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Sports Drinks Improve Performance in Stop and Go, High-Intensity Sports


Attention sports moms: still skeptical that sports drinks actually do what they say they do - help increase endurance for young athletes in stop-and-go, high-intensity team sports like soccer, football, ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse - and aren't just advertising hype? Well now you don't have to take their word for it, there's scientific proof.

According to the study1 by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland of 12- to 14-year old athletes, consuming a room temperature sports drink containing 6 to 8% CHO (carbohydrates) and electrolytes (like those found in Original Gatorade) 5 minutes before and at 15-minute intervals during sports improves intermittent, high-intensity endurance running capacity by an average of 24% compared to drinking plain water.

Both groups drank the same amount of fluid (depending on body weight) before and over the course of the 60-minute trial, so the study shows that it is the carbohydrates and electrolytes in the sports drink that are responsible for the significant improvement in endurance.

Previous research had established an even greater endurance benefit of sports drinks during simulated team games such as hockey, rugby or field hockey, but this was the first study of its kind to show the performance-enhancing benefit of sports drinks among adolescent athletes.

Prompted by anecdotal evidence of children and adolescents consuming commercially available sports drinks during team games training and competition, and the large number of athletes in England and Scotland aged 6-16 years regularly playing soccer, rugby or field hockey, researchers decided to study the efficacy of sports drink consumption among a younger population.

"Our findings strongly support the consumption of sports drinks immediately before and at 15-minute intervals during sports such as soccer," said John Sproule, PhD, Head of the Institute of Sport, PE & Health Science at the University of Edinburgh and lead author of the study, which is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

The bottom line: for a 140-pound athlete consuming 4 ounces of a sports drink before and at 10-15 minute intervals during high-intermittent, high-intensity sports not only maintains hydration but performance when it matters most, at the end of the game.

1. Phillips S, Turner A, Gray S, Sanderson M, Sproule J. "Ingesting a 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution improves endurance capacity, but not sprint performance, during intermittent, high-intensity shuttle running in players of adolescent team games aged 12-14 years" Eur. J. App. Physiol 2010;109(5):811-821.

Posted May 29, 2011