You see them everywhere - fitness drinks, isotonic drinks and protein shakes with a high sugar content - these types of drinks have now become a trend for many people. The drinks are therefore consumed every day not only by athletes, but also by people who sit in the office or don't necessarily exercise regularly.
In this article we would like to take a closer look at what excellent properties these drinks can have, when they become unhealthy and how to use them correctly.
Sport and sugar – a curious duo that works together
Our bodies burn energy every day and need it to stay healthy and function properly. When we exercise, the amount of energy required increases. The energy our bodies need is unique to each person and is determined by various factors, such as daily activities, type and intensity of activities, a person's age, gender, weight and fitness level, as well as duration and frequency of sports training. Basically, our body uses more energy when exercising than when at rest or in a “normal” state.
How does our body actually generate energy?
Our body produces energy through various metabolic processes. The primary process by which energy is generated is cellular respiration. In this process, glucose from our food is converted into energy in the cells. The process of cellular respiration occurs in the mitochondria and releases energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Cellular respiration consists of three main stages: glycolysis, the citrate cycle and oxidative phosphorylation:
In glycolysis, glucose is broken down into pyruvate and a small amount of ATP is produced.
The citrate cycle further converts the pyruvate and produces more ATP and NADH.
Finally, NADH and FADH2 are converted into ATP in the oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondrial membrane.
In addition to cellular respiration, there are other metabolic processes through which energy is generated. Fatty acids can be converted into energy through lipolysis when carbohydrates are scarce. Proteins can also be converted into energy, but the processes used to convert proteins into energy are very inefficient and are therefore only used by our bodies “as a last resort”.
The body has various energy stores — including glycogen in the liver and muscles, fatty tissues and proteins. These stores are used during exercise and other physical activities to provide the body with energy. A balanced diet that contains enough carbohydrates, proteins and fats is therefore important to fill the body's energy stores and to provide the body with sufficient energy during physical activity.
Sugar, especially carbohydrates in the form of glucose and fructose, are one of the most important sources of energy for our body.
Energy consumption during sport
When we are physically active, the body requires more energy to fuel the muscles, and carbohydrates are a quick and efficient source of energy for the body. Without sufficient carbohydrate intake, performance during exercise can decrease and tiredness and fatigue can occur.
If athletes consume enough carbohydrates before training or competition, they can replenish their body's carbohydrate stores. These stores are gradually emptied during training or competition and must be replenished regularly to ensure a continuous supply of energy. If carbohydrate stores are empty during exercise, an abrupt drop in performance can occur. It is therefore advisable to counteract this by using quickly available energy sources, such as carbohydrates and sugar.
Energy-supplying substances are also important for physical and mental regeneration after sport. Carbohydrates help the body replenish glycogen stored in the liver and muscles, which is essential for regenerating the body and repairing muscles after a hard workout or competition.
Are carbohydrates sugar?
Yes, carbohydrates are a class of molecules that contain sugar. Carbohydrates are usually made up of one or more sugar units (monosaccharides) that are chemically linked together. Carbohydrates can come in simple sugars such as glucose (dextrose) and fructose (fruit sugar) or in more complex forms such as starch and glycogen.
When we talk about "sugar", we usually refer to simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. These sugars are quickly absorbed by our body and converted into energy. Carbohydrates such as starch and glycogen are digested and released slightly more slowly and can therefore provide energy over a longer period of time.
It is important to note that not all carbohydrates are the same and that there are different types of carbohydrates that can have different effects on the body. A balanced diet should contain an appropriate amount of carbohydrates to provide the body with energy, but also contain other nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal health and energy levels.
Which types of sugar are particularly good for athletes and why?
Good sugars for sports, especially for high-performance sports and extreme sports, are those that can be quickly absorbed and metabolized by the body to provide a quick supply of energy. These include, for example, dextrose (glucose) or fructose (bound).
This type of sugar is often taken in the form of sports drinks, gels or bars to quickly provide the body with sufficient energy during exercise.
In addition to this “quick” supply of sugar, as already mentioned, it is also important to make sure that you prioritize a balanced diet overall that provides you with long-term energy and, in principle, not to consume too many products with a high sugar content.
Foods that are good for athletes
There are a variety of foods that contain fructose and glucose and are therefore particularly suitable for athletes. In principle, we would like to distinguish between whether these foods should be taken before or after training or whether they are suitable for taking during or shortly before training in order to provide additional energy supply.
Foods rich in fiber require more time and energy to digest in the gastrointestinal tract than other foods. If you eat high-fiber foods right before exercise, these foods may not be digested properly and can lead to unpleasant digestive problems. The following examples contain plenty of both carbohydrates and fiber and are therefore particularly suitable for consumption 2-3 hours before training or after exercise:
Before or after training:
- Fruits: Fruits such as bananas, apples, oranges, berries and kiwis contain both fructose and glucose. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be a good choice for long-term carbohydrate provision before or after training.
- Dried fruits: Dried fruits such as raisins, dates and figs contain a lot of fructose and glucose as well as fiber and minerals. They can be a good choice as a pre- or post-workout snack.
If you want to eat something shortly before exercise, around 1-2 hours beforehand, it is advisable to choose light, easily digestible and carbohydrate-rich foods that quickly provide the body with energy and do not contain too much fiber. Some examples of this are bananas, apples, energy bars, sports drinks or even toast with jam.
Just before training during training:
- Honey: Honey contains about 50% glucose and 40% fructose and can serve as a natural source of quick energy. For example, you can take a teaspoon of honey before or during training to quickly provide your body with high-quality energy.
- Sports Drinks: Sports drinks often contain a mixture of carbohydrates, including fructose and glucose, as well as electrolytes and fluids to hydrate and provide the body with additional energy during exercise. Our Endurance Drink is a good example of a high-quality sports drink with a complex carbohydrate spectrum.
It is important to note that overall you should consume a balanced diet and not consume too many highly processed foods with high sugar content (white bread, processed sugar, etc.).
Isotonic drinks and sports drinks
Sports drinks and isotonic drinks often contain high amounts of simple sugars such as glucose and fructose, which can be quickly absorbed by the body and provide immediate energy.
Drinks rich in carbohydrates can therefore be a quick source of energy during exercise to replenish the body's carbohydrate stores. It is important to note that you use high-quality drinks with healthy ingredients and only consume them during exercise and not as a regular part of your diet. A complex carbohydrate spectrum should also be prioritized here.
If such energy drinks are consumed too frequently outside of training, they can lead to an undesirable increase in blood sugar levels and, in the long term, contribute to health problems such as diabetes. That's why you should only consume sports drinks during training.
During exercise, the quick energy provided by carbohydrate-rich drinks can help improve performance and increase endurance. In general, it is therefore recommended to drink carbohydrate-rich drinks such as sports drinks or isotonic drinks during exercise in order to replenish the body's carbohydrate stores and to provide the body with sufficient energy during exercise.
Outside of training, other food sources such as fruit, whole grains and vegetables should be preferred to ensure a balanced diet and energy supply.
The BE THE CHANGE Endurance Drink is an ideal energy drink for physical endurance performances from 1 hour up to extreme exertion.
The state-of-the-art sports drink was specially designed to provide a high-quality energy source with sufficient electrolytes and amino acids that quenches thirst and enables you to achieve your most ambitious sports goals.
Swiss Sports® 3 impresses with a formulation aimed at endurance and extreme stress that has a mild taste. The excellent stomach and intestinal compatibility additionally supports performance. The Endurance Drink Elderberry is delicately flavored with natural fruit extract and remains fine and refreshing even in summer temperatures.
Sports Drink – Peach drink powder
Our BE THE CHANGE Sports Drink is a perfect thirst quencher with quickly available energy for physical performance from 1 hour onwards. Swiss Sports® 2 is a delicious, easily digestible carbohydrate-electrolyte drink powder that helps maintain performance during endurance exercise and improves water absorption during physical exertion.
The isotonic drink contains optimally balanced electrolytes, is well tolerated and has a pleasantly fruity taste. The turmeric extract it contains refreshes and contributes to the natural color of the isotonic drink.