Sports and Energy Drinks: The Complete Guide (Part 1)

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Better Health and Fitness, Training Tips
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Gatorade

Image via Wikipedia

The first of a four part series
by Jimson Lee

The beverage industry, and in particular, sports beverages, is a multi-billion dollar industry.  These companies will do anything for you to be loyal to their brand and product.  From flashy TV and magazine ads to big names sponsors associated with the branding.  Remember, Gatorade dumped Tiger and that was big news, even though it had nothing to do with personal life.

I will attempt to dissect the different elements in this somewhat overpriced and confusing industry.  At the end, you, the reader, will decide what is best for you.  It could be simply plain water, some orange juice and a pinch of salt.  Or it could be any of the products mentioned here.

Just remember, every body is different on how much sugar you can consume, and how you react to it in terms of metabolism.  Just like some people have diabetes and others don’t.  So as the cliché goes, your mileage may vary.

Before, During and Post Recovery

The FIRST thing you need to know is if you are consuming the drink before, during and post recovery.  All 3 are different and it also depends on your sport.   The ambient temperature (heat &  humidity) will also have an effect on the amount you sweat.

Different examples of different needs are a simple 20 minute circuit training session, a long sprint workout, a 2 hour endurance workout, and finally two-12 hour days in a Decathlon competition in the hot sun.

The SECOND thing you need to know the difference between:

  1. plain water
  2. glorified water, smartwater, vitaminized water
  3. electrolyte & fluid replacement drinks (for sprinters and distance runners)
  4. sports drink for endurance athletes
  5. post recovery drinks
  6. energy drinks
  7. … and lastly (heaven forbid) soft drinks or pop.

What’s in Your Drink?

There are 7 ingredients I can think of, so it all boils down to what’s in YOUR drink (no pun intended).

  1. water (of course!)
  2. electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium)
  3. sugars, starches and (heaven forbid) HFCS!
  4. protein, BCAA, glutamine, whey protein isolates (WPI)
  5. caffeine
  6. tyrosine, taurine, and other nootropics
  7. others, such as creatine

I’ll repeat myself here again.  What you need depends on your sport, the ambient weather conditions, and whether you drink it before, during and post recovery of a workout or competition.  Walking down the beverage aisle at Safeway or grocery store is the same as trying to choose a box of cold cereal!  Just way too many choices.

The BIG 4 with the largest market share right now are (in alphabetical order)  Accelerade, Cytomax, Endurox and Gatorade.  (I have a sweet spot for Cytomax because these guys make my favorite RTD Muscle Milk drink!)

This article on Recovery Drinks with 4:1 Carbs Protein ratio has a comparison of 3 out of the 4.

But before you rush out and buy these (based on your sporting heroes), read this article in full and make your own decisions.

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series.

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