You see them everywhere: gyms, fitness facilities, health food stores, the pharmacy. Sports drinks are ubiquitous in the gym and fitness community. But do they really work? According to livestrong.com, “Energy drinks can be useful when you’re training hard and need an extra boost for a tough session. They can also be used as a quick pick-me-up.”
But when you look at the fitness market, there is a huge range of products to choose from and the benefits depend on what type of gym-focused drink you choose. We took the time to evaluate a few of the most popular exercise-related products found around Charleston and Mount Pleasant in the fitness community and at gyms and tried to parse it all out.
Enhanced waters: The folks at fitday.com spell it out like this, “Producers of the brightly-colored drinks market them as healthy alternatives to the recently demonized sugary soft drinks, but all-too-often vitamin-enhanced waters contain similar amounts of sugar and calories as their carbonated counterparts…more importantly, just because these waters are fortified with vitamins and other nutrients doesn’t negate the simple fact that these beverages are often still loaded with sugar and other artificial additives. In fact, a single bottle of Vitaminwater contains 33 grams of sugar, more than most 12-ounce cans of regular soda.” Did you get that? It contains MORE sugar than many soft drinks!
Red Bull & Similar Energy Drinks: While slamming a Red Bull before weightlifting may be trendy, gym rats and cardio junkies need to be wary. The biggest risk of these drinks this the combination of ingredients and their untested long-lasting effects. One of the hottest fitness ingredients is Taurine. According to The Mayo Clinic, “Up to 3,000 milligrams a day of supplemental taurine is generally considered safe. Moderation is important, however. Little is known about the effects of heavy or long-term taurine use.” And it goes on to state that while using Taurine alone (pre-post workout) may be fine in moderation, its combination with other ingredients may have unwanted effects: “It’s also important to remember that there may be high amounts of other ingredients in energy drinks, such as high amounts of caffeine or sugar. Too much caffeine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, interrupt your sleep, and cause nervousness and irritability. And added sugar may provide unwanted added calories.”
FitAid & Other Post-Workout Supplement Products: According to Muscle and Fitness, “At the end of every workout, the muscle fibers you’ve trained are in a state of disarray. They’re literally torn up from the torture you subjected them to in the gym. Their levels of glycogen have been depleted, and they’re quickly breaking down the protein they’re made of. The good news is they’re also primed to take up whatever nutrients you throw at them and turn this state of disarray into an anabolic state of recovery and muscle growth. You’d better hurry though. Research suggests there’s a 45 minute window after workouts when muscles will take in higher amounts of nutrients. Miss this opportunity, and recovery and muscle growth will be compromised.”
Our personal favorite recovery drink is FitAid (you have probably noticed our FitAid refrigerator at the front of the gym). We chose FitAid over other post-workout supplement drinks because according to their website, “FITAID is a high-potency blend of targeted supplements –almost 3 grams in every can– that together aid your athletic performance and muscle recovery to enhance your fitness program. Unlike other so-called “functional” products, the ingredients in our products are always of the highest quality and bio-availability.”
Another thing to consider post-workout is adding protein to the mix. The experts at bodybuilding.com state that “Post-workout protein is vital, especially if you haven’t eaten anything for hours. Aim for 20-50 grams of protein after each workout depending on your bodyweight. Most women will do fine with 20 grams, while men should aim for the upper range.” The folks at FitAid agree: “We recommend that you keep drinking your protein shakes and add FITAID to your training routine. While we don’t have any protein in our product, we do have supplements that support joint health, cardiovascular health, and muscle fatigue which are not found in protein products. Additionally, many of the benefits for muscle growth and recovery are derived from Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) which are found in FITAID.”