I admit it. I wear my heart rate monitor and check the calorie count for my workout as much as I follow heart rate. Seeing the calorie burn keeps me motivated to keep cranking up hills and staying on pace. Research has proven without question that carbohydrate feeds during endurance exercise improve time to exhaustion and decrease muscle breakdown. But all that extra sugar can take away from overall calorie expenditure. Over a 1 hour ride, 24 oz of a typical 6% carbohydrate sport drink will add 150 calories, and it is all sugar. Recently researchers at the University of Texas tested a new formulation of sport drink in female athletes and found that a protein plus mixed-carb supplement could improve performance despite containing 50 percent less carbohydrate. The protein plus carb blend was also 30 percent lower in calories, and important consideration for many athletes. Better performance, less sugar, and more calorie burn. That’s my kind of sport drink.
The energy beverage industry is a huge market. It can be confusing for athletes, however, who need specific formulations during exercise that can be easily tolerated and quickly pass out of the stomach and absorbed. Here is a quick guide:
- Always use a sports drink during exercise of >1 hour duration.
- Choose a sports hydration drink that contains more than one type of sugar (maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, glucose polymer) to insure the fastest rate of absorption of carbohydrate energy to the muscles.
- Do not use drinks that are made with pure fructose as the sole carbohydrate source (honey, fruit juice). Fructose requires a GLUT-4 transporter to cross the intestine, and will often cause gas and cramping – or worse.
- The concentration of carbohydrate should be 6-9% for a sports hydration drink. This can be easily calculated: 14 g carb/240 ml x 100 = 5.8%. Drinks that are over 10% (fruit juice, soda) cannot be absorbed from the stomach rapidly.
- All sport drinks will improve the body’s ability to stay hydrated during exercise better than water alone because of added sodium.
- Using a sports drink with added protein can help minimize muscle damage during long duration exercise where glycogen stores have become depleted.
- Aim for a minimum of 30g of supplemental carb/hour. This can be achieved with a sports hydration drink. In order to reach 60g of carbohydrate per hour, a combination of drink, gel, and water may be necessary.
- Fluids should include sodium and potassium, which are lost in sweat. Ideally during events lasting over 2 hours, drink at least 8 oz every 20 minutes and use a product that supplies 200 mg sodium per 8 oz.
- Athletes can easily lose 2 grams of salt per hour when sweating at a rate of a liter per hour. In a 5 hour race, that can mean 10+grams of salt, which is equivalent to 4000 mg of sodium. Sports drinks can provide some of that sodium, however, heavy sweaters should not rely solely on their sports drink. Salty food sources are recommended to supplement.
- One final piece of advice? Practice hydrating during training. Individuals vary greatly in their sweat rates and need to individualize their fluid and electrolyte replacement schedule. Be organized on race day with a fool proof plan.
Want to perform better without using the Floyd Landish approach? Try the cheap, simple, safe – and legal method. Timed carbohydrate supplements. Carbohydrate, a.k.a. sugar. And nooo…..you’re not going to get fat. There is a right time for carbs. Doubters can lay their fears to rest. The benefits are not just in your head, and the extra calories are totally worth it. Here’s proof.
In a study where cyclists were given a 6% carbohydrate sports drink or a placebo of non-caloric flavored sports drink, the performance difference was amazing. After a 120 minute ride, followed by a time trial of approximately 60 minutes, cyclist performed 10.6% better with carbohydrate compared with the placebo, and 11.3% compared to water.
Would paddling 1,128 miles around Lake Superior – alone – challenge you?
As soon as the snow starts melting, I watch one of my x-c ski buddies, Nancy Uschold, morph into a kayaking maniac. Paddle replaces ski poles the moment the water is open on Lake Superior. The frigid water, waves, and wild winds – it’s all part of the fun.
Having successfully done a solo tour of 1000-plus miles circumnavigating the shoreline of Lake Superior, Nancy’s next adventure will take her to Newfoundland. Unlike her Lake Superior tour, this trip will be 100% gluten-free fare.
Uschold prefers instant oatmeal for breakfast when camping. “Sometimes you want breakfast N-O-W, especially when the weather is bad, but I could only find slow-cooking oatmeal that was 100% gluten free, but . Her solution? Make your own.
A rich source of vitamin B1, magnesium and zinc, oats are a great carbohydrate source for energy during exercise. Although naturally gluten-free, product selection is critical, since they are commonly contaminated during processing with gluten from wheat, rye or barley.