you just finished doing several laps around the track. you're hot, sweaty, tired, craving for something cool and refreshing. you jog over to the drinks stand, speak a few words to the pleasant lady behind the counter.
you watch as she opens the glass door, releasing wafts of cool mist. she reaches for your purchase, and you eagerly accept it with words of thanks. you pull the tab , it comes off easily with a 'pop' and you feel the bubbly, icy cold, contents slide down your dry, parched throat.
what sweet bliss!
if you can relate to that situation, then i have some news for you. many people chug down isotonic drinks after a round of sports. some people even drink it on a regular basis, thinking that they're doing their body a favour (oh, the irony!) after all, these drinks proclaim themselves to be 'performance enhancing', 'vitamin enriched', 'energy boosting', etc, so the more you comsume, the better, right?
most drinks are little more than flavoured water with a few vitamins added in, plus some sugar and colouring thrown into the bargain. let's have a look.
- carbonated water - basically, this is just regular ol' water with some gas bubbled through it for that fizziness.
- sucrose - to quote romeo and juliet "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet", sucrose is actually the scientific name for plain sugar.
- glucose - a simple sugar, an energy source, a component found in most carbohydrates.
- citric acid - a weak organic acid, used as a preservative and also to add a tart flavour to foods and soft drinks.
- sodium citrate - the salt component of citric acid
- sodium chloride - another fancy name for normal table salt
- potassium phosphate - an electricity conducting electrolyte, required by every cell in your body to function properly.
- natural and permitted flavourings - need i say more? flavourings are rarely good for you, what more when they come under such vague names.
- permitted food preservative (sodium benzoate) - a type of salt used as a preservative.
- calcium phosphate - a family of ions that contain not only calcium ions, but also orthophosphates, hydrogen or hydroxide, and pyrophosphates. Your body requires calcium phosphate for the formation of your bones and tooth enamel.
before we begin, the general rule in the food industry is that the higher the listing of a certain ingredient, the more the amount of that ingredient in the substance. by listing down the ingredients, certain things were able to be observed. firstly, the most dominant ingredient in this list is water. also, notice that the second and third most dominant ingredients are sugar? well you don't need me to tell you that sugar (apart from naturally occurring sugars found in fruits / certain vegies) are not good for you, and you'll be drinking additional calories!
so, water is the most dominant ingredient, followed by sugars. next comes citric acid, which is a natural acid found in citrus fruits like oranges / grapefruits. citric acid is not bad for you, but is not really something that would make you stronger or more energized after drinking it. what followed after, were the salts - sodium citrate and sodium chloride, then flavourings, another salt, and finally calcium phosphate.
in all, lets put down the ingredients again, this time in simple terms.
- flavouring / preservative.
- flavouring / salt
- salt / preservative
sports drinks usually claim themselves to be a source of electrolytes, which as you can see is also on the list, but being so far down, it is doubtful that it would be any significant amount. there is also calcium phosphate, an essential for human beings, however note that it is right down at the bottom of the list.
you might say "well at least i'm still getting those electrolytes / calcium!" but don't forget that there is also the much larger amounts of additional sugar (empty calories) and salt that you're consuming.
in addition, here is some information on other drinks which people think is 'good' to consume.
in all, it is not so horribly wrong to have a can once in a while - certainly there could be many other choices that are far worse (e.g. coke or a creamy milkshake) but keep in mind that these drinks are not as hyped up or good for you as they claim themselves to be.
personally, i don't drink energy drinks. my advice would be to have a cool tumbler of water if you're thirsty, and go eat a proper balanced meal to replenish your sustenance. you'll be getting far more ; carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc, and will be much more satisfied than if you had just consumed a liter of liquid!
Sources : Womansday.com - Is That Drink Really Healthy?, Livestrong.com - Sodium Citrate's Side Effects, Livestrong.com - What Is Potassium Phosphate Used For?, Livestrong.com - What Is Calcium Phosphate?, Wisegeek - What Is Sodium Benzoate?
Interesting reads : Sugar Intake & Weight Gain, The Sports Journal - Energy Drinks Effects On Student-Athletes and Implications for Athletic Departments, Energy Drinks - Are They Safe?