High5 4:1 Energy Source is drink powder, with a mix of carbohydrate and protein at a ratio of 4:1, as the name implies. We reviewed this product back in 2010 (and some of what we said still holds), but it's recently been re-launched with a new emphasis on the nature of the carbohydrate, although not clear if the actual formula of the drink has changed.
First, let's look at the carb component of this 4:1 drink. The packaging displays another ratio -- this time 2:1 -- which refers to the proportion of glucose to fructose, the basis of another High5 carb-only product which we've also reviewed on road.cc.
The thinking behind the 2:1 is this: Using glucose-only products as a source of carbohydrate, most cyclists (or any athlete) can absorb only a limited amount - usually around 50g to 60g per hour, depending on body mass and other factors. High5 say that fructose can deliver more carbohydrate to the muscles, in addition to that provided by the glucose. Put in the simplest layman's terms, the fructose goes in another way, bypassing the mechanism that usually limits carb intake to around 50/60g per hour. The end result: you can increase your carb intake by up to 50%, meaning up to 75g or even 90g per hour, according to High 5. And that means you can go faster, or further, or both. High5 brands this mix as 'super carbs'.
Second, let's look at the protein component of this 4:1 drink. Is it really needed in addition to the carb? It depends. Simply put, in races or other events of around two hours or less, you need only carbohydrate to keep going. Once you get nearer three hours, and definitely over four hours, you need a bit of protein because - again to put it in the simplest layman's terms - it helps the carb work better. Sports scientists generally agree that the protein won't necessarily make you go any faster, but it will help you go for longer - which is exactly what you need in a 100-mile sportive, or similar endurance event. High5 say the ideal proportion of carb to protein is 4:1 - hence this drink.
So that's the science, but does Energy Source 4:1 actually work? Yes. It definitely works for me. From a personal point of view, having used a lot of different carb-based energy products over the years, with and without the addition protein, I definitely find a bit of protein helps. There's no doubt I feel stronger towards the end of a long sportive if I'm taking on protein as well as carb in the final few hours. My usual tactic is to carry a sachet or two of 4:1 in my back pocket, fill up with water at the final feed station, bung in the power, get back on the bike, give it a few minutes to fully dissolve, then take a sip every 10 minutes or so until I reach the finish.
And it's not just me. A lot of top-level riders use carb-protein combinations towards the end of a day's racing, especially in the tours. And that's because their soigneurs know that protein is essential to help muscle repair and recovery, so riders are ready for the next day. The High5 website promotes this angle too, emphasising that 4:1 is not just for single-day events, but also for multi-day events and training sessions.
What's it like in your mouth? The taste is okay, with two flavour options: citrus and summer fruit. The texture, as you might expect, is thicker than most carb-only drinks, more like milk than juice. Presumably this is due to the whey (which gives the protein) as well as the maltodextrin and fructose (which give the carbohydrate).
In addition to the carb and protein, Energy Source 4:1 also contains what High5 calls 'unique high electrolyte anti-cramping formula'. This refers to the sodium and potassium in the list of ingredients, which are certainly among the key minerals lost via sweat during extended exercise, which can lead to cramps if not replaced.
As with all nutrition products, it's important to sample Energy Source 4:1 on a training ride first rather than an important race or sportive, just in case it doesn't agree with you.
A big 1.6kg tub of Energy Source 4:1 costs £29.99 from the High5 website - which is more than you'd pay for the same amount of carb-only drink mix, although it's the cheapest way of buying 4:1 (working out at less than £1 per recommended 50g serving). Before forking out for a tub you can check if it works for you buy buying a few sachets - which is also ideal if you want to start taking this drink on board halfway through your ride rather than at the start. You can get individual 50g sachets in your local bike shop for between £1.20 and £1.50 each, or in a box of 12 for around £14. The tub and box of sachets are cheaper at the usual on-line stores.
A highly effective and very handy all-in-one energy product with two sorts of carb, plus protein and some vital minerals, ideal for longer races, sportives, and other endurance events.
road.cc test report
Make and model: High5 4:1 Carbohydrate/Protein drink mix
Size tested: Citrus flavour, 1.6kg drum
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?
The High5 website says: '4:1 contains 4 parts Super Carbs and 1 part whey protein isolate. 4:1 is designed for use DURING exercise. It provides energy, hydrates, accelerates recovery and reduces muscle breakdown and soreness. It's great for back-to-back sessions or when you expect a step up in mileage. Light fruit juice flavours and it's easy on the stomach.'
From a personal point of view, having used a lot of different carb-based energy products over the years, with and without the addition protein, I definitely find a bit of protein helps me go better in sportives.
A big 1.6kg tub of Energy Source 4:1 costs £29.99 from the High5 website. This is more than you'd pay for the same amount of carb-only drink mix, although it's the cheapest way of buying 4:1 (working out at less than £1 per recommended 50g serving).
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes
About the tester
Age: 50 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,