Can sports drinks actually improve performance?
Every few years a performance beverage seems to sweep across the fitness world with athletes claiming to run faster, workout longer and perform better.
While sports drinks, electrolyte waters and chocolate milk have faded from the scene, watermelon juice, beet juice and pickle water are taking center stage.
Here are some of the latest finding on these so-called fitness boosting beverages:
Beet juice: Many research studies have found that this bright-red liquid can boost athletic performance. In one study, drinking half a cup of beet juice for seven days increased performance by 3.5 percent among high school athletes. A separate study found that it helped athletes exercise 16 percent longer.
“Beet juice has claimed this will help your athletic performance, but it wasn’t approved by the FDA for that,” says Dr. Charles Crotteau, a family medicine physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
Watermelon juice: In one study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that drinking watermelon juice an hour before exercise reduced muscle soreness after a workout.
Pickle juice: Drinking just 2.5 ounces of pickle juice stops cramping while exercising at a faster rate than drinking water, according to a study performed at Brigham Young University. Those who drank pickle juice stopped cramping 37 percent faster than those drinking water, and 45 percent faster than those not consuming any liquid.
With all the hype of different sports beverages, athletes may wonder if they are worth giving them a try.
“Whether it’s a sports drink or chocolate, use what works for you,” says Dr. Crotteau, who is also a seasoned marathon runner. “There’s no robust scientific evidence for one sports drinks over another. The thing I look at is you need to replenish electrolytes from beverages like pickle juice, beet juice or Gatorade. Most importantly, you need water.”
Dr. Crotteau says that ultimately optimal hydration and nutrition are the most important things during a race.
“When you are exercising more than an hour you need to think about rehydrating, electrolyte replacements and glucose, which is when gels come into play,” he says. “It comes down to personal choice and preference.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.