The Myth of Sports Drinks and Exercise

Myth buster: Sports drinks vs. water

 Published 4:59 p.m., Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | SFGate

Myth: Sports drinks keep you better hydrated than water during a workout.

Fact: Those giant sports drink coolers on the sidelines of professional sporting events send fans a strong message – your favorite athletes drink this stuff, and you should, too. But according to new research, sports drinks aren’t proved to deliver all they promise, and water is all that most people need to stay hydrated.

Americans buy $1.5 billion worth of sports drinks annually, but a series of studies in the British Medical Journal say there isn’t enough evidence to support so-called scientific claims by sports drink makers that their products optimize athletic performance and recovery. For more information: bit.ly/T9tYeu.

In one study the journal examined 104 sports drinks and other products that claim to enhance athletic performance. There were 431 claims associated with these products, and researchers found that slightly more than half of them were not backed up. Most of the study references the ads did provide were either so vague that the journal’s researchers couldn’t analyze them, or they referred to studies that the researchers said had a high risk of bias. The researchers reported that only three of the studies referenced were of “high quality and low risk of bias.”

Aside from that, there are nutritional problems with sports drinks. According to the Harvard University School of Public Health, sports drinks contain between three to 14 teaspoons of sugar and as many as 255 calories. Water has neither. And when determining how much water to drink before, during and after a workout, the Harvard team says thirst can be the guide. Source: hvrd.me/RAlnCd.

Then there’s the question of electrolytes – minerals like calcium, potassium and sodium that decrease slightly as your body sweats them out during exercise. Water doesn’t contain electrolytes; sports drinks do. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that people who work out vigorously for an hour or more lose enough electrolytes to warrant replacing them with sports drinks. Researchers add, however, that you can also replace electrolytes with a balanced diet, including mineral-rich fruits and vegetables.

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Stay Hydrated. You can lose 20 to 48 oz of water per hour during intense exercise.

Running in summer requires extra precautions, hydration

By Grant Gensheimer — Special to the Herald-Leader

Foot-race season is here, and many of us will take to running outside. Whether you are a seasoned runner or planning on running your first 5K this summer, there are some precautions to take to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

These occur when the body’s own temperature regulatory system becomes inadequate at keeping the body cool.

There are two mechanisms the body uses in the attempt to keep from overheating. The first is one we are all familiar with — sweating. The evaporation of sweat from the surface of the skin helps to cool the body. Only the sweat that actually evaporates from the skin has a cooling effect. All that extra fluid dripping off you during your hot summer run is essentially wasted water.

Sweat can have a hard time evaporating when the humidity level is high, making it all the more important that you take the time to adequately rehydrate.

In addition to sweating, the body will also increase blood flow to the skin in the attempt to lose some of the extra body heat to the cooler environment. While this can help in the cooling process, it has the unfortunate side effect of reducing some of the blood flow to the working muscles. That’s why your two-mile jog that may have been easy in May might become much more difficult in the heat of July or August.

When the temperature outside is higher than that of the body, this method of cooling becomes much less effective. Seek a cooler, shaded area a few times throughout your workout, and try to run in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

When starting a running program, or doing any type of physical activity outside remember these tips in order to stay cool and safe:

■ Give yourself time to get acclimated to the summer heat. Start off running in short, easy bouts and slowly progress. It usually takes around a week of daily exposure for the body to make the necessary adaptations.

■ Stay hydrated. The body can lose anywhere between 20 and 48 ounces of water per hour during intense exercise.

■ Take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area.

■ For intensive and/or hot training sessions lasting more than an hour consider drinking fluids with electrolytes such as a sports drink.