Drink Supplements – The Ins & Outs

by Tia Dewick in Nutrition

sports drinks | personal trainer | leicester


A very common misconception prior to exercise is that you need a drink supplement to fuel the session. This is not true! Many individuals consume high calorie sports drinks prior to exercise which means that if you exercise for weight loss, there may be no benefit from the session as your calorie input may match your calorie output! As long as you get your diet right then this energy boost from drinks will not be required.

Consuming calories as a form of liquid increases the time to hunger than consuming solid foods and reduces the satiety of consumption. As a result, you may have a greater urge to snack in-between meals. Your best option to provide sufficient energy for your session is to eat fats and/or carbs 2-3 hours prior to your session depending on the intensity required for your session. 65% of your maximum workload is your optimal fat burning zone! Anything below 90% burns fat and the high intensity exercises between 90% and 100% burns carbohydrates. So bare this in mind when preparing for your fuel for the session.

Depending on the duration and intensity of your performance, these supplements may be of no benefit to you. If your exercise is sustained for one hour or less then consuming an energy drink throughout the session will not have any benefit to your performance. The drink will simply sit in your stomach as during exercise your blood supply to the muscles increases to meet the oxygen demands and so there is restricted blood flow to the digestive system. By consuming too much liquid we also inhibit our weight to power ratio which results in reduced power output. If you really do feel as though you are lacking on energy, consume a caffeinated cup of coffee at least 30 minutes before your session.

During Exercise

Alternatively, a carbohydrate mouth rinse may be of benefit to you. Swilling a glucose and/or maltodextrin liquid within your mouth for 5 seconds and then spitting it out improves performance! Power output has been shown to increase with the same level of perceived effort. The sweet flavour of the drink sends a positive signal to the brain that there is an increase in available substances, without consuming any calories whatsoever!

On the other hand, if your performance is sustained for over an hour there is a slightly different approach required. Your body will require carbohydrate sport drinks to top up your energy stores to maintain a higher intensity for longer! Just remember to check the nutrient content as some sports drinks are loaded with sugar.

Post Exercise

After exercise many people consume a full meal. If you have at least 20g to 25g within your meal, additional protein supplementation is not required as your body will respond exactly the same to 25g and higher doses. So the extra supplement is just a waste of calories! Alternatively, if you don’t consume a full meal within a few hours after your session, a protein supplement is ideal but not critical. If you feel hungry then consume a protein drink or snack. Semi-skimmed milk has been shown to be beneficial for recovery but remember to keep your eye on the calorie content in relation to your daily target. However, consuming protein within 24 hours post-exercise will optimise recovery, so you need to choose whether the additional calories are of benefit to your goals and daily routine.