When you exercise for more than an hour in hot summer weather, it's natural to feel tired and weak; you are low on fluid and calories. But to perk up, it isn't necessary to eat or drink something "special." You can replenish what you've lost by eating or drinking anything.
Years ago, studies showed that 2.5 percent was the highest concentration of sugar you could put in an exercise drink and still absorb it rapidly enough to have it make a difference when exercising. This 2.5 percent ratio poses a problem because drinks taste best when they are comprised of 10 percent sugar. For example, cola drinks contains 10 percent sugar. So do ginger ale, orange and apple juice and almost every other soda or fruit drink.
Soon after the studies were reported, exercise drinks containing 2.5 percent sugar appeared on the market. They tasted pretty awful, as the concentration of sugar was too low to satisfy our taste buds. Thus, some manufacturers added saccharin to sweeten the taste. But many athletes learned that instead of buying these sports drinks, they merely had to add water to dilute other sugared fluids, thereby creating their own 2.5 percent drinks.
In 1988, findings refuted the earlier studies showing that only drinks containing less than 2.5 percent sugar can be absorbed ** rapidly. These studies were done with people who were resting. When the same type of studies were repeated on people engaged in heavy exercise, researchers found drinks with 10 percent sugar were also absorbed rapidly.
Based on this information, we now know that special exercise drinks are not necessary. As far as your body is concerned, all drinks are equally effective in supplying calories and fluid during exercise. No so-called "sport" drink is better than cola, ginger ale or juice.
Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.
United Feature Syndicate