Many athletes buy energy or isotonic drinks to quench their thirst or to replenish their glycogen. But do those drinks have any result or they are just empty calories?
The truth is that advertising companies and magazines have given the impression that these drinks are healthy and necessary during or after training to replenish the electrolytes and carbohydrates you lost during training.
Their difference is that energy drinks contains stimulating ingredients such as caffeine, taurine, glucose and vitamins, while isotonic drinks contains carbohydrates (usually glucose) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.).
In one study, researchers gave to athletes drinks containing glucose, maltodextrine or both, and prepared them so everything had the same flavor. The athletes just keep those drinks in their mouths for a while and then spitted them during their exercises.
Although athletes did not benefit from the carbohydrates, they did complete their exercise cycles in less time than the athletes who received the placebo (just water). The researchers concluded that the benefits of these beverages are provided by the signal sent to the brain by the mouth, when it receives sugar, rather than the energy these drinks delivers to the muscles .
In a second study, researchers found that citric acid, which is used in many energy/isotonic drinks, resulted in erosion of the tooth enamel , causing problems in the teeth if the problem is not corrected and even brushing can’t restrict the damage, since it can aggravate the condition of the teeth .
In another study researchers found that energy drinks are dangerous because they can cause heart problems .
But what about fluid replenishment or more energy? According to researchers at the University of New Mexico, unless you are going to exercise for more than 90 minutes, consuming carbohydrates will have the opposite effect than expected.
While carbohydrate-containing beverages help the body to absorb water, there is no evidence that the body will retain its fluids more efficiently than plain water, so isotonic beverages are not more effective in hydrating than simple water .
Similarly were the results in those exercising in high intensity exercises for about an hour .
Many of these beverages contain half of the sugar that sodas containing and more sodium, and there are those containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, pigments and other non-body chemicals, which you would not have them in your body because they are not healthy (especially HFCS and sweeteners).
If you exercising to lose weight, you should know that adding HFCS and artificial sweeteners will in the end give you pounds instead of losing them, because they signaling the body to secrete insulin.
It’s funny that drinks which are made for athletes, to contain sweeteners that stimulate insulin and cause the opposite of what they advertised.
If you exercise intensively for over 60′ or if you do a marathon workout, then isotonic drinks will help you replenish the electrolytes you will lose from such an intense exercise and will rehydrate you. If you exercise less than that, like most people do, then these drinks will give you nothing. If you want to try something alternative and maybe healthier, try coconut water or even better, just water with little honey and a few drops of natural lemon juice.