Lentils Touted as Athletic Booster -- Brandon Bureau

Lentils are Considered an Athletic Booster

By ROBERT ARNASON, Brandon Bureau
December 9, 2010

For most high-level athletes, lentils would be a better choice than pasta for a pre-game meal.

In a paper published in theInternational Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolismthis fall, Phil Chilibeck, associate professor in kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, found that lentils gave soccer players more energy and more stamina than pasta and other foods.

"We showed that the lentils, when given before soccer, improved their metabolism during the soccer match. It also made the soccer match feel easier," he said.

This research is good news for Manitoba entrepreneur Theresa Le Sliworsky of Winnipegosis, who wants athletes to eat her Genki Bar before their long-distance run or soccer match.

"People should be eating more lentils because it's good for you," said Le Sliworsky, a triathlete and mother of two young children, who developed her energy bar recipe three years ago. "But not everybody wants to go out and cook them. So we made it in a very convenient way to eat them."

The bar, which contains lentils, oats, nuts and fruit, is comparable to a candy bar. Genki is a Japanese word meaning power, strength and energy.

"Imagine a really healthy version of an Eatmore," Le Sliworsky said.

"I just don't want a bar that tastes good. It's got to do more than taste good," said Le Sliworsky, who also works full-time as the Canadian Wheat Board's brand manager in Japan.

She hopes to build upon her knowledge and experience with the CWB by selling the bar in Japan.

"They (the Japanese) are very health conscious, they like trying unique products and they're familiar with using pulses in their foods," said Le Sliworsky.

She got a boost last week when the federal and Manitoba governments announced $27,000 in funding to help her cover the cost of product development. Le Sliworsky created the bar herself, but worked with the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie to refine the recipe.

She plans to fund further research to compare the Genki Bar to the PowerBar, a popular energy bar.

Chilibeck got the idea to study lentils and athletes from Bert Vandenberg, pulse expert and U of S plant sciences professor. He often ate lentils before a match and believed the meal gave him more energy.

Chilibeck and his team found the body metabolizes lentils at a slow rate, which provides a lasting source of energy.

"Lentils have a super low glycemic index, even lower than pasta," he said.

In his study, Chilibeck measured soccer players' metabolism and asked participants about their perceived exertion.

Le Sliworsky said athletes will be the primary market for Genki Bar, which is sold at running and nutrition stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the future, she hopes Genki Bars will appeal to a wider range of consumers, including diabetics.

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Over time, I have experimented with energy bars & gels for the distance events. I am using the lentil-based Genki Bar® in all longer cross-country races & in multi-event races....They allow me to push harder in the last quarter of races, and my overall results have improved.

- M. Boersch
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