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Why Sports Drinks Can Hinder Weight Loss

Many people in recent years have turned to sport, not only as a source of enjoyment, but as a way to improve fitness and to lose weight. Commercial interests have sought to exploit this marketing niche by bringing out so-called “sports drinks” which are supposed to improve your sports performance by keeping you hydrated and replenishing lost minerals from sweating.

The truth is that these sports drinks are not as healthy as one might suppose, since the manufacturers have tried to make them taste more appealing by adding in substantial amounts of either glucose or artificial sweeteners. Sports drinks will certainly help keep you hydrated, but then so will plain water.

If you regularly drink sports drinks you are consuming considerable amounts of “empty” calories which will do you no good at all if you are trying to lose weight. You may not even have realised that this is a source of calorie intake that should be taken into account if you are calorie counting as part of your diet.

A sudden surge of glucose into the blood after a sports drink causes a spike or upsurge in blood sugar concentration. Since it is a physiological necessity for us to keep blood sugar levels constant, the body’s compensatory insulin mechanism kicks in to bring the raised level down. This often over compensates, leading to a low blood level causing you to crave more sugar.

It is much better if sugars are absorbed more slowly by the body, allowing a more stable blood concentration. Too much stress on the insulin system by repeated stimulation of insulin, can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes where the body just can’t cope adequately any more.

Some sports drinks contain aspartame or other artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, but there still seems to be the problem that this does not overcome the body’s desire for sweetness, and, in addition, there is some concern over possible health risks from aspartame.

Some people enjoy the energy rush that comes from a sudden intake of glucose, but the downside is the rebound effect when blood sugar goes down because of the regulatory system, and this contributes to a lowered performance. This is why professional tennis players favour eating a banana and drinking water rather than glucose tablets or a sports drink during matches. Repeated sugar highs seem to become addictive and lead to cravings of more sweet foods, and so are counter productive when you are trying to lose weight.

Kevin Bender

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