Sports Drinks

Are Sports drinks worth the money? Would freshly squeezed orange juice be just as good?


  • emm, no, for several reasons

    energy content: too high to be isotonic. isotonic drinks are usually around 22-25 kcals per 100mls. this is apparently optimum, as it creates a 0 concentration gradient, ie, the volume of sugars in the drinks are the same as in the normal blood sugar level, so absorpbtion is speeded. also.

    energy content part 2: because orange juice is roughly double this the body instead interperts orange juice(pure) in the stomach as food, therefore taking blood from the muscles for use in the digestive system, therefore you have less blood at the muscles which are vital for running. that will lower performance.

    type of sugars: in orange juice you have mainly fruit sugars, fructose, which has been shown in some studies (and stated in RW) to cause muscle cramps. similarly, fructose is good only for quick bursts of energy, and has no longer term energy. however, the sugars in MOST(some cheaper ones have fructose) isotonic sports drinks are glucose or dextrose, these are the most easily absorpbed sugars and provide quick energy. however you also have maltodextrin, a longer chain carbohydrate which provides longer term energy.

    added extras: in orange juice you only get the sugars and the fluid, in specialist sports drinks, you also get electrolytes to replace those lost through sweating, especially sodium and potassium. these are fairly the long term, and most you get from a normal diet, but you loose more due to heavy excercise, and specialist sports drinks help replace these.

    you can however use pure orange/fruit juice to make your own cheap isotonic drink. mix pure juice and water in a 1:1 ratio(like 1litre of juice to 1 litre of water) and add a pinch of table salt to give a little sodium, not too much mind. if you can use lo-sodium salt you will also get some potassium(because the lo sodium salts are made with 1/3 sodium chloride and 2/3 potassium chloride) don't overdo it mind, it may then taste more salty and not only will you be thirsty, but there'll be too much in the drink for it to be isotonic.


  • Phil,

    Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed answer. Is it best then to buy sports drinks in powder form? Is there a sports drink of choice among runners? If not, what's your personal favourite?

  • well, you know already that you can buy the drinks in several forms,

    powder, syrup to be diluted and in pre-made liquid form.

    the powders can come in either drums(cheaper) with a measuring scoop and you make it yourself.
    or indivudually measured sachets(which tend to be a little more expensive but altogether more accurately measured) which you just add water to, usually 500 mls.

    powerbar do the sachets of their hydro plus drink and high5 do the drums. lucozade sport do the drum, don't know about the sachet.

    essentially, if you make the drink ccurately, according to the manufacturers instructions you will get the same product as is sold pre-made.

    however, if you plan to do an ultra run or even a marathon, and intend to carry your own hydration, then it's not really feasible to buy six or eight 500ml bottles to fill up your camel bak resovior(just a large floppy flask carried on a backpack system). in this instance...large amounts of the drink, you may want to make it up from powders. if you only want one bottle and havent time to make it up, you could just buy one. there isn't one way which is better, just down to convenience really.

    just make sure you measure the powders accurately, this is where sachets are handy. syrups are difficult to measure accurately due to waste etc.

    choosing the type of drink is largely up to you. if you plan on using the drinks stations in a race, eg FLM, then you should find out what drink they supply and use it throught your training, this is so you get accustomed to the particular drink(the're all a bit differnt) so you won't suddenly get cramps from a dramatic change of mid run hydration...which would be bad news.

    otherwose, just experiment, and use the one you like best, some will taste better to you and some slightly weak or salind etc. it's prudent to use different drinks at different times of the year, for example, hihg 5 have an isotonic fast hydration drink for the hot weather(blue sachet) and another for energy on the run/cooler weather(red sachet)

    decide by personal preference and make sure you are used to the drink that will be use don the race day.
  • Joe,

    You asked 2 questions. I think Phil is dead right in what he says about sports drinks. But whether they are worth the money for regular training is disputable. I use them occasionally and for runs of about an hour and a half (I don't run longer often enough to comment) I notice no difference in how I feel or how fast I go. Now I do use sports drinks for long races or for long training runs if I haven't had eaten much that day - but other than that I don't think you need to bother with them. It is useful to know that you get on with them before using them in a race though as Phil says.
  • Most helpful. Many thanks to you both and Happy New Year.

  • I use apple juice:water 1:1 mix with a pinch of salt on long bike rides and try to drink at least 1 pint per hour. I definitely feel a lot better on rides of 3 hours or more than if I just use water and I can't feel any difference between my juice mix and the much more expensive commercial energy drinks I've tried. If you are running less than 1 1/2 hours , you probably don't need an energy drink whilst running - better to load up before and then drink a couple of nice banana smoothies immediately afterwards. Long runs and marathons though I believe it is essential. Just remember to drink enough of it (1:1 juice mix gives about 30g carbohydrate per pint so try and drink at least 1 pint per hour).
  • i am very lazy and like Lucozade Sport drinks as quite tasty and seems to stay down well !
    If i drank pure OJ my indigestion would be unbearable- too acidic !!
    I also find the liquidpower drink quite nice
  • This is very a very helpful thread because I've been wondering about 'energy drinks' and 'carbohydrate drinks'. I'm doing FLM for the first time this year, and so will need to get into the habit of using said drinks, but am very confused by terminology: are 'isotonic' drinks (ie Lucozade Sport) the same as 'energy' or 'carbohydrate' drinks? Lucozade doesn't seem to be very high-energy in terms of total calories, though I understand from B_Phil's email why it is easily absorbed.

    What I really want to know is: Does Lucozade Sport count as an energy/carbohrydrate drink and is it sufficient for me to train with it? If not, what are the brand names of various energy/carb drinks and energy gels where can I buy them?

    Any advice much appreciated - some of this jargon is very confusing...
    Happy New Year one and all
  • The answer is yes it is fine to train with. However you don't need it except maybe for very long runs (1.30 plus) or if you haven't eaten (such as in the morning) but dont have time to eat and wait before a run.

    If you do a google search for isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic you will find sites that explain things in much better terms than I could (just searching for isotonic on its own gives you a load of rubbish because the term has entered popular usage).
  • Great, very helpful, thank you.
  • I use Boots own isotonic mix mostly but I have also found the SIS Go or PSP22 to be very easy to drink.
    I also use SIS Go gels on my longer runs from over an hour to 2 1/2 hours, the only thing with these are they are a bit bulky but are isotonic so no need to drink water with them.
  • MB - Use Orange Lucozade sport as that is what you will get at the feeding stations in London.
    At least this way you'll know if you are OK with that or you'll need to take your own energy supplies (bars/sachets).

    The squeezy pouches are OK to run with, although I have done 16 milers with the bottles, and that was fine too.
  • Thanks, cougie. I've already used Lucozade Sport a couple of times (though not the Orange flavour, it's never appealled; I guess I'd better get over that). I've found it fine so far - and of course easy to get hold of, which is great.

    Is Lucozade Sport all I'll need for my training runs and for the marathon itself, or should I be experimenting with additional gels and things? I don't want to go overboard if Lucozade is perfectly sufficient (which would frankly be easiest) but obviously I want to prepare properly.

    Any advice very welcome...
  • MB - for my long runs = up to 20 miles I did use Lucozade sport and I was fine with that. For London I took gels with me, just in case, but didn't need them. If I was you I would buy some gels, and practice again in training with them to make sure your body can handle them. Always good to have a backup plan if you do need more energy in London.

    Other than that - I picked up a Lucozade at each feed station (5 of them I think) and had a couple of swigs of water on top of that and that was all I needed.

  • That's really encouraging, thank you so much. Final question (and probably very dim one): how do you/did you carry gels with you at London? Do you have a bum bag or similar, and if so, does it not chafe or be generally irritating?
  • Had a very small belty thing. You feed the gel sachets onto loops in the belt, a bit like those old gunslingers with their ammo. ;-)

    It does have a very small pouch that you can use for Immodium tablets or credit card or small phone - whatever. Only bought it the day before (not good planning !) but it was fine,worn below the tummy and I didn't even notice it. It was a Hi5 one.
  • Being a first time FLM runner last year I used Lucozade sport ( orange) for my longer training runs as I knew that was to be available at FLM. It was fine , no adverse reaction.I think there were about 4 or 5 Luco stations and about 5 water ones. I actually took water/luco each time. The sachies of Luco were good as you could easily hold them and it did not get spilt as you ran along. The water was in small almost full up plastic bottles , there were sponge stations but never any left by the time I reached them , but not sure that mattered really.I also bought a cheap small bum bag thing which I strapped around my waste , with the bag bit more to the front /side than the back initially. This was to put jelly babies in and two energy bars and possible a disposable camera. Needless to say I left the jelly babies in my case at the hotel! and to be honest though I used the energy bars from about 20 miles , I don't think that was a good idea as it was some effort to even chew them and mucked up my breathing, so I would take a few gels along instead.Howver a few energy bars after you have finished is something to look forward to. I decided agianst the camera , teh idea was to take piccies at about mile intervals , interesting places etc but in the end thought that the weight! might be a bad idea over such a long run ( but lots of peopel seem to have run with their mobiles!).
    I thought that the rather dry cheese sandwiches handed out at the end were not ideal to eat myself.
    My back started to hurt after 15 miles or so and was helped when I tightened the strap to the bum bag and then moved the bag bit to the middle of my lower back- it seemed to give me extra support.
    However, I did not get a ballot place and having had a GB place last year don't feel I could raise enough sponsorship again so I will do some other mararathons instead.
    I would like to do the FLM again as I am sure I could improve on my 4hr24 and would hope for 3.45.and rememebr to pack teh jelly babies next time!
    I think I am turing into a FLM saddo, keep talking about something thousands have done before , but I guess that is one of the reasons I did it as a great memory of an achievement if nothing else.
    over and out!
  • Good to hear about others' FLM experience. I like the idea of having a gunslinger's belt, with energy gels, that sounds cool.

    Immodium tablets??? I've heard, er, stories about marathon runners losing control of their bowels, but hadn't realised it was a serious issue. I don't want to get into gory details, but is this the case, and are the immodium preventative or curative? Or shouldn't I ask? I assumed there would be toilet facilities around the course, or is that completely naive??
  • Brian - hope you do get the chance to do it again - it's such a great feeling !

    MB - yeah wear the pouch at the small of your back and then it won't interfere.
    Tablets for me are preventative - I take some before the race, but had some spare just in case !

    Yeah - there are toilets en route, but very busy. I wouldn't want to stop unless I really really had to.

    See you there !
  • Thanks cougie that's really helpful advice! Never dared ask anyone the bodily functions question before, so at least I know now. See you there indeed. I'll be the red-faced one at the back, still puffing away after 6hours...
  • Tee hee - that was about the first question I had to post to the forum 12 months ago !

    Yeah - I'll hopefully be the red faced guy in 3.15 if I can get my runs in !

    You'll love the day - the whole thing is magical, and the pain fades after a week or three. ;-)
  • Don't do what I did - ref Immodium. Never try anything new on the day they said - well I've had Immodium (capsules) loads of times - no problems - but never before FLM did I try the chewable tablets. They are disgusting. I instantly threw up and lost all my breakfast and fluids that I'd been carefully taking since 5.30am.....
  • Eeek SS - that aint good. I use the tablets and found them OK - tried capsules once for a race and soooo nearly pulled out three quarters through 'cos I needed the loo so badly. Got a PB mind you though !!!

    So moral of the story is practice with whatever you take MB !
  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    Been reading this thread with interest. Respect and thanks to all who took the time to provide such detailed info.

    As for Immodium - beware. It blocked me up better than a cork, for days afterwards. I won't even begin to describe the pain when the logjam finally shifted towards the middle of the week. Best to clear yourself out (if you can) before starting. A Vindaloo and six pints the night before should do it!
  • This thread is now making me nervous - is it better not to risk taking anything at all and plan loo stops (given that I'm not interested in speed or PBs)??

    I've taken Immodium capsules before - in the recommended situation, not to stop me up - but I really do not want to risk any problems in that quarter at all...
  • MB - you should get a feel for this from your long runs. (no pun intended).

    If your tum is OK - then I wouldn't take the tablets, but I'd recommend carrying them with you just in case you do hit problems.
  • Thanks for that, cougie. My Mum is a doctor so I could speak to her, but I've been a bit scared in case she tells me I should never take medicines unless I really need them. (Which is what she always said when I was a kid...) So I prefer your suggestion and will think about planning my bowel movements (!) over the next couple of months. God this marathon-running thing is a bit vile, isn't it?
  • TmapTmap ✭✭✭
    Orange juice not so good, but orange squash or Ribena (with a little bit of salt if you want to be a real pro) are perfect.

    Water's not so bad either.

    All the rest is just marketing.
  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    MB -

    My advice would be to simply carry some tissue paper with you just in case. I think bowel movements are too fundamental a function to mess around with. If you gotta go, then you gotta go. No point being precious about it - I saw it happen with zero privacy (!) when I did the FLM and the poor bloke in question got nothing but sympathy from fellow participants. We understood. We knew that but for the grace of God ...
  • Muttley - you would say that - you are a dog ! Remember that plastic bag ! ;-)

    I'm taking the tablets with me anyway, but I'm sure it'll be OK with you MB.
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