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Who should be using energy drinks

Written by: Dr A Janse van Rensburg -- 17/10/2005


I was told by a friend that drinking an energy drink while working out at the gym is not good for me. What do you think?

Dr Anton:

If youíre not a professional athlete I think your friend had a point and here is why. Energy drinks definitely have a place in exercising individuals but usually that place is a fairly limited one. To explain this here are some examples of scenarios where energy drinks really work well.

A) Endurance athletes who exercise for more than an hour who need to replace carbohydrates on the run.
(Marathon athletes, iron man, ultra man etc.) Note: The average person usually has only enough glucose stores in his muscles to sustain approximately 1 hour of intense continuous exercise.

B) Athletes who compete in back to back competitions where they need carbohydrate replacement and they donít feel like eating between events.
Note: The best time to replace carbohydrates if youíre competing in several events is immediately after an event. The reason for this is that muscles are more susceptible to store glucose as glycogen in a 30 minute window directly after exercise.

C) Fluid and electrolyte (salt) replacement in athletes competing in back to back events.
Note: A person loses electrolytes through sweating and this is replaced by eating food with a little salt in it after exercise. The problem is that eating isnít always possible in a series of competitions or exercise routines.

The bottom line is youíll do just fine by regularly replacing fluid losses by drinking good old water during and after your gym session. This will anyway help you to maintain your weight because you're not consuming more kilojoules. (You can determine your fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after your gym session.)

So the million dollar question is does energy drinks improve your performance?

The answer is simply no. Fitness and correct preparation increases your performance and energy drinks help to maintain performance in longer events.

Take note:

Refined sugar poses several dangers to your health from decreased immunity, heart disease and cancer. Interestingly enough these dangers are not relevant in the categories mentioned in A Ė C above because the bodies of the athletes in question are using all the consumed carbohydrate for energy.

In my opinion this makes energy drinks just another form of refined carbohydrate that can actually be damaging to your body if you donít really need it.


Dr Anton

Read more about the dangers of refined carbohydrates here.


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