About Energy And Isotonic Drinks

Many athletes are buying energy or isotonic drinks to quench their thirst or replenish their carbohydrates. But do they have these results or 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 fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates lost during training. Their difference is that energy drinks contain stimulating ingredients such as caffeine, taurine, glucose and vitamins, while isotonic drinks contain carbohydrates (usually glucose) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.).

The sales increase of energy drinks in America in the period 2002-06.

In a study, the researchers gave athletes fluids containing glucose, maltodextrine or both, and prepared them so that everything would have the same flavor. The athletes just put them 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, that is plain water. The researchers concluded that the benefits of these beverages are provided by the signal the mouth sent to the brain when it receives sugar, rather than the energy these drinks delivers to the muscles [1].

In another study they found that citric acid, which is used in many energy/isotonic drinks, resulted in erosion of the tooth enamel [2], causing problems in the teeth over time if the problem is not corrected and even brushing can’t restrict the damage, since it can aggravate the condition of the teeth [3]. Another study found that energy drinks are dangerous because they can cause heart problems [4].

But what about fluid replenishment or energy? According to researchers at the University of New Mexico, unless one is 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 [5]. Similarly were the results in those exercising in high intensity exercises for about an hour [6].

Many of these beverages contain half of sugar from sodas and more sodium, and there are those containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, pigments and other non-body chemicals, which you should not give them to 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 as they contains sugar, and even if they are low in calories, then they certainly contain artificial sweeteners. It’s funny that drinks which are made for athletes, to contain sweeteners that stimulate insulin and cause the opposite of what they advertise.

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 for less, like most people, then these drinks they 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.

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