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Sport Drinks during Training. Does it Work?


Sport Drinks during Training. Does it Work?
  Mar. 26, 2015


For most exercisers, a bottle of sports drink is an essential sidekick during a working out. While most people may feel that a sipping a sports drink during physical activity will improve performance, it might come as a surprise that the research is not as clear cut. Any potential improvements in exercise performance are greatly dependent on the type, intensity and duration of exercise.

Situations where consuming a carbohydrate beverage has been shown to improve performance include:

  1. Endurance exercise lasting 3 hours or more at 70% VO2max.
  2. Following intermittent exercise, ingesting carbohydrates improves muscle glycogen concentrations.
  3. Improvement in motor skills over the course of a multi-hour tennis match.
  4. Endurance events lasting 1 hour, but only a mouth rinse is required.

The research clearly indicates that longer duration exercise can be positively affected by carbohydrate fluid ingestion. In the case of the mouth rinse scenario, one hour is not enough time for carbohydrates to be digested, but the central nervous system perceives the increased concentrations of glucose in the oral cavity, and responds with improvements in performance.

Research has not focused solely on potential endurance benefits with carbohydrate consumption during exercise. A variety of new publications have focused on identifying any improvements in anaerobic activities as well. However, a broad overview of the literature identifies that the research is equivocal.

  1. Oral rinsing with carbohydrates and caffeine had no significant impact on maximal strength or muscular endurance testing using the bench press.
  2. Oral rinsing exclusively with carbohydrates found no improvements in anaerobic performance in female soccer players. Tests included vertical jump tests, 18m sprint test and a shuttle run.
  3. In elite weightlifters, consuming carbohydrate beverage before and during training was found increase total force output during the exercise bout, thus indicating an importance for individuals undertaking high-volume training.
  4. Supplementing both before and during an exercise bout consisting of repeated high-intensity jump squats found no improvements in performance measures.

Furthermore, research on the benefits of carbohydrate consumption during endurance cycling did not yield any benefits in local muscle glycogen sparing, even though positive results were found in runners under similar conditions. The variety of results outlined above identifies that a single study cannot be applied outside of the conditions investigated. While there certainly is promising research for the use of carbohydrate beverages during endurance events over 60 minutes, the equivocal research presented in respect to anaerobic resistance training negates the ability to form an exact conclusion without further research.

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