Going the distance with sports drinks

By Dr. Antje Jungclaus, Manager Nutrition Communication, BENEO-Institute:

sports drinks represent a growing market and are playing an increasingly important role today. Today’s athletes as well as active people are eager to learn more about the different types of drinks that are available and that can help improve their fuel utilisation and overall performance. To supplement their tough training regimen, they are looking out for sports drinks that give them the energy to go even further in their sport.

For these sports people, it is essential to supplement their training with the right nutrition before, during and after their exercises (to increase their wellbeing). Carbohydrates are central to sports and exercise performance. According to modern dietary guidelines, an average person should obtain about 55 to 60 percent of daily energy from carbohydrates, equivalent to 8g per kg of body weight. Athletes rely on carbohydrates because they provide the essential source of energy for physical performance – glucose. In cases of endurance exercise lasting more than one hour, sports drinks with 6 to 8 percent carbohydrates should be consumed in amounts of 800 ml per hour.

Most popular sports drinks contain high glycaemic carbohydrates like maltodextrin, glucose syrup and sucrose. They release glucose into the bloodstream at a fast rate, aiming to maximise carbohydrate utilisation. Upon intake before sports, these drinks can result in large spikes and drops in blood glucose levels – not an ideal situation for athletes to start their exercise and the valuable contribution of fat utilisation in the fuel mix is suppressed to a great extent also during exercise.

“Slow release” carbohydrates such as Palatinose™ (isomaltulose), which deliver a balanced release of energy over a longer period of time, are an interesting alternative. Based on scientific research, Palatinose™ has been shown to have a sustained effect on normal blood glucose levels compared to other fully digestible carbohydrates.

But how exactly can low glycaemic carbohydrates, such as Palatinose™, help athletes go the distance without the risk of the sugar crash?

This article is available in full in the Autumn 2013 issue of Nutraceuticals Now