Energy from energy drinks


Does energy drinks work?
The problem with energy drinks is that they were designed for athletes, but even here the application is a fairly limited one. To explain this, here are some examples of scenarios where energy drinks really work well:

  1. Endurance athletes who exercise for more than an hour who need to replace carbohydrates on the run such as marathon athletes. The average person usually has only enough glucose stored in his muscles to sustain approximately 90 minutes of intense continuous exercise.
  2. Fluid and electrolyte (salt) replacement in athletes competing in back to back events. 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 isn't always possible in a series of competitions or exercise routines.

Do we need energy drinks to improve your performance?
If you are not doing a lot of endurance events, the answer is no. You do not need it and it won’t improve your performance if you are not doing intense continuous exercise for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Most of us are not professional athletes, but rather spend our time driving or sitting at a desk as corporate athletes running the rat race. The bottom line is you'll do just fine by regularly replacing fluid losses by drinking good cold water and not taking in unnecessary kilojoules through energy drinks.

What about fruit juice?
Cold drinks and fruit juices are highly concentrated, and although fruit juices may be more nutritious in comparison to other beverages due to the vitamin and mineral content, they remain high-energy sources. A glass of fruit juice and a glass of cold drink are almost equal in kilojoules. Every 100ml of fruit juice is approximately equal to 1 piece of fresh fruit, which means the average glass of fruit juice is equivalent to at least 3 fresh fruits minus the fibre. It is really easy to down half a litre of fruit juice, but certainly not that easy to eat 5 or 6 pieces of fresh fruit in one sitting!

An appropriate serving of fruit juice would be 125ml (1/2 cup) diluted with ½ cup of water, rooibos or other herbal tea or ice. Read about the hidden sugars in food here.

Carbonated artificially sweetened cold drinks
Considering that one 500ml serving of sugared cold drink such as Coke contains up to 12 (twelve!) teaspoons of sugar, many of us are opting for the sugar free varieties. Are they really any better? Just because they are sugar free does not mean that more would be better. All artificially sweetened drinks (Tab, Sprite Zero, Coke Lite, Sparkling lemon lite, Lite Iced tea etc) may be consumed in small amounts - no more than 2 tins (340ml each) per day and ideally not every day. Recent GI testing in South Africa has shown that all artificially sweetened drinks result in a 15% rise in blood glucose levels, so they are not without some effect on the body. Water is still the best beverage choice. 

You might want to read about the facts about water.