by Catherine Ebeling, RN BSN
IS YOUR SPORTS DRINK HELPING OR HINDERING YOUR PERFORMANCE?
Athletes everywhere pick up sports drinks to quench their thirst and replenish carbohydrates. Do they really work? Do energy and sports drinks help performance or do they just add empty calories? A recent scientifically formulated new sports drink called "Beyond Hydration" water may actually be the only drink that does. However the leading sports drinks on the market may actually be detrimental to athletic performance.
Expensive and highly visible advertising campaigns, and celebrity athlete spokespersons give many people the impression that these drinks are healthy and essential during or after a workout to replace lost electrolytes, carbohydrates and fluids.
Although simple carbohydrates are helpful for athletes engaging in high-intensity exercise, are sports drinks effective, or even appropriate, for the average gym member or weekend warrior? Studies seem to be split on the matter.
In one study, researchers prepared beverages containing glucose, maltodextrin or neither, so that they tasted identical, and gave them to athletes, who rinsed the drinks around in their mouths before spitting them out during exercise. Despite not reaping the energizing effects of the carbohydrates in the drinks, the rinsing of the simple sugar mixes were shown to "significantly reduce the time to complete the cycle time trial," while the placebo drinks had no such effect. The data was so impressive that the researchers concluded "much of the benefit from carbohydrate in sports drinks is provided by signaling directly from mouth to brain rather than providing energy for the working muscle."
Another study found that citric acid, commonly found in sports drinks, ate away at the enamel coating on teeth. As a result, the drinks could easily leak into the bone-like material underneath, causing a weakening and softening of the tooth that could result in severe tooth damage and even tooth loss if left untreated.
Sports drinks are up to 30 times more erosive to your teeth than water. As this recent study pointed out, brushing your teeth does not help because citric acid in the sports drink will softens tooth enamel so much it could be damaged just by brushing.
These beverages may cause irreversible damage to dental enamel, potentially resulting in severe tooth decay according to a study reported in the January/February issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's clinical, peer-reviewed journal. Dental enamel is the thin, outer layer of hard tissue that helps maintain the tooth structure and shape, while protecting it from decay.
The leading brands of sports drinks on the market typically contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of sodas and more sodium. They also often contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial flavors, and food coloring, none of which belong in your body.
If you are exercising to lose weight and get into shape, you should know that sports drinks and energy drinks will cause weight gain, similar to drinking soda. It is a sad irony that many people work hard and sweat to lose weight, only to gain weight from drinking sports drinks.
And although these drinks are often referred to as "energy" drinks, in the long run the sugar they contain does just the opposite. A quick explosion of energy followed by a plummet in blood, as your pancreas floods the body with insulin to balance out the toxic stimulation to your blood sugar. So the quick energy you may feel from the sugar soon becomes less energy as your blood sugar drops.
"Energy drinks" were popularized in the U.S. with the 1997 introduction of Red Bull, a carbonated beverage from Austria that contains 80 mg of caffeine in every bottle - about the same amount as is found in a cup of coffee. For comparison, classic Coca Cola contains 23 mg caffeine and Mountain Dew contains 37 mg caffeine.
Other brands of "energy drinks" may contain twice as much or more caffeine as Red Bull, plus other questionable ingredients such as guarana - a South American caffeine-containing herb.
The calories in these drinks do provide some energy, but mostly their content of caffeine and taurine turn up one's feelings of alertness and may produce troublesome side effects such as anxiety, irritability, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, and indigestion.
These manifestations are more likely to occur with "energy drinks" than with hot coffee, which is usually drunk more slowly than the chilled "energy drinks". "Energy drinks" can also lead to dehydration because caffeine stimulates urination and thus increases water loss. Dehydration during athletic activities not only reduces performance, but also can cause painful muscle cramping.
Because it is metabolized by the liver, the fructose in high fructose corn syrup does not cause the pancreas to release insulin the way it normally does. Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. This is most likely a big reason Americans continue to get fatter. Fructose raises serum triglycerides significantly. For complete internal conversion of fructose into glucose and acetates, it must rob ATP energy stores from the liver. ATP is the fuel, which supplies the energy to muscles, especially while exercising. If you are robbing your muscles' energy stores, then actually the sports drink is decreasing your athletic performance.
And if your sports drink is low calorie and sugar-free, be warned that it likely contains an artificial sweetener, which is even worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup or sugar.
Sports drinks also contain large quantities of salt, which is there to replace electrolytes. However, unless you're sweating profusely and for a prolonged period, that extra salt is simply unnecessary, and possibly harmful.
Also the excess salt will actually make you thirstier and make you want to drink more, while causing you to retain water and feel heavier.
In many ways drinking sports drinks is not a whole lot better than chugging a can of soda after your workout. Less than 1 percent of those who use sports drinks actually benefit from them.
Unless you exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time, sports drinks are unnecessary. It's only when you've been exercising for longer periods, such as 60 minutes or more, or at an extreme intensity, such as on a very hot day or at your full exertion level, that you may need something more than water to replenish your body.
Anything less than 45 minutes will not result in a large enough fluid loss to justify using these high-sodium, high-sugar drinks.
Besides water, the best thing to quench your thirst may be a new product just emerging on the market.
Beyond Hydration Water is the most hydrating drink on the market. Its 74 electrolytes and 18 amino acids don't just quench your thirst; they hydrate the inner cells all while delivering nutrients such as B3, B5, B6, B12, and removing metabolic waste from the cells.
Beyond Hydration does all of this without adding high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, preservatives, and other junk that slow the body down. It not only rehydrates the body, it aids in muscle recovery, mental clarity and energy.
Formulated by a team of scientists, it actually helps to increase ATP (the body's fuel source for muscles) by 9%! Studies have actually shown Beyond Hydration Water to bring about a noticeable improvement in performance in athlete's strength and endurance, as well as a reduction in muscle soreness.
When you get down to natural nutrition, real hydration and total body performance, Beyond Hydration stands alone. Because unlike its competitors, Beyond Hydration goes beyond hydration (with 74 electrolytes!) to provide your body with the natural minerals it needs for energy, exercise recovery and cellular hydration.
If you really want a drink that is better than water to improve athletic performance and truly hydrate the body, drink Beyond Hydration Water.
Bill Sanda, BS, MBA, "The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup", Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2003.
Dr. Mercola, "Disgusting Truth About Sports Drinks Revealed", April 23, 2009
Beyond Hydration Water Jan 2009
Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., "The Downsides of Bottled Water and Energy Drinks",
Johns Hopkins University, Sep 13, 2007.