by Lars Hundley
How obtained: Cold, hard cash.
In a recent newsletter in which we answered a Ask the Coach reader question about bonking, reader Rob T left a comment about a product called Vespa CV-25 that is supposedly designed to help prevent bonking by encouraging your body to burn fat rather than sugar.
If you’ve ever tried a low carb approach to cycling, you probably know that it can take quite a bit of time and effort to adapt to riding this way. I usually ride very early in the morning, before 6 a.m., so I typically do all of my rides under 40 to 45 miles fasted. I always carry an energy bar just in case, but almost never use it.
If I know a ride is going to be particularly fast and might make me bonk, I’ll bring a bottle filled with 3 scoops of my favorite energy drink, Spiz, which I discovered from this very web site more than 10 years ago when I was just a reader and newsletter subscriber. Trying to ride at a hard, above threshold pace for more than an hour fasted is a fool’s errand, in my opinion.
But if it isn’t a hard ride, I believe that riding in a fasted state helps me consume fewer calories over the day and keep my weight in check, and also helps me keep my blood sugar stable (which I have actually measured, using a Levels continuous glucose monitor).
Since I am already well adapted to riding this way, I was curious if consuming Vespa would make any real difference for me. I purchased the four pouch sample pack and used it on four different rides over the course of a month or so.
Maybe it was just the placebo effect, but I felt better toward the end of my rides and less hungry when I was finished after consuming a pouch. In particular, I went on one gravel ride that wasn’t quite 40 miles, but lasted almost three hours and had a higher average wattage than a typical road ride. I made it to the end of the ride and didn’t feel it necessary to eat the energy bar that I was carrying as a backup, just in case.
The downsides to Vespa are that each pouch is pretty expensive, and it tastes terrible. I can tolerate things that taste bad if they think they will help my performance, so it was not an issue for me. I would squeeze the whole pouch into my mouth as fast as I could swallow it to get it over with. It did not upset my stomach in any way.
On the Vespa site, they argue that if you consider how much you’re saving by not consuming as many energy bars or gels while you are using the product, you end up saving money or breaking even. I think that’s a reasonable argument. But additionally, I like the idea of consuming something that doesn’t add a lot of empty sugar calories to my diet (which is also terrible for my teeth, by the way) but allows me to still ride well on a ride where I’d otherwise need to consume an energy bar or drink.
Vespa claims to have a lot of science behind their product, and there’s a big list of successful ultra endurance athletes who use it featured on their site in articles and video interviews. I ended up on their email list after I made a purchase and I’ve found the emails to be informative and worth reading, and not just the typical promotional emails you often get from many companies.
If you can handle the weird / unpleasant taste and you’re interested in a product that doesn’t have any sugar or significant calories that allows you to ride longer, I think it’s worth trying to see if it works for you.