I discussed Panda Licorice back in October 2012 as a possible caloric source for long events, also making the point that it tastes a lot better than Perpetuem or Hammer Gel or GU or other stuff like that.
Licorice, the cyclist’s secret weapon™.
During the 2014 Solvang Spring Double, I consumed about 900 calories from Panda licorice and about 500 calories from Hammer gel and ~300 calories from Perpetuem other things (total “burn” of 7628 calories as per my SRM power meter). I used the convenient 100-calories individually-wrapped Panda licorice sticks; this makes it easy to remember how much one has eaten per hour (2 per hour is about right, with some Hammer gel thrown in too or vice versa).
My proven (for my body) conclusion over many long events is that a pure glucose source alone (e.g. Hammer Gel, e.g. maltodextrin) is not optimal by itself for 6+ hour rides for carbs. It works better to have mostly glucose, but also sucrose and even some fructose because part of those molecules go go the liver for processing, giving it a job to do and feeding in another source of glucose at a slower but steady rate (the liver converting half that sucrose molecule to glucose). It’s why a Mountain Dew or Coke 10 hours in works so well (if not too dehydrated); it gives the liver something to do when it is wholly depleted of glucose. Of course, some protein is warranted too (Perpetuem has some).
The Panda brand is a not very common in stores (try Amazon, and the 6 oz bags of licorice chews are excellent). The ingredients in Panda licorice are of good quality for what they are, not like Twizzlers or the truly awful Red Vines corn syrup crap (though I can eat either when pressed or tempted).
The first ingredient in the Panda licorice that I eat is molasses, which includes calcium, iron and magneisum at fairly high levels, and likely other trace minerals too. So it’s a far cry from high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar breakdown is ~53% sucrose, 21% glucose, 23% fructose. But my understanding is that half the sucrose molecule immediately splits into glucose and fructose via the sucralase enzyme, yielding ~47% glucose and ~53% fructose, the fructose heading to the liver to be converted into glucose (and giving it a job to do rather than running on empty). There is also wheat flour in Panda licorice, which AFAIK turns mainly into glucose and a small amount of protein. So it seems that the total nutritional profile for long distance events really is fairly appropriate.
Seriously, on a long ride, the stuff tastes so good that as long as you don’t overdo it on intake, what tastes good and goes down the hatch is the Right Choice. The Hammer gel approach loses its appeal after 5-6 hours; it just doesn’t work very well on that basis (appeal) for the long events, not as the only caloric source. (Each to his/her own of course). For an 11-hour or 14-hour or 24-hour ride, anything that tastes good, goes down easy, stays down and doesn’t upset the stomach is the right answer.
My favorite is black licorice (the only thing that honors the term), but the red is really good too. Or blueberry. But black is the only real licorice.
The inferior licorices (in name only) out there (most) just don’t cut it compared to the Panda stuff, which I’ll buy in preference over any other brand. Except that it's hard to find in most stores, though Amazon has it.
Another excellent black licorice is the Black Finnish Licorice at nuts.com (where I also buy my black walnuts and pistachios). It has a strong licorice flavor without the nasty ammonia taste of the Norwegian stuff.
The PandaLicorice.com web site uses Flash and so it doesn't work in any of my browsers (not very good marketing to be useless), but maybe it will work for some.
Since 1927 Panda has been producing licorice renowned for its unique flavor and softness. Panda Licorice is made from natural ingredients without preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or white sugar.
New and delicious Panda Blueberry Licorice is made with Real Superfruit Blueberries to create a mouth watering blueberry taste sensation.
Ingredients: Molasses, wheat flour, licorice extract, natural flavor (aniseed oil).
Special diets: Does not contain animal products | Does not contain eggs | Does not contain lactose/milk | Does not contain gelatine/ingredients from pork | Does not contain peanuts | Does not contain soy | Does not contain nuts/almonds
Actually, the nutritional info isn’t half bad for candy— it even has about 3% protein.