As you’re very aware, sports drinks and energy gels are commercially available to buy and have been shown to enhance exercise performance.
The issue is that many non-athletes drink and consume these high sugar products, of which high sugar diets can contribute and are associated with obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, CV disease (Johnson et al, 2010).
So it’s very clear that non-athletes should avoid these because (1) you’re not training hard enough to warrant them and (2) the sugar based foods are not satiating which can lead to an excess of calories.
But what about the endurance folks out there…you’re the ones who need these products – are they making you gain fat?
Well, a 2016 review by Dragusin and Horswill aimed to answer this exact question.
In their review, they pooled numerous studies looking at how many calories both runners and cyclists consume during exercise and measure it against how many calories they burn.
In the 10 published studies, they found that the calories you burn during a session via sports drinks are on average three-fold higher than what you consume.
Therefore suggesting that you’re not able to completely meet the body’s energy demands whilst exercising…
When looking at carb recommendations during endurance exercise, you typically don’t need any carbs during the first hour, but it may be beneficial to start consuming 30-60g of carbs per hour if you’re training longer than 1 hour, and perhaps increasing to 60g per hour for sessions lasting more than 2 hours.
[For the mathematicians in the room, 1g of carbs = 4 calories]
On average, they exercised for 110 minutes at a sustained high intensity pace. As a result, they consumed on average 394kcal from sports drinks during, burnt 1600kcal which landed them in a 1206kcal deficit.
Knowing this, if you’re an endurance athlete training hard, you’re not going to get fat by over-consuming sugar during your sessions IF it’s within the recommended guidelines of 30-60g of carbs per hour for most sessions.
The maths doesn’t add up.
Most likely, your energy deficit from a run or cycle is going to be pretty high which redirects the question as to why do endurance athletes put on body fat?
That’s when we look at the rest of the diet…
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