Last week we ran an opinion piece by Nuun's Lizzy Moxey, titled "is calling sugar packed product a 'sports drink' okay?"
Here, TORQ’s Matt Hart addresses the points raised in the opinion piece:
Having read the article above, which clearly criticises carbohydrate drinks and bestows the virtues of electrolyte tablets, I felt that it would be the responsible thing to provide TORQ’s perspective on the points brought up in the article. Bike Biz readers can then form their own reasonable opinion on the topic before hurling their sports drinks into the dustbin and investing in energy-less tablets.
Firstly, it’s important to establish some physiological facts regarding the metabolism of carbohydrate during exercise, because that’s when a properly marketed carbohydrate-containing sports drink (like our TORQ energy drink for instance) should be used. There is also a mountain of fully validated peer-reviewed evidence supporting the significant performance benefits of fuelling with carbohydrate whilst exercising, but I’ll cover that afterwards.
Here are the facts:
- Carbohydrate ingested during exercise is absorbed into the muscle tissue from the blood and metabolised independently of insulin using something called the Glut-4 transporter, which means that when exercising, the pancreas is resting and is under no strain at all. Insulin suppression is a mechanism employed by the body to make more carbohydrate available to the working muscle. Sports drinks consumed during exercise are therefore not responsible for damaging the pancreas in any way and are not a causal factor for diabetes.
- Regular exercise builds muscle mass and vastly increases the number of insulin receptors, increasing insulin sensitivity. This means that fit people produce far less insulin at rest in response to sugary foods than their unfit counterparts. Also, the fatter you are, the more insulin the pancreas needs to produce to get an effect. Fit people are generally much leaner than their sedentary counterparts. Being fit therefore provides a huge amount of protection from diabetes and affords the person at least a few treats when not exercising!
- Type 1 diabetics, who have the misfortune of having no pancreatic function at all and therefore can’t produce insulin, rely 100% on exogenous fast-acting sources of carbohydrate whilst exercising. Without sports drinks, gels and bars (or other easily absorbable carbohydrate), a Type 1 diabetic cannot exercise and can be subjected to a potentially life threatening situation. As Lizzy mentions in her article, food can be eaten alongside one of their electrolyte tablets, so gels and bars could be eaten too, but aside from the obvious observation of ‘what’s the difference between a sports drink and calorie-free electrolyte fluid mixed up in the stomach with solids that have been broken down by the chewing process?’, it does also make one ask the question in this particular example ‘what would an electrolyte tablet actually do for a Type 1 diabetic?’
There’s no doubt that diabetes is on the rise globally and it’s a huge concern, but it’s important that the general public are presented with the facts and are not subjected to scaremongering. Facts need to be made clear. People who exercise regularly are a very well diabetes-protected population as my points above explain and the epidemic could easily be slowed if sedentary people just exercised more. Fuelling during exercise with sports drinks, gels and bars has been proven beyond doubt to help a person to exercise harder for longer and achieve greater fitness benefits. In addition, it’s a physiological fact that this causes ZERO strain to the pancreas - in fact it’s the only time when it’s actually able to rest.
Sports drinks consumed at leisure outside of exercise by sedentary overweight people is not recommended and some of the major supermarket brands have been criticised for appealing to an irrelevant audience. At TORQ, we concur, which is one of the reasons you won’t find TORQ in a Supermarket and only in specialist stores. If Lizzy’s concerns are actually aimed at the misuse of these kinds of sports drinks, I think her point is valid. However, would she therefore be suggesting that sedentary people should consume an electrolyte tablet instead? Electrolytes are essentially salt, and the World Health Organisation would have a thing or two to say about recommending extra salt outside of exercise too. Also, some of the artificial sweeteners used in these tablets, which they all use (it needs carbohydrate to be sweet naturally) have been subject to well-publicised controversy from a health perspective for many years now.
TORQ don’t produce an electrolyte tablet for a variety of reasons and we explain them here:
Our opinion is that they offer very little benefit at all and are often misunderstood by the consumer, otherwise TORQ would simply have produced one by now. Hopefully you can read around the subject and make your own informed decision now that we’ve added our perspective.
If you are a diabetic or are concerned about diabetes and would like further information on the subject, either contact us at TORQ www.torqfitness.co.uk or experts on the subject like the ‘not for profit’ organisation Team Blood Glucose www.teambloodglucose.com