I can remember watching Lucozade adverts on TV growing up. You know, the one where the guy with the Irish accent said the flavoured sports drink made you go 33% longer? Or that other one with Steven Gerrard; the box to box midfielder was a perfect example of someone who needs energy for the whole 90 minutes.
But studying marketing at uni has changed the way I look at adverts. Are sports drinks really all that effective? Are there any downsides to them? I play football once or twice a week and always have a sports drink to hand when there’s a break in play (Powerade is my preferred choice). For me, it’s all in the head. A swig of Powerade and I’m transformed from a lackadaisical Dimitar Berbatov to an all action Carlo Tevez.
Apart from studies undertaken by the sports drinks manufacturers, what research is there on the subject?
The first question must be can good old water not do the same job? A much cheaper alternative, manufacturers claim added ingredients can replenish electrolytes and such. Dr Larry Kenney believes sports drinks are effective for athletes training for hours a day. He goes on to suggest water is sufficient for jogging for example. It suggests to me for the average Joe in the gym who exercise for 15 minutes then spend the rest of the time in the sauna, they make little difference.
Dr. Edward Chambers suggests merely tasting and spitting out a sports drink is as effective as swallowing. Select receptors in the mouth respond to the sugar, sending pleasure signals to the brain – this is enough to boost performance apparently. Dr Chambers believes this proves the brain limits performance, rather than the heart, muscles or lungs. It’s however maybe a little disgusting spitting drinks out, take for example 22 men on football field at half time.
Manufacturers suggest drinking before, during and after exercise. But an unlikely alternative is chocolate milk. Dr. William Lunn found low fat chocolate milk proved to be more effective at repairing muscles after running. A second test revealed chocolate milk helped replenish glycogen stores in the muscles – a source for energy. Although, the research was funded by the National Dairy Council and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board. But it does give food (or drink) for thought.
A study of marathon runners suggests drinking too much can affect your performance. Those who lost more weight finished quicker than those who put on weight from drinking more than the body needed. I’ve found this to be true too; running and moving becomes uncomfortable when you’ve downed half a bottle in one go. Therefore it’s may be better have a sip now and again instead.
I also question the additives and sugar present in these sweet tasting drinks. It surely can’t help someone who exercises in the hope to reduce their waistline. I wonder if the weight lost from exercise is put straight back on by drinking. There are sugar free alternatives, but in my opinion taste funny.
I think I’ll cut down on sports drinks and try some of these tips. I may get laughed at for bringing chocolate milk to football, but if it means I’ll play like Messi or Ronaldo, I’ll be having the last laugh.
What are your thoughts on sports drinks? Do you find they improve your exercise?