Ketchup as a sports supplement? See what nutrition says

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One commercial Innovator of the “Heinz” brand in Canada has generated curiosity by showing runners using ketchup as a supplement during their runs. The ad not only highlights athletes incorporating the sauce into their workouts, but also provides a “route” so they can find the ketchup sachets more easily.

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However, the question remains: does this popular condiment really work as an effective sports supplement? Sports nutrition specialist Rachel Kimble, professor at the University of the West of Scotland, answers this question in an article published in “The Conversation”.

Ketchup vs energy gels: a comparative analysis

Kimble analyzed the composition of ketchup, comparing it to traditional energy gels consumed by athletes during competitions, concluding that Heinz tomato sauce is not a supplement worth pity.

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Ketchup has carbohydrates, but little practicality

Although ketchup contains carbohydrates, mainly in the form of tomato sugar, and has a spicy flavor that can be enjoyed during strenuous endurance efforts.

Furthermore, Kimble highlights that the amount needed to reach the nutrient levels of energy gels makes the practicality of ketchup less advantageous than it seems.

Ketchup doesn't have enough electrolytes

For workouts lasting less than an hour, ketchup packets may be sufficient. However, most energy gels on the market contain around 25g of carbohydrates, while Recommendation for athletes involved in longer workouts is 30 to 60g of carbohydrates per hour.

In other words, each 10ml packet of ketchup contains just 2.6g of carbohydrates, which means the runners would need to consume approximately 12 packets per hour, presenting a logistical challenge during the training.

Additionally, sports gels are scientifically formulated to provide a precise balance of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, essential for preventing dehydration and muscle cramps during endurance activities. Although ketchup contains some electrolytes due to salt, its formulation is not as precise as that of sports gels.

Digestive and dental problems

The high acidity of ketchup, due to tomato and vinegar, also raises concerns. Acidic foods can cause heartburn and acid reflux, distracting from peak performance. Furthermore, the combination of sugars and acids in ketchup can harm dental health, which is a factor often overlooked by athletes.

Ketchup is not a running supplement

Given these considerations, Kimble advises that ketchup can be included in the diet in moderation, but not as a running supplement. If the desire to try it in this way still persists, the nutritionist suggests testing it during training, before important competitions, to evaluate its effects on sports performance.

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