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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sport Drinks = Farts that Stink

Today I drove to the YMCA and swam 20 laps. Does this make me an accomplished athlete? I’d love to think so. But even though I’m not gearing up for a gold medal, I have some crucial advice for professional and recreational athletes alike.

A recent study compared the effects of athletes drinking a carbohydrate-based sports drink versus mineral water during an 18 kilometer run. In what will likely be a surprise to many Americans, the sports drinks led to higher incidences of GI complaints.

Specifically, the sports drinks led to significantly more incidences of flatulence (gas) and acid reflux. Adding GI insult to injury, there were no indications that sports drinks improved athletic performance (sorry, soft drink makers!).

There goes my dream of a carb-induced 30 laps. And while the simple carbs used in sports drinks promote GI tract problems, the sugar alcohols used in sugar-free drinks typically consumed by athletes on a diet can cause a far higher incidence of severe gas, bloating, and laxation.

More on the sugar alcohol connection in future posts.


  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    In addition to sports drinks, I also have read that protein/energy bars cause severe gas and other stomach problems, and I've been looking for a bar that uses natural ingredients to avoid these effects.

    It seems to me that there's a market out there for energy bars/drinks that are more natural than what's currently being offered.

  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    that's a good point. But you'll never see anything marketed specifically to address this problem? Its too embarrassing to talk about, imaging advertising it on a pacakage...Brand X: The Fart Free Nutrional Snack. Until people talk about this in a serious manner it will also fly under the radar.

  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    I think we could brand something in a way that addresses this problem. Most people that go to the gym know about the side effects from protein bars, shakes and other supplements. At least at my gym, people talk about it and don't even bother to buy the protein bars or supplements. Fart Free Nutritional Snack is a little to obvious. I would go with something more suttle. This could be a big market for people that go to the gym, who experience these problems.

  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    While I find the flatulence effect of sports drinks intriguing (I'll have to test myself!), the study's finding that sports drinks had no effect on performance could be a function of the distance. An 18k run (about 11.2 miles) would likely not deplete the glycogen stores in a well conditioned runner's body. The caloric benefit of sports drinks may not come into play until 1-1/2 hours of running -- or about 11 miles at an 8:00/mile pace. Similarly, the various vitamins and minerals in sports drinks are most beneficial when existing stores are depleted. Marathoners in particular need sodium (found in sports drinks) in addition to water to prevent hyponatremia.


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