Jelly sweets – a favourite source of sugar among many cyclists – have become turbocharged with these Extreme Sport Beans from Jelly Belly.
Sometimes, out on the road during a long ride or sportive, the body craves a hit of simple sugars. For me, having a stash of jelly sweets, or taking advantage of jellies on offer at fuel stops, means I can get these sugars on board easily, with the spike of energy a welcome and tasty relief from fatigue.
Jelly Belly has taken this principle and added extra caffeine and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C to aid energy release, and potassium and sodium to give you the boost of electrolytes you need for optimum muscle function.
The key question, then: do they work? In short, yes. Not only do you get the energy hit from the simple sugars, you do feel the focus-sharpening effect of the caffeine too. Each 28g pack provides 24g of carbohydrates, of which 17g are those important simple sugars and 50mg caffeine. This leaves 7g for complex carbohydrate content (you'll find no protein or fat here, nor any significant dietary fibre), which means those worrying about a sharp come down, needn't.
Of course, such a potent mix of ingredients necessitates extra water intake to stay hydrated. On the package, I could spot no recommendation for how much you should actually take, except the warnings that you should be drinking alongside consuming the Sport Beans. Therefore, I recommend paying careful attention to your performance and thirst levels, so you find a balance that works for you.
My samples came in watermelon flavour – a flavour I very much enjoyed. Be under no illusions, though, these are not natural tasting, in spite of the 'natural flavouring' used in them. You'll find lots of E-numbers used in their manufacture (fairly common in normal jelly sweets), and the caffeine means there's a slight kick if you leave them in your mouth for a prolonged period. Think of a concentrated watermelon flavour with a slight bitterness, and you're about there. The beans are also available in a cherry flavour too.
Practically, Jelly Belly provides its Extreme Sport Beans in a resealable pouch, which helps if you don't want to down the whole packet in one go and distribute the energy throughout your ride. Jelly Belly actually recommends this, which I think is good advice as you certainly don't need to devour the whole pack to feel the difference.
Notably, it also recommends a whole pack before training, and another post-training too. I think you'd be better served eating more substantial bars and other recovery food alongside one pack. This could just be my experience, but after consuming two packs on one training day, I did suffer from some stomach issues.
Still, sparing use keeps cost down – 24 packs cost £36. At £1.50 a pack, then, these are middling in terms of sport-specific sugary energy products. However, I do find myself wondering what would be wrong with buying a 500g bag of Jelly Babies for £1 in my local supermarket. The only things you're really missing are the vitamins and caffeine – but if you have a balanced diet then you're going to get enough of the former on board anyway.
In conclusion, Extreme Sport Beans are a decent, if not brilliant value, mid-ride energy source that provides a caffeine kick to get you over the finish line or to the end of your long training rides. Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, though, and use sparingly if you have a sensitive stomach.
A good, satisfying energy source with added vitamins and electrolytes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans
Size tested: 28g
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Jelly Belly says: "Sport Beans energizing jelly beans are formulated to help you blast through any athletic endeavour. Used by the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling and Triathlon Team as well as other athletes, Sport Beans are clinically proven to maximize sports performance."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Jelly Belly says:
50mg of caffeine are infused in each 100-calorie pack, along with vitamins B, C and electrolytes. And all this potent workout fuel is backed up by refreshing watermelon flavour made with natural flavours and real watermelon juice.
- Evaporated cane juice
- Glucose syrup
- Acidity regulators (E325, E330, E331, E332)
- Gelling agent (E440)
- Watermelon juice concentrate
- Natural flavouring
- Glazing agents (E901, E903, E904)
- Colour (E163)
- Vitamins C, B1, B2 and B3
Good resealable packaging; jelly beans withstand temperature changes without becoming sticky.
They give a decent kick which will appeal to lots. I have reservations about prolonged or reliant usage, though.
Middling, especially when normal Jelly Babies, for example, are £1 for 500g in some shops.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Strong, satisfying flavour, good energy spike without the crash.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
So many E-numbers used, as well as the stomach issue I encountered when I tried to follow the recommended intakes. Also, no easily spottable water intake recommendations. "Always consume with water" while unequivocal, seems very broad.
Did you enjoy using the product? Largely, yes. But moderated for my needs.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not – I'd stick to a small stash of simple Jelly Babies.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Depends on their needs – definitely not as their only cycling energy source.
Use this box to explain your score
Taken as a supplementary boost, these do a good job. They have a pleasant taste too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding