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Spring AWESOME SAUCE Debacle: Reaching Resolution?


Spring Energy Gel and the Spring Energy misinformation

Over the past two months, a lot of attention has been drawn to the endurance fuel company, Spring Energy.


Why? It came to light their product Nutrition Facts label was resoundingly inaccurate. The short version is that an energy gel they manufactured, a product known as "Awesome Sauce", contained between 33 and 50% of the calories that were claimed on the label. The Nutrition Facts for the product indicated 45 grams of carbohydrate and 180 calories in their standard 54 gram serving, whereas lab testing revealed numbers closer to 16 grams and 65 calories, respectively.


The error has been widely covered at this point, and if you're not yet familiar with all the details and are interested you can find them here, here (35:00), and also here.


The point of this post is not to re-hash the drama of the last few weeks. The point of this post is to quickly clarify how Spring has responded in their statements and in the product they now sell under the Awesome Sauce name. Fueling is a critical part in performing as endurance athletes, and if you have considered using this product again, or at all, there are some things that are important to know about it.



Spring Energy's Statement

Spring Energy had been silent on the issue for a few weeks, stating at the end of May 2024 that they were running product testing and conducting investigations into their manufacturing processes. Wednesday evening, they posted an update to their Instagram story linking a to a full discussion of the issue, and the resolution they have reached, on their website.


The short version is that Spring claims the inaccuracy of their product nutrition information (which involved not just the Awesome Sauce product but two other energy gels as well) was due to over-dilution of their energy gel formula in some batches of the product*. This over-dilution was particularly within two ingredients: basmati rice, and applesauce. Spring notes that water is a large component in both of these ingredients, saying the nutritional content may have changed over time, as they changed the suppliers that they sourced these ingredients from.


*Multiple independent lab tests had been done on Spring Energy products, and all were reporting one third to one half the calories Spring claimed, suggesting that the product was somewhat consistent in its calorie contents across batches.



Spring Energy's Actions: Product Reformulation

The implication of Spring's statement is that the product nutrition label was, at one time, accurate for the Awesome Sauce product with the suppliers and ingredients they used when the product first launched in 2021.


Their actions appear to tell a different story. Awesome Sauce is available again online through Spring's website with a radically different formula. Spring's statement on the matter reads "the product may taste slightly different, but it still has the delicious apple cinnamon flavor that users will know well".


What They Changed: "Let's add fat"

The previous Spring Energy Awesome Sauce gel was a 54 gram serving, claiming 45 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein and 0 grams of fat.


The new Spring Energy Awesome Sauce gel, reformulated and available for sale today, is a 60 gram serving, containing 28 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of protein, and 7 grams of fat.

Table showing old versus new nutrition facts for Spring Energy Awesome Sauce

Those numbers are very telling. When the gel first came under scrutiny, the individual who brought attention to the issue via Reddit thread noted that they saw no possible way to fit 180 calories into a 54 gram serving with the ingredients Spring was using. Now Spring has increased the serving size from 54 grams to 60 (11% increase by weight). In addition, the gel now contains 7 grams of fat as opposed to the previous 0 grams. Adding fat to the gel is almost cheating, because the point of the product was always to provide a very large dose of carbohydrates that the body will readily absorb and burn while running. But fat contains 9 calories per gram versus the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein.


By adding fat, Spring has increased the calorie density in a way that would not be possible with the all-carbohydrate formula they claimed earlier. In doing so, they change the way the gel will be digested and may drastically change the way athletes feel after eating it. When you look at what fats they added, the formulation is even more questionable.


New Ingredients: Avocado and MCT Oil

The addition of avocado oil to Awesome Sauce's ingredient list is reason for hesitation. In general, fat is harder to digest on the run, and athletes need to be cautious about their use of fat in their race nutrition strategy. I covered this topic in depth a few months ago in my guide to eating while running. If an athlete picked up some of these gels today for their long run this weekend thinking they were getting essentially the same thing as they would have gotten a few months ago, they could end up feeling pretty queasy on that run.


MCT oil is the most alarming. Even among well adapted endurance athletes, who have put substantial time and effort into training their ability to consume fat during endurance efforts, MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) remain a touchy subject. Typically, coaches would advise to introduce MCTs into the daily diet at rest, in small quantities, before ever trying to consume them in-run because of the much higher likelihood of stomach upset that can come with them. Yet, Spring is introducing them into a gel that people predominantly consume while running, and that those runners have come to expect is a 100% carbohydrate-based fuel.



The trust with Spring Energy was broken for me as soon as the lab reports started rolling in, one after the other, showing the product they sold was a far cry from what they claimed. I will avoid the company's products in the future as a result of that loss of trust.


Still, many athletes will choose to forgive and forget. It's admirable, but if you're one of those athletes, I'd just suggest a little bit of caution as you consider re-integrating Awesome Sauce into your fueling plan. Nutritionally, it is nothing like it once was. It's a new product under a familiar name, and will be best to train with it as such.




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