Skip the sugary water and make your own sports drink

These are the biggest myths you need to stop believing about sports drinks, and how you can save money by making your own. 

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Ah, water. Nectar of the gods. What can compete? When it comes to post-workout hydration, many of us prefer H2O over all else. Compared to flavoured sports drinks, going natural seems like a no-brainer. But there's more to the water vs Gatorade debate than we think. Many are quick to weigh in on which form of fluid replenishment is more beneficial and the crux of the argument is always sugar. Now the dirtiest word in wellness, sugar-laden sports drinks can be perceived as a clever and costly marketing gimmick, adding extra calories and carbohydrates to our diet when they're not needed. But are they really that bad for us? Here, Louise Burke, the head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, sets the record straight on sports drinks and reveals how to make your own.

It's not what's in them, it's how you use them

Some of the concerns about sports drinks are that they're harmful to dental health and contain sugar and calories which are not always needed. It's not a very nutrient-dense form of carbohydrate and so it's really something that has a place within a session of exercise or after exercise. They're a very purpose-built product for use by people who are exercising. When they're used under those conditions, there is a lot of evidence that they can enhance performance. But, like a lot of other things in the world, people often misuse them, even athletes.

Sports drinks can improve performance

There's bucket loads of evidence to show that the use of a sports drink, because it provides carbohydrates, fluid and electrolytes, can enhance performance of a range of different sports. Generally we say that if you're thinking about the carbohydrate content of the sports drink as being the important benefit, then most sports that are beyond 60 to 90 minutes of sustained exercise intensity will benefit from having an extra fuel source coming in.

Yep, sugar is the main ingredient

Typical sports drinks have electrolytes, water and carbohydrates as the main ingredients. Most sports drinks are a composition of some sort of carbohydrate, often it's a mixture of different types of sugars, whether it's glucose or fructose. There's usually somewhere between 4 to 8 grams of carbohydrate per 100mls of drink. Then there's usually an electrolyte quantity and that's based on what tastes good to a person who's exercising, as well as replacing some salt. Some sports drinks may have other ingredients, such as caffeine or they might have some other chemicals which they think promotes better performance, some contain amino acids for example.

You don't necessarily have to drink them

There's evidence now that it's not just the ability of the carbohydrate to provide the fuel for the muscle that makes it beneficial. We now know that just putting it in your mouth has a reaction. Your mouth has receptors that talk to the brain and when the brain gets the carbohydrate, it says 'wow, I feel good, I can go faster'. There are studies now showing that if it's a sustained intensity session of exercise of 45 to 60 minutes, like a 10km race or a time trial on the bike, simply putting it in your mouth and swishing it around can enhance your performance, you don't even have to swallow it. It's the contact with the brain that makes it beneficial.

Save money and make your own

Add 40 to 80g of raw sugar to 1L of water, which is the carbohydrate replacement. Adjust to taste. Then add 0.5g of table salt, the electrolyte replacement, as well as flavour to suit. This could be fruit juice or a little bit of lemon essence to take the edge off the taste. Sometimes when you're making up your own sweet drinks, they can be a bit unpleasant without something that takes the tang off them. Often people will add citric acid or another food acid to give it a sharper taste, so that it breaks down the sweetness and make it's more balanced.

If you do buy a sports drink from the store…

Try and choose one that's made by a company that also invests in sports research and sports education of athletes.

How fit are you?

(Why?)

Published at Tue, 11 Apr 2017 21:00:30 +0000

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