August 2, 2006 - I was walking through the supermarket last week - thinking healthy thoughts - when I accidentally came across an intriguing find.
They were small and colorful and instantly caught my eye with their catchy name: Sport Beans - the energizing jelly bean designed for endurance athletes, weekend warriors and sports enthusiasts of all types.
Being the egocentric man that I am, naturally, I believed I fit all three of these categories. Had this Popeye-wannabe finally found his spinach?
Steroids are bad for enhancing sport, this we know. But how good for our bodies are some of the other sport enhancers we willingly ingest just because a company tells us it's good for us?
What are we putting in our bodies?
"I can tell you right now, they're just sugar," said Todd Judge, owner of F.I.T. at the River and Pusch Ridge F.I.T. when I spilled the beans about my find.
Judge, who also coaches third base for the Catalina Foothills High School baseball team, had simple advice for sustaining a workout: eat something hearty, like oatmeal or a bagel, before a workout. If you need something to provide an energy boost during the workout, then resort to the beans, or better yet, drink a Gatorade.
A bean could work, right? After all, they boast that they are rich with electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins B and C.
Of course, there were more questions than answers. How many should I take? What's the best flavor? Are there any long-term repercussions to worry about? What kind of twisted sports tree would a sport bean grow?
This is the age in which we live. Everyone is looking for the quick fix; that upper-edge to get a jump on each other, so to speak. Despite obesity problems that have risen to all-time tonnage, there is still a large portion of the population infatuated with looks.
Marketers have the answer for them. Take Michelob Ultra Light. The beer designed for the athlete on the go. Go to Michelob Ultra Light's website and you won't find info on the beer itself, rather sporty guides to sustaining your golf game, cycling or distance running.
Another study recently released has applauded the benefits of chocolate milk as a performance enhancer. It boasts that Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps drinks chocolate milk between events. The idea is that an intense workout depletes the body of vital sugars, which chocolate milk replaces.
What they don't tell you is that the study was partly funded by the dairy industry.
Plus, drinking beer or chocolate milk sounds like the last thing I want to put in my body during or after a workout. Whatever happened to plain old water?
Perhaps there's something to these beans. There's only one way to find out. So on Saturday, I set out to put these magic beans to the test. I did this despite the scolding I had received the night before from my fiancé Dana, the Tucson Medical Center nurse, who warned of eating foods that would cause my sugar levels to sharply increase.
To play it safe, I took Judge's advice and started with a sandwich before heading to the gym for a light lifting session and 20-minutes on the bike - a nice primer for the afternoon to come.
After a rest, it was down to the pristine turf of the University of Arizona mall for two-hours of Frisbee in the sweltering summer sun.
Cue the beans.
The directions say to eat a bag - each bag contains 15 beans - 30 minutes before a workout, one bag for every 45 minutes of activity and another bag after exercise to replenish lost sugar.
Maybe this would be the key to elevating my Frisbee game. At the very least, I was in for a serious sugar spike.
By the time I stepped on the mall lawn, I already had a slight stomachache after bag one - orange flavor. Shortly thereafter it went away, just in time to be joined by a mysterious stranger who wanted to throw the Frisbee around with us. He said his name was Matt, but because of his long hair and amazing circus throws, we just called him Frisbee Jesus.
I tried to get through bag two - fruit punch flavor - but found it difficult. Around an hour in, I felt a second wind. Could it have been the beans? Maybe, still I couldn't finish bag two.
After two hours in the hot sun, I was toast. The last thing in the world I wanted was the last bag of beans, a beer, chocolate milk or even the Fierce Melon Gatorade I had also brought along. My body ached for water.
Gatorade may be good for restoring lost electrolytes but is it necessarily natural? I've yet to find a Fierce Melon or an Extremo Mango growing anywhere in the wild.
All told, the beans, if consumed like the directions dictate, would have added 300 calories to my workout. The 32 oz. Gatorade contributed another 200. Seems like an awful lot of calories and sugar for one workout.
It's no wonder why I had a headache that night.
Perhaps the beans worked in the long term. On Sunday - back in the grocery store - I got an ovation from a worker who liked the way I snagged a fluttering receipt out of midair before it hit the ground.
Maybe I harvested the magical power of the jellybean. Chances are, though, this Popeye has yet to find his spinach. For now, I'll stick with water.