Sports Drinks

When sports drinks don’t work

Commercially available sports drinks appeal to both competitive and recreational athletes, seeking to boost their training and competition performance. Manufacturers claim their products enhance endurance performance and help replace water and electrolytes lost to sweat. But do they?

Researchers in the USA have claimed that under certain circumstances some sports drinks do not enhance performance after a study involving ten male and female cyclists.

The subjects, all of whom completed an average of 2.5 hours of cycling per week as well as other endurance activities, carried out three 60-minute trials under the following conditions:

  1. no fluid at all;
    2. 1,200ml of distilled water;
    3. 1,200ml of the sports  drink Gatorade.

Following a warm-up, the subjects cycled for 60 minutes at their highest possible power output, maintaining 0-80rpm. Heart rate, RPE (rating of perceived exertion) and power output were monitored at regular intervals throughout the trial.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Well, this study found that fluid replacement with Gatorade during an hour of moderately intense exercise did not produce any meaningful effects on power output, heart rate, sweat rate, rate of perceived exertion or urine electrolyte concentrations when compared with no fluid ingestion or water alone.

In other words, the sports drink didn’t work. Although we shouldn’t dismiss all of the previous research suggesting that commercial sports drinks can help improve performance, it may be that they only have a substantial impact during longer-term activities. More research is needed, but this study does raise a

Valid point: do we need to spend substantial amount of money on sports drinks when plain old water will do?

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 15 (2) 167-171

By Nick Grantham

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