Cycling Tips: The Truth Behind Sports Drinks

Rumors: Sports drinks are a must-have item for sports. It not only can efficiently replenish moisture, but also promotes electrolyte balance, energy supplement, hyponatremia and water poisoning, and makes athletes perform better. For non-athletes, sports drinks are also part of a healthy lifestyle, and sports drinks can make you healthier.


Truth: Sports drinks are mainly composed of water, sugar (glucose, oligosaccharides, etc.) and electrolytes of sodium and potassium ions. The purpose is to supplement the water, electrolytes and energy substances lost by athletes during competition and training. Its biggest function is designed for athletes who are engaged in intensive, high-intensity sports. For ordinary people, sports drinks are not healthy daily drinks, but it also brings a series of health problems.

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Cycling Tips: The Truth Behind Sports Drinks


Exercise does not replenish fluid = dehydration?


In fact, in the 1970s, marathon athletes refused to drink water during the event, fearing that it would affect their performance. Until the company began to sponsor some scientists to study sports rehydration, its importance has been widely concerned. Now, these scientists are communicating the dangers of dehydration to athletes and ordinary people by exerting influence on sports medicine institutions.


The biggest achievement of the sports beverage industry is that it has successfully shaken people's trust in “thirst”. Thirst has long been considered a fairly well-established discovery and coping mechanism for dehydration. But research sponsored by sports drink companies has pointed out that this mechanism is inaccurate and unreliable, and relying on thirst mechanisms may make it impossible to fully compensate for lost body fluids. Therefore, "(athletes) should be supplemented with 150 ml of liquid every 15 minutes even if they are not thirsty." Even the IOC's nutrition instruction manual for athletes (released in 2003, updated in 2008) only emphasizes the importance of adding water and preventing dehydration, but it does not mention "thirst" at one time.


According to Tim Knox, a professor of sports and kinestics at the University of Cape Town, “dehydration is the normal physiological response of the body to exercise. As water loss increases, people become thirsty and drink water, and then there is no more. The problem is Companies need to increase sales, so they can only say that the thirst mechanism is 'incapable'." Professor Knox should have a say in this. In the early 1980s, he developed a sports drink with a sports drink company in South America.


And modern competitive sports events can already provide athletes with very convenient services, including water that is readily available. Take the marathon as an example. There are corresponding water stations along the way. Athletes can stay and replenish at any time according to their own needs. They are not suffering from the pain of the whole process in the desert.

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Sports drinks help you stay in good shape?


For athletes, a large loss of body fluids may have an impact on health and exercise capacity, but whether sports drinks are as good as sports drink companies claim can better promote the replenishment of body fluids and electrolytes is now controversial.


A meta-analysis study from the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University points out that there is a lack of high-quality research and research in the current research articles on sports drinks to improve athletic performance. With a lot of bias, only three articles can be included in the analysis. It is very worrying to draw conclusions based on existing research. If you are convinced, you should conduct higher quality research.


Some scholars have suggested that the nutritional diet of athletes' three meals a day is enough to supplement their electrolyte and energy consumption during training and competition. From this point of view, it is not necessary to supplement the energy or electrolyte loss after training or competition with sports drinks. For the energy supplement during the game or training interval, the right amount of supplemental solid energy bars, candy bars, bananas, etc. can also achieve the corresponding purpose, this sports drink has no outstanding advantages.


For the most critical hydration problems, sports drinks do not seem to have a better effect than ordinary water. In modern sports, athletes have sufficient time for liquid replenishment due to changes in the rules of the game. Therefore, what really harms athletes' health in exercise practice is hyponatremia caused by heavy drinking water and fever caused by high temperature environment.


The study found that the occurrence of hyponatremia was not related to the type of fluid supplemented, but only related to the amount of supplementation, which means that excessive supplemental sports drinks can also cause hyponatremia. At present, it is considered that the supplement of water should be in accordance with the needs of the body. If you feel thirsty, you should drink some water properly (of course you can also drink sports drinks), which is enough. For a fever in motion, the increase in core body temperature is more affected by the external environment (temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc.), regardless of which fluid you add.


Sports drinks make you healthier?


After successfully convincing athletes that what to drink during exercise is as important as usual training, the sports drink industry has followed the target sales crowd. They advertised to the mass media, and they also communicated the importance of rehydration and bottled water to schools, parents and students through sports medicine education.


Their strategy is very effective. Now non-athletes have become the biggest consumer group of sports drinks. Many people who are not very active drink sports drinks as a healthy lifestyle. An analysis from Yale Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that a quarter of American parents believe that sports drinks are healthy drinks for children.


But all the research provided by sports drinks companies is aimed at people who maintain intensive, high-intensity exercise habits. They did not seem to have considered that the vast majority of their consumer groups were only those who went to the gym for an average of two hours a week. This is why the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that electrolyte drinks containing carbohydrates (sports drinks) are only suitable for those who are physically active in high-intensity endurance sports.


Researchers at Harvard University point out that a 500-ml sweet drink typically contains 3-14 tablespoons of sugar (1 tablespoon about 4 grams of sugar). Eating more sugar means ingesting more energy. If other aspects are not controlled, it will increase health problems such as obesity, diabetes, dental caries and gout. The above analysis from Yale University confirmed that the increase in children's consumption of sports drinks has contributed a lot to their obesity.


Second, electrolyte sodium in sports drinks can also cause some health problems. According to Chinese standards, the sodium content in sports drinks is generally 50-1200 mg / liter. Like to drink sports drinks, it is bound to increase the intake of sodium. Excessive sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer, osteoporosis and other diseases.


Sports drinks should obviously not be consumed in large quantities as healthy drinks.

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The guest sees the scientific evidence of the endorsement of sports drinks


When sports beverage companies sell their products, they all emphasize the scientific evidence behind the products. In the British Medical Journal's systematic review of sports drinks, it is found that the following problems are common in related research: insufficient sample size, low research quality, manipulation of data (preferred positive results), lack of double blindness Tests, etc. In the positional paper on rehydration published by the American College of Sports Medicine, most editorial committees expressed their cooperation or funded relationship with certain sports beverage companies in the conflict of interest statement or description at the end of the article.


In addition, due to the long-term cooperative relationship between the relevant institutions and famous journals and magazines, the research on negative reports of sports drinks is difficult to publish.


Conclusion: For those who maintain intensive and high-intensity exercise habits, as long as they feel thirsty, they should add proper amount of water to avoid a large amount of rehydration, so that no matter what they drink, they can prevent problems such as dehydration, hyponatremia and water intoxication; Chocolate, bananas, etc., do not lose sports drinks in terms of energy supplementation. Therefore, whether to choose sports drinks is just a personal preference. For amateur sports enthusiasts or those who never exercise, sports drinks are by no means a healthy living routine.


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