Health risks associated with sports drinks

05:30 AEST Tue Apr 10 2012
Lianzi Fields
Sports Drink
Image: Thinkstock

You might want to think twice before rolling over and reaching for that sports drink the morning after a big night out.

A new study in Britain has revealed a startling number of office workers are drinking high-kilojoule sports drinks to cure their hangover while on the job.

A survey by the National Hydration Council found that 11 million adults, including a quarter of men in the UK, were guilty of this practice.

But doctors are warning people about the health risks of these sugar-loaded sports drinks, which are designed to restore depleted fluids after high-impact exercise sessions.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said that isotonic drinks, containing high concentrations of sugar and salt, should only be consumed by "active individuals performing endurance exercise".

The results of the survey show that one in five of the 2,000 adults questioned said that they reached for their sports drinks when they felt 'tired', while 18 per cent admitted using them to cure hangovers.

Most energy drinks contain around 8-10 teaspoons of sugar per 500ml bottle, and are supplemented with carbohydrates, sodium and artificial colours and flavours.

Many are also loaded with stimulants such as caffeine and taurine, which have been associated with behavioural disorders and heart problems.

A 600ml bottle of the energy drink Powerade, for instance, contains 798 kilojoules (191 calories), which would take approximately 30 minutes of jogging or 40 minutes on the exercise bike to burn off.

Conversely, while sedentary office workers are guzzling down high-energy drinks, the survey also found that 80 per cent of people don't drink enough vital liquids before exercise and 60 per cent forget about hydration completely.

Probably the least surprising result, and something many of us may be guilty of, is that almost 30 per cent forget to slip their water bottles into their gym bags.

In fact, when asked what their essential exercise items were, most of the respondents prioritised 'nice sportswear' and 'specialist trainers' over 'water', which was pushed to the bottom of the list.

"The consumption levels and situations in which people are consuming these sports drinks are worrying," said Dr Paul Gately, Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University.

"These products are designed for highly-active sportspeople undertaking regular high-intensity training and performance exercise lasting for more than 45 minutes.

"What's even more concerning is that this insight is paired with people not drinking enough water or at the right times."


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