Sports Drink Myths Debunked

3. Product: Caffeinated Sports Drinks

What it is: Caffeine is a drug, stimulant, not a nutrient. If the product is calorie free, the drink is a vehicle for caffeine.

What it claims: Increased energy from caffeine.

Results show: These drinks, unless they contain carbohydrates, don't provide energy for the working muscles or help with hydration, since caffeine can increase urine output. Results have shown improved performance during high-intensity, short-duration (3 to 10 seconds) exercise and increased time to exhaustion and improved mood profile during endurance events. This is largely attributed to decreased perceived exertion.

Recommendation: Read labels. A caffeinated sports nutrition bar consumed with a caffeinated drink can leave you over-caffeinated resulting in jitters, GI distress and headaches. The recommended amount for performance improvement is 0.45 to 1.36 mg caffeine per pound of body weight. More does not usually mean better.

MoreCaffeine, the Ergogenic Aid

4. Product: Coconut Water

What it is: Clear liquid from young coconuts.

What it claims: Marketed as a natural sports drink due to its 'high' potassium and mineral content. It has fewer calories, less sodium and more potassium than sports drinks.

Results show: No differences in hydration or exercise performance during a 60-minute bout of treadmill exercise between trained men ingesting coconut water, conventional sports drinks and bottled water. Subjects experienced more stomach discomfort using coconut water.

Recommendation: If you can stomach the taste of coconut water, it is a suitable beverage for hydration. For exercise of longer duration (more than two hours) there is not adequate carbohydrate or sodium content. "Salty sweaters" and endurance athletes should consume a beverage that provides more sodium and carbohydrate (or supplement with salty, carbohydrate-rich foods such as pretzels).

MoreMeasure Your Sweat Loss for Optimal Hydration

5. Product: Combination Carbohydrate and Protein drinks

What it is: Carbohydrate-protein beverage containing approximately seven percent carbohydrate and .5 percent protein (7g Cho/100ml to 0.5g Pro/100ml)

What it claims: The average percent improvement in exercise performance during endurance exercise with the ingestion of protein is nine percent versus carbohydrate alone.

Results show: If you are ingesting carbohydrates at the higher end of the recommended range during exercise, adding protein has not been shown to act as an endurance elixir. Research has shown that ingestion of protein while exercising improves muscle recovery and reduces post-exercise muscle soreness.

Recommendation: Provided the carbohydrate content is within the recommended range, these drinks are suitable for endurance sports and may help an athlete get a head start on muscle recovery since the nutrients will be consumed well within the post-exercise 30-minute recovery window. Research consistently supports that there is a need for a combination of carbohydrates and protein after exercise. Carbohydrates help restore depleted muscle fuel stores after exercise, and protein provides the amino acids needed for muscle repair.

MoreGet Enough Protein Post-Workout

No matter the elixir you choose, it is always wise to practice your hydration plan throughout training. Different conditions and eating habits can impact what works and what doesn't.

Additionally, always keep the following in mind:

  1. Drink by schedule, not by thirst. Athletes who rely on thirst usually become dehydrated.
  2. Flavored beverages (even calorie-free) enhance taste, subsequently promoting fluid replacement.
  3. Water alone lacks electrolytes. If you choose to forgo drinks that contain electrolytes, it is wise to consume electrolyte-rich foods (avocado, seafood, olives, table salt).

More: Stay Hydrated With High-Water Content Foods

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