What's Good?

The latest food and fitness technology / wellness-hustle news, with some quick thoughts on snacks "engineered" for athletes

Happy Friday! What's good?

If you're an athlete who uses Strava, you've probably seen the monthly challenge offered by the company The Feed — log a certain number of hours of training per month and you can get "sponsored" by the company. "Sponsorship" here actually means a $15 coupon off your order of various sports nutrition items. As I was in the market for some more gels for my longer runs, I thought I'd give it a whirl, ordering half a dozen of the brand I'll use during my half marathon (don't try anything new on race day!) as well as a bunch of single-serving samples of protein bars, "recovery drinks," and the like. I do like having a snack on hand at the gym — I'm always ravenous after lifting — and I figured, if nothing else, I could make an article out of it for Second Breakfast, reviewing the snacks alongside the whole concept of thinking about food as some specially "engineered" "fuel" for the body-as-machine.

I will still write about that, I'm certain, but in the end I'm not sure that a review of these snacks is useful because, friends, they're all pretty much the same. Oh sure, some are crunchy and some are crispy (and my god, I feel like one has to expend as much energy chewing a goddamn Clif Bar as one might gain from eating it). Some are designed to be choked down while on the move — this is the whole "gel" thing for runners, which is so hard for a texture-eater like myself. Some are marketed as "fuel" before the activity — the Maurten Solid, for example, which is a very popular brand among marathon winners (the company boasts) but according to my notes here, "eats like chocolate styrofoam." And maybe you choose your snack because you identify with certain athletes who promote the brand. Or, if you're a cyclist or a hiker, you choose your snacks based on how well they'll hold up in your pack — in that case, avoid almost all the waffle-cookies, as delicious as those may be. (I found the Rip Van Waffel brand to have the best structural integrity, for what it's worth.) I quite liked the texture of the bars from Kate's Real Food, until I noticed that one bar was two servings, and I'm sorry that's fucking bullshit — one bar is one serving. Of course, don't take my word for any of this. But also don't take the word of folks who write reviews that say things like "this makes me feel like I'm eating a real treat." Listen to people who love to eat, not people who lie to themselves about what they’re eating. We all should choose snacks we like, because 1) fuck diet culture and 2) fuck optimization culture. (Incidentally, if you've ever looked closely at the labels of these snacks marketed to athletes, you'll see that they often aren't that different from "normal" snack foods in terms of calories or carbs — they’re just more expensive and enable a certain amount of virtue-signalling.)

Other stories about food: "Radical Vegans Are Trying to Change Your Diet," The Atlantic reports. (I know that "strident" vegans are a stereotype, but the article does raise some good questions about how social change happens.) "Salt taste is surprisingly mysterious." "Is Ice Spice’s Munchkin Dunkin’ Drink the Next Grimace Shake?" asks Vulture, always with the important questions. Doritos sets new world record with giant chip and a helicopter — CNN is on it. "It’s the Breakfast of Champions No More: Cereal Is in Long-Term Decline," The WSJ frets. Elsewhere: "Cereal sales soften: Are Americans buying less cereal?" The history of caramel apples. How goldfish (the Pepperidge Farm ones, to be clear) are made.


The wellness hustle: "Does My Kid’s High Cholesterol Need a Diet?" Virginia Sole-Smith answers a reader’s question — another absolute must-read from her. "Consistent body weight tied to longevity in women," says The Washington Post.  So yo-yo dieting is — gasp — bad? The Wall Street Journal tries to convince us that "Elite Athletes Swear by These Extreme Treatments. Scientists Think They Could Boost Your Health, Too.” Tressie Cottom interviews Pooja Lakshmin on the problems with self-care culture. "Have you noticed that everyone’s teeth are a little too perfect?" asks Jessica Goldstein. (This reminds me of the time we were eating brunch in LA and I thought the table next to us were six middle-age sisters, when in fact, I think they were six women with the same plastic surgeon.) “A wellness coach claims she can fix people’s vision. An anti-misinformation TikToker isn’t having it." "The real reason(s) food allergies are on the rise" is the headline of a collection of data points that explain very little, and I’m not sure this sort of reporting helps anyone?

The wide world of sports: "How Coco Gauff Embodies the Biggest Story in Sports." According to People, Prince William went for an early morning run in Central Park while visiting the city this week.  Strava or it didn't happen, Will. Mayor Pete. Secretary Pete. Iron Man. (No Strava, but there is footage of him crossing the finish line.) The Sylvester Stallone documentary is on my watch list, I confess. Men Thinking about the Roman Empire meme — I guess I'll end this there.

Have a good weekend, everyone.