When additional nutrition and hydration are needed food should come first. However, sports drinks, bars and gels can be useful in supplementing an athleteâ??s meal plan immediately before, during, and after events. Sports foods may be especially helpful in cases where prolonged, high-intensity exercise limits eating opportunity, there is a high risk of intolerance and stomach (GI) upset, poor appetite around training and events, or food availability is limited.
If fluid needs are higher than carb needs: sports drinks with lower carb content or diluted sports drinks may be used. If carb needs are greater than fluid needs, sport drinks with higher carb content can be use or supplemented with sport gels/beans, or sport bars. As Coach Lisa recommended for Marc this week, he (and Lauren) should experiment with sports food and drinks to find quick energy sources that satisfy their taste preference and are well tolerated during training runs of 45 minutes or longer.
Sports drinksare designed to deliver a balanced amount of carb, fluid and electrolytes for rehydration and refueling before, during and after exercise. Used before exercise sports drinks may be part of the pre-exercise meal/snack or taken immediately before exercise to top up fluid and fuel status. Used during exercise sports drinks have a major role in promoting hydration and refueling during the exercise session. Used after exercise sports drinks can be part of post-exercise recovery snacks and meals to assist with glycogen replacement and rehydration.
There is a wide variety of ready to drink and powdered forms of sports drinks available in the stores, which vary according by flavor, carb, and electrolyte content as well as other ingredients. General agreement is, in order to provide fast delivery of fuel and fluid and to promote GI tolerance and drinkability, sports drinks should contain a range of 4-8% or 24-48 g/20 FL oz(4-8 g/100 ml) of carb and 140-400 mg/20 FL oz (23-69 mg/100mL) of sodium. A blend of carbs such as glucose and fructose and/or maltodextrin (â??multiple transportable carbsâ??) helps increase absorption to allow for a better tolerated higher carb intake and increase muscle energy production from carb taken during exercise.
Sport gels provide a compact and portable, quickly digested source of carb which can easily be eaten just before or during exercise to help meet carb needs. Sport beans/chews are another source of carb in a chewy jelly bean/gummy form that is easily consumed and digested, which offer more flexibility with timing of intake as individual pieces can be eaten at frequent intervals. These products can also be used to supplement a high carb training diet or for carb loading as well as post-exercise carb recovery.
Gels and beans can be an important fuel source for endurance athletes during exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes, especially when high rates of carb intake or a portable carb source is needed (ex: cycling, triathlon, running). For prolonged exercise, where fluid loss is expected, sport gels/beans/chews should be taken with water or other dilute fluids to meet hydration needs. Fluid intake with gels/beans will also lower the net carb concentration to reduce the risk of stomach upsets.
A range of sports gel products are available in easy to open pouches in different volumes, consistency, texture, flavors, carb amount and blend, and other ingredients. In general these gels contain 65-90% carb or provide 20-30 g/1 â?? 1.5 FL oz serving for a large fuel boost in a single serve pouch or packet. A blend of carbs such as glucose and fructose and/or maltodextrin (â??multiple transportable carbsâ??) help increase absorption to allow a better tolerated higher carb intake and increase muscle energy production from carb taken during exercise.
Sports bars provide another compact, portable, shelf-stable and practical source of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals for use around exercise or in a busy lifestyle. A major role for sports bars is to provide a concentrated form of carbohydrate to meet carb and fuel needs before, during and post exercise. They can be especially usefulto supplement high-energy, carb, and nutrient needs; especially in situations where there is a high risk of stomach (GI) upset or poor appetite around training and events, or food availability is limited. Sports bars provide an important fuel source in endurance/ultra-endurance events where the benefits of carbohydrate replacement in are well documented.
A huge range of sports bars is available, which differ in the amount/type of key carb and protein. Typical 1.5 â?? 2 oz sports bars provide 40-50 g carb, 5-10 g of protein, are usually low in fat and fiber (to promote tolerance around exercise), and contain 50-100% of the RDA/RDI for vitamins and minerals. Sports bars may contain tree nuts, milk and gluten (from wheat flour, oats and barley) and may need to be avoided by individuals who have allergies to any of these items.
Whatâ??s out there? Sports food and drink choice comes down to ease of use for your activity, tolerance and flavor preference. Some popular brands include: Cliff, Gatorade, GU, Hammer, PowerAde, Power Bar, Scratch Labs, SISâ?¦
Food should always be the first option for meals and snacks. While sports bars are a practical source of fuel in many situations, Marc, Lauren and Anne should not over-rely on these often expensive sports bar alternatives; itâ??s easy to overeat on calories with unwanted gain. They should also make sure they drink plenty of fluid when using sports foods to meet hydration needs. And before the Bayshore or other competition settings, they should practice use and assess tolerance during their training sessions.
Protein or amino acids can be found in a number of commercially available sports drinks and gels. Some studies show that these products providing protein/amino acids are better at enhancing performance or recovery for prolonged exercise compared to those containing carb and electrolytes alone. While there is strong evidence for including protein during your recovery after exercise (which can come from everyday foods as well), the benefits of consuming protein during exercise on performance are not as clear. Any benefits of protein during exercise may be the result of additional energy intake rather than a unique benefit of protein. Other â??active ingredientsâ?? including vitamins, caffeine etc., are also often added to sports foods and weâ??ll look at the role of these in energy metabolism and performance over the next few weeks. As with many specific nutrition interventions to enhance sports performance, more research is needed.
Consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition for a meal plan that is personalized to your body, your sport, your stage of training, and your goals. Contact Miranda Monroe via email@example.com for a consultation to put the science of sports nutrition on your plate with a personalized plan and practical meal planning strategies to help you achieve your performance goals.