Sugar and water 'as good as a sports drink'

Baku, December 4, AZERTAC

Adding a spoonful of table sugar to a glass of water could be just as good as – or better than – a sports drink, several media outlets have reported. The news comes from a study that compared whether a group of long-distance cyclists performed better when they had a glucose or sucrose mix drink.

Fourteen experienced male cyclists were randomly given a drink of sucrose or glucose stirred into water before and during a three-hour cycling stint.

Both drinks maintained the body's glucose stores, which are broken down to provide energy during physical activity if there's not enough glucose available in the bloodstream. However, British researchers found the cyclists performed better on the sucrose drink.

Many sports drinks designed to provide energy during exercise use sucrose or mixes of glucose and fructose – but many still rely on glucose alone. Sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose, whereas glucose is available in a form ready to be used by the body.

The researchers suggest glucose-only drinks could produce gut discomfort, and sucrose-based alternatives, or simply sugar in water, could make exercise easier.

While the findings are interesting, this is a small study involving just 14 male endurance cyclists. The results can't inform us of the effects in women, less experienced exercisers, or people performing different types of exercise. Even for male cyclists, a much larger sample may give different results.

This study does inform us about how the body may use sucrose and glucose differently during exercise, but limited firm conclusions can be drawn about the best form of nutrition before, during or after exercise based on its results alone.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Bath, Northumbria University, Newcastle University, and Maastricht University.

It was funded by Sugar Nutrition UK and Suikerstichting Nederland, and was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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