Sports Drinks - Do they Work?

Sports Drinks, Bars and Gels - Do they work?

Whether sports drinks, gels and bars improve performance is a question I get asked all the time, so here is my answer.

Sports Drinks

Despite what many people may think sports drinks are not ‘just full of sugar’. Sports drinks in fact, have less sugar and calories than fruit juice and soft drink and are regarded as the sports supplement with the single greatest potential to enhance performance. Examples of sports drinks include: Powerade, Horleys Replace, Powerbar Endurance and Leppin Enduro Booster.

Sports drinks are an ideal to consume pre and post training as well as during competition because they are:

  1. Flavoured and contain salt. Voluntary fluid intakes are greater than when compared to water, even when athletes claim they don’t like the taste.
  2. Designed to contain between 6-8g carbohydrate per 100ml. This is the ideal concentration to ensure rapid delivery of fuel and fluid from the intestine to muscles so you are able to work at your peak for longer.   

Sports Bars

Sports bars also offer a compact source of carbohydrate and protein during exercise. Because they are solid, they can be useful if you have a tendency to get hungry during exercise. They can also be used as a snack, however they are a lot more expensive than ‘regular’ bars which, for most people work just as well. 

Sports Gels

Compared with sports drinks, sports gels provide a highly concentrated source of carbohydrate (65-70%) and therefore provide a large fuel boost in a single serve. In situations where it is not practical to carry large amounts of sports drink, gels are a great alternative as they are a compact fuel source (although, they still need to be taken with at least 150ml of water).  

Sports gels are liquid lollies that come in a wide variety of flavours and vary considerably in texture. Some are like toothpaste and others thin like water, so it is vital that you test them before using them in competition.

When used in the right environment, sports products can be very beneficial. It is important to remember though, that a well balanced diet, including a variety of foods from all four major food groups, should form the foundation for any high performance diet.

By Kath Fouhy, BSc, PG DipDiet, NZRD - 20/09/08

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