The women in my local club are always keen to try out new ride food – we’ve got such a great mix of riders that it goes without saying we’ll have different nutrition needs – so we’re often on the lookout for that perfect bar that’s not only delivers the energy and recovery benefits we want, but is also transportable, won’t upset the digestion, and tastes nice too! And we’re not alone – athletes are often ahead of the curve in nutrition technology, seeking to gain competitive advantage from the latest products. Think whey protein, creatine, BCAA’s – bodybuilders were trying them out for performance gains long before you could buy them in the supermarket as everyday sports nutrition for your Saturday club ride. And recently, the more adventurous have been turning their attention to a special kind of protein bar. You’d be forgiven for overlooking the magic ingredient as you picked one off the shelf. In tempting flavours such as apple cinnamon, banana bread, and cacao coconut, they look and taste like many other fruit- and nut-based nutrition bars on the market. But the bonus ingredient for the protein hit is cricket flour – high in protein, essential fatty acids, and micronutrients like iron, calcium and B-vitamins.
Insects are already consumed as a source of protein around the world but there is still something of a ‘yuck factor’ to be overcome in western culture. Perhaps the sports nutrition market will be more receptive than some to the idea of eating bugs for a good quality recovery fix. The numbers look persuasive – proportionally, crickets contain more iron than beef or spinach, and more calcium than milk. The downside however is the product cost – at the moment, as a new venture, economies of scale haven’t bedded in yet for manufacturers, with the cost per gram of protein in a box of bars exceeding that of beef. But there is a bigger picture to consider here – crickets produce virtually no methane and require minimal feed, water and space. And you’re not going to carry a steak in your jersey pocket are you? (Are you?). So as a long-term sustainable approach to meeting the protein needs of a growing population of sports enthusiasts, it’s a step in an interesting, and good ethical, direction. There’s no evidence yet, though, of any link with improved jumping ability! Form an orderly queue for taste testing…