impractical.

Tim Pontarelli - 12/12/10 - 5:16pm

It’s extremely low glycemic because agave nectar is about 90% fructose sugar. Fructose sugars require alot of energy to convert to usable blood glucose energy and are more easily and likely converted to liver fat when digested. Not so good when you need energy.

Sounds like an interesting natural tasty chocolate syrup snack. But for me, I like to go fast.

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