Carb Loading at the Health & Fitness Expo for the PF Chang's Rock n Roll Marathon

You may not be signed up to compete in this Sunday's PF Chang's Rock 'n Roll Marathon  -- billed by PF's PR people as the largest-ever marathon/half-marathon -- but that doesn't mean you can't pig out at the Health & Fitness Expo  at the Phoenix Convention Center, free and open to the public today and tomorrow.

(And so convenient to the METRO!  That was perhaps the best part of the whole thing.)

On to the free eats.

From baked ziti to dragonfly fruit water, we saw (and tried) it all, along with some stomach-churning "energy foods" that we can promise you won't make it onto the race course this Sunday. Not with us, anyway.

We were surprised that there were no samples at the PF Chang's China Bistro table -- just fortune cookies with cute sayings about the race, and ads for what appear to be some pretty unhealthy dining choices -- like a new sesame chicken dish, breaded and covered in sauce. It did look tasty. But not really like training food. Shame on the race's namesake.

For the most part, the selection of samples was limited to health food store fare. The training stuff isn't really food, not by most standards. It comes in all forms -- bar, liquid, jelly bean, and something called Gu. At the Expo, you can try it by the spoonful, in flavors ranging from espresso to chocolate to orange. (They have plain, but why try that?)

The consistency of Gu can best be described as a cross between rubber cement and frosting. It's better than it sounds, and a little bit addictive, particularly the chocolate mint, which sadly they did not have -- it was a seasonal thing for the holidays. (Christmas energy goo?!)

The Gu got high marks from our group. Ditto for peanut butter bars by Pure Fit, though not so much for the peanut butter cookie bar at the LARABAR  booth. (To be honest, that one wound up half-chewed and in the trash, ultimately, though Lara wins points for the cutest packaging.)

But the favorite "power" snack came from Clif, where the Mojo bar (think Rice Crispie treat with nuts and chocolate chips) provided welcome relief for mouths besieged by Shot Blockers, this raspberry-flavored gummi-type thing, also by Clif, that you're supposed to toss back quickly.

Our advice: Skip the rest and go straight for the Mojo Bar. The Clif booth is on the far side away from the entrance.

From Odwalla to Safeway, just about all the sports, energy and "healthy" drinks were represented. Shamrock was even premiering its new energy milk, in plain, chocolate and strawberry. And Michelob was there with its low carb beer.

The best taste came from a little booth buried deep in the heart of the expo. No bells and whistles and temporary tattoos at this place (though they did offer up some cute tote bags), just a single serving of a Japanese "probiotic beverage" called Yakult.  

With all the talk of probiotics and the Y name, we figured Yakult would be yogurt-flavored. Instead it's got a hint of citrus and another hint of milk, a little reminiscent of the orange/ice milk 50/50 bars from your school cafeteria days. Not bad.

And it just might help you digest all the other stuff you scarfed down.    

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at