The food and beverage industry is a big and powerful system, with various brands constantly competing with each other for our attention. Sports drinks and energy drinks are extremely popular today in different sports of all levels and age groups. We take these products to the gym, on a light jog or a dog walk, and sip some on a hot day while camping. Kids love them because they taste good, have fun colours and make them look “cool”... After all, if they were designed for athletes and can give us more energy and a better performance, why not?... hm…
Did you know that sports drinks and energy drinks are quite different, but often confused with each other?
Simply speaking, sport drinks contain mostly sugars and electrolytes (salts) and are designed to restore losses that happen during intense exercise (sugars give us quick energy, salts replace electrolytes and water returns lost fluids). There are other various types that are available today featuring different nutrients, but the idea is the same. Energy drinks, on the other hand, have mostly caffeine and are designed as stimulants and energy boosters.
So what does this really mean?
This means that sports drinks are only useful for prolonged (more than 1h) and intense sweating activities, physical activities done in a very hot humid environment, or, say, certain sports with heavy gear that makes us sweat a lot...If not, sports drinks will just add calories and electrolytes that we didn’t lose enough of in the first place! The effect of energy drinks on athletic performance has not been studied well and the need of it for most of us remains in question. Health Canada even advises us against consumption of energy drinks by children and teenagers because of high caffeine content that often exceeds the daily norm, and common usage of unresearched ingredients.
So here we have it:
Don’t use energy drinks in place of sports drinks
Don't get energy drinks for your children and teenagers
Have a balanced diet to supply yourself with enough energy for performance and a healthy post-exercise snack
Unless needed, choose plain water over sport drinks! :)