Are Sports Drinks Making You Fat?

So you walk in the gym and you’re presented with a large machine full of sports drinks, surely I’m in this exercise environment so everything put in front of me is okay? Wrong! Well, maybe…

Time and time again I see people in the gym environment who clearly want to lose weight, but they’re on a machine working at a low intensity sipping from a Lucozade Sport. In fact, I had one client who turned up for a training session with me with a super large bottle of a Red Bull copycat – now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of Red Bull with Vodka on a Saturday night out with my mates, but if you want to lose weight, this isn’t going to help you whatsoever, in fact the calories and sugar in that bottle alone would outweigh that workout session – bit of a shocker it’s true.

It’s like turning up, training and then going past Mcdonalds on the way home. Errrrr, no!

The problem is, many people use these drinks as stimulant – don’t use food for fuel and then get addicted to them. Let me explain a bit more about sports drinks…

Locozade is one of the most well known sports drinks available in all different flavors that will satisfy that sweet tooth – not to promote this brand, but let’s face it they’re everywhere – you may be a Powerade fan or some other type.  Other sports drinks that are on the market that have differing amounts of electrolytes and additives.  All reportedly improve athletic performance.

In 1965 a group of specialists from the University of Florida began pioneering sports drinks to encourage their athletes to fight tired muscles without performance-enhancing drugs.  What they found is that athletes who used the sports drinks became dependent upon them.  Research found that after having used energy drinks 90 percent of athletes then preferred them to water after a tiring activity.

The original intent of sports drinks was to be used during an activity to help the athlete continue and not to refuel after an activity.  Post athletic activity refueling is important and can be accomplished successfully without the addition of the empty calories found in sports drinks.  In fact drinking them without exercising intensely will lead to quick weight gain, often the opposite effect that a client is trying to achieve.

But sports drinks vs water?  Sports drinks are not an alternative to water, which is the major component of the body.  They are stimulants, which help the athlete to continue to work, but they will never replace re-hydration with water.  In fact, using a sports drink after an activity without also using water will lead to dehydration.

Most sports drinks contain carbohydrates to fuel muscles and supplements to replenish fluids and nutrients.  There are three types of drinks:

Isotonic that sustains energy for middle and long distance events; Those competing in team sports, racket sports and endurance events where both dehydration and the depletion of carbohydrate stores may limit performance.

hypotonic is for those people exercising with the goal of maintaining fitness, improving body tone or weight management.

hypertonic for ultra distance events and used with isotonic drinks. They are therefore known in some situations as ‘energy’ drinks as there primary focus is to provide a large amount of carbohydrate during periods immediately following exercise where a high intake of carbohydrate is vital but in some situations hydration is not.  Hypertonic sports drinks should therefore not be used to maintain hydration as the large amount of carbohydrate is known to slow the time it takes for the drink to empty from the stomach.

The difference in each of these sports drinks is the amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes.  The higher the level of these additives the slower they empty from your stomach and the longer you feel full.

The answer lies in the amount of time you’ll be exercising, your drink preferences, and your pre-exercise hydration level.

Water hydrates best for people who are exercising between 25 and 45 minutes.  Only the true endurance athletes really need sports drinks to replace their sodium loss from sweat.  If you are exercising for 30 minutes you won’t need to hydrate during the workout.  If you are going for 45 minutes water will hydrate you and maintain your performance.

In my opinion most people simply don’t get their nutrition right with will hugely affect how they perform in gym or workout environment and that’s why ‘Active Carbs’ is such an important part of The Lunch Box Diet.

My own personal preference for clients is to drink water, as much as possible all throughout the day. If your drink tastes super sweet and you’re wanting to lose weight, put it to one side and grab the water. Oh and buy it in bulk from the supermarket and save yourself money in the gyms, although i’m guilty of spending £1 every day – now that’s a habit I need to change ;-)

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