Eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water is part of basic nutrition and very important when you exercise or play sports. But what about when you need to go the extra mile, literally? That's where sports nutrition comes into play. To help athletes perform at their peak regardless of the task at hand, energy products have been formulated to aid the body through the hardest times by supplying it with extra protein and carbohydrates to keep you going strong.
Not everyone needs energy snacks and drinks. Serious athletes who spend more than 90 minutes exercising at a time can benefit from a snack or drink that is easy to eat, digest, and carry. They help replenish lost fluids and energy. If you are only doing short workouts, energy products are not entirely necessary. Drinking water at regular intervals during your workout and eating well after a workout will be sufficient. Plus, what you have in your kitchen, such as a banana, smoothie, peanut butter sandwich, and water, costs much less than energy products.
Here are the major types of products available and some quick picks for some of the best in each category compiled thanks to the reviews at About.com, BodyBuilding.com, DirtWorld.com, and SixPackNow.
Ditch the squished banana and the tasteless bagel... Energy bars may look funny, but over the years the taste has drastically improved and the texture has gotten more "real food" like by integrating natural oats and grains. These should be eaten with a glass of water about a half hour before exercising. If you are doing long runs or bike rides, bring one along and snack at 15 or 20 minute intervals to keep your energy high. When shopping for energy bars the most important thing to look at besides the calories and fat are the protein and carbohydrate amount. Vitamins and minerals, especially B vitaminsand potassium. You may also be interested in learning about Nutrition Bars.
Sports drinks, also called isotonic or endurance drinks, are in fact, even more popular with the average consumer than with athletes. Besides their primary purpose of hydrating your body and replenishing the liquids lost from perspiration, they also help you stay hydrated through high levels of sodium (usually 100-150 mg) and electrolytes (vitamins and minerals, typically potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulfate). They also have the added benefit of increasing extra energy through the intake of carbohydrates.
When shopping for sports drinks, you will obviously want something that will taste good. Unfortunately, the only real way of finding out what's best for you is to try out the available products and see how your body reacts to the flavor and potency. Glucose and sucrose will enhance sweetness and the performance of the drink. Fructose sweeteners, however, should be avoided as they can cause stomach or intestinal discomfort. The drinks listed here have been said to be mildly, not overly sweet, and with the proper level of carbs and calories.
Energy gels are squeezable packets of energy that are easy to stick in a pocket for a long run or bike ride. They contain complex and simple carbs to raise your blood sugar, give you a boost of energy, and even electrolytes to help keep you hydrated.
* GU: Caffeine-free with amino acids and herbs.
* Clif Shot: Contains caffeine, but no malodextrins or high fructose corn syrup.
* Car-Boom Gel: 27g of carbs and it's vegan.
* Powergel: Caffeine, kola nut, and ginseng help give this gel a jolt.