Energy/Sport Drinks- Are they Necessary?

Performing? Having stamina issues? Are you one among those resorting to help from Sport/energy drinks? Here’s something you might need to know.. The elixir of fitness is now an electrolyte-charged drink. This formula comes in different brand names  which are said to “replenish electrolytes and hydrate the body.” A few are supposed to replenish glycogen stores(for sustained energy release during exercise) , and have antioxidants to help reduce muscle stress and protein for muscle recovery. Energy drinks “perk up” people. 

 John Rizzotti, a chemist, in his article, “What are in those Sports Drinks?” argues: “It contains water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, and monopotassium phosphate. Looking at the ingredients, a bottle of SD is nothing but sugar water.”

According to Nutritional Supplements & Performance Enhancers: Myths, Fads and Misperceptions, “A normal diet contains minerals in excess so there is no requirement for this except in extreme conditions.” And taste this. A glass of chocolate milk contains a high protein component, calcium, riboflavin and Vitamin D. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi ate bananas between sets. 

“The so-called energy drinks have huge amounts of caffeine – which can have a diuretic and a laxative effect.” and a few drinks may actually be a “calorie source and (act) as a body coolant” says a fitness trainer . For people engaging in exercise in a hot environment, an electrolyte replacer can be a lifesaver.” But the truth is that most people are not exercising for at least one hour, so water would be the best beverage of choice. During more intense and prolonged activities , sports drinks can help maintain stamina as well as aid in increased metabolism.” 

“Sports drinks are supposed to give a spurt, not health,” points out Dr. Kannan Pughzhendi, sports medicine consultant (who also works with dancers).  “How much of the glucose in SDs is absorbed depends on individual metabolism as well as the duration and intensity of the exercise. If you jog 5 km everyday, the body accepts what’s poured in but push it to 15 km suddenly, rejection is near total.” 

 “I won’t advise drinks with taurine or ginseng in them. They give you a false sense of energy.”  says another trainer. 

Go for natural sources :

Sad, says Dr. Gomathi Shivaji, HOD of Dept of Home Science, Women’s Christian College, Chennai. “SDs are not necessary,” she says, “we don’t recommend supplements. Utilisation is better from natural sources — munch a carrot, don’t pop a beta-carotene pill. Extra glucose is used only for therapeutic needs.”

Here’s her trump card. “When we asked 50 sportspersons `Who advised you to take boosters?’ not one mentioned a dietician/nutritionist. It was the coach, a magazine, the Internet or word-of-mouth. There is no conclusive proof that ergogenic aids (SDs) enhance performance. No, you don’t lose all the electrolytes when you play. Drink water, the body will irrigate itself.”

She adds, “Extra protein simply means extra load for the body. You’ll face the consequences of toxicity later. Our study proves high protein is just high excretion. No nutrition book will recommend SDs. Sensible eating is all that is needed. Is there a sports drink developed by a dietician? Then, we will talk.”

A nutritionist warns that caffeine based energy drinks should not be consumed during exercise because the caffeine-sugar concentration slows the body’s ability to absorb water. Energy drinks may not be unhealthy; but they are probably no more energising than anything else with the same amount of caffeine/sugar.

Also you need to think seriously about drinking high sugar drinks if you are a pre-diabetic or a diabetic.


I will try to read up some more scientific papers on this issue and share the info here.

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