• Energy Drinks

Sports Drinks / Energy Drinks

There are a dazzling array of sports and energy drinks on the market, most of which promise to boost your performance and help you perform better and for longer.

Some of the claims seem quite fantastic and you need to be cautious with what you are expecting from them. As Wilf Paish, one of the UKs top coaches for many years, once said to me "Many are just expensive sugar!".

However, there is science behind many of the drinks and they can give you an advantage over just having water.

Here we are going to describe some of the types of drinks available, which basically fall into two categories - energy drinks and protein shakes.

It is worth checking the constituent parts of any drink you buy, branded products, supermarket labels etc as there is some variation and sometimes expensive doesn't mean better. It is also worth checking the ingredients as occasionally they contain banned products (eg ephedrine) although this is less common than it used to be.

Protein Shakes

Protein drinks are a good supplement for those who are not getting enough protein, although it is worth assessing if you need to boost as most people get enough from their regular diet.

The key time that protein shakes are almost certainly thinking about is post-training as we look to restore muscles that need to adapt to the training stresses put upon them. Doing so in a fluid form allows for quicker absorbtion and it is also important to consume some carbohydrates at this point as they are needed for effective synthesis of the proteins.

Energy Drinks

There is a destinction between sports drinks and energy ones. The main one being that many of the energy ones will give you a bit of a chemical boost - usually in the form of caffeine, which can be in the form of guarana. They may also contain vitamins and other herbs ingredients to boost your "energy", although you do need to be careful as drinking too many can lead to health problems.

In terms of pure sports drinks, which usually contain carbohydrates, but can also contain protein. There are 3 types of drinks containing carbohydrates.

The idea is to get energy back into the body to continue performing at a good level, or to start the recovery process (the latter probably requiring some protein as well). The 3 types are

Hypotonic which has sugar levels lower than in the body. These are good for drinking during training and competition where the water content is the most important thing. Used where the energy needs are low - jockeys have particular use for this kind of drink as they wish to keep their body weight down.

Isotonic drinks have the same level of sugar (about 50-70g carbohydrates / litre). They are in balance with the bodies fluids and are easily absorbed in the stomach, so can start recovery processes very quickly. Most athletes find this kind of drink the most useful.

Hypertonic which are very carbohydrate heavy and are used for recovery. Often these will be a mixture of sugars and complex carbohydrates as very quick release into the body is not essential and it avoid hypo-glycaemia.

It is perfectly possible to make your own sports drinks, with glucose and a pinch of salt (about 2g/litre) for a fraction of the price of branded products. Use about 50g of sugars (or ideally glucose) per litre of drink.

The information here is written by a athletics coaches who have read widely into the subject and not a sports nutritionist, so is about gearing your food and drink to the practicalities of running.

Nutrition Topics

  1. When to Eat
  2. How to Prepare for Races
  3. Calorie Requirements
  4. Losing Weight when Running
  5. Gaining Muscle Nutrition Advice
  6. Fluid Intake
  7. Carbohydrates
  8. Protein
  9. Fats
  10. Vitamins and Minerals
  11. Fish Oils
  12. Creatine
  13. Glucosamine
  14. Bicarbonate of Soda
  15. HMB
  16. Caffeine
  17. Alanine








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