Sports drinks and gels are marketed as exercise oriented boosters but they’re not really food and in fact do more harm than good to your body.

Ben Greenfield, nutrition expert, personal trainer, founder of Human Wellness Solutions and foodie says, “The biggest challenge with sports drinks and high performance foods is chemical additives and sugar.” Some say this is a method for immediate hydration and replenishing of carbohydrate loss.

Greenfield says, “That’s kind of the issue. You can get better absorption and better utilization in many cases by using real food. What that comes down to is understanding absorption and what’s called osmolality.”

Osmolality is defined by Medline Plus as, “A test that measures the concentration of all chemical particles found in the fluid part of blood.”

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In addition to the chemical content you are ingesting with these sports gels and drinks these exercise oriented boosters are customer beware as the water content is so low you could actually be doing damage.

Greefield says, “Once you exceed a 4% concentrated solution you begin to get GI distress and fluid emptying and carbohydrate absorption capability starts to decrease. If you look at something like Gatorade or Powerade those are pushing 6-8% or so. Gels are pushing 10 up to 30%. The absorption is not ideal unless you drink a lot of water with them.”

Sports gels say on the package to drink 8 ounces of water with the product.

Tim Noakes MD, DSc, author of Water Loggedcounteracts electrolytes saying the human body maintains its salt and electrolyte level for seven days of intense activity without depletion. Your kidney will react in a state of homeostasis and release less salt at the same time your body will release less salt in sweat in order to maintain the depletion. To find out more click here.

When you’re ingesting the so called sports enhancers you’re not really eating food. You’re eating food-ish products. For example a recent online petition changed production lines as Gatorade was forced to remove brominated vegetable oil from their product. said, “Brominated vegetable oil is a synthetic chemical used as a flame retardant. It is also used as an emulsifier for flavor in Gatorade, and its counterpart carbonated soft drink Mountain Dew.”

Still when you read a Gatorade ingredient label most of the content is synthetic sugars and food colors. These dangerous chemicals can be further researched here. 

Other added ingredients are items such as carigeenan (a chemical fed to test lab animals in order to inflame their insides so they can test anti-inflammatory drugs), permeable wax and TDHQ (an anti-corrosive agent used in bio-diesel used as a preservative in food).

When you choose real food over a bar or squeeze gel the water content of real food is superior. Gels and powders require water consumption for adequate absorption. Real food eliminates processed sugars that fill up gels, powders and sports drinks. These sugars stimulate what Greenfield refers to as gut rot as it ferments. This presents through gas and other intestinal issues. Sugar and sugar substitutes are also known inflammatory sources. 

All disease is sourced from inflammation.

Better choices for ultra-athletes would be preparing almonds, granola, beef jerky, bacon jerky, rice cakes, nut butters in squeeze packs and chia seeds. These items do not always transport well for extensive events like the Ironman put serve as fantastic fuel for mileage markers between 3 and 25.

Homemade rice cakes transport extremely well. Cook your white rice, put it in a pan with some good fat like real grass fed butter, tallow, lard or coconut oil. Cook till each side is quickly browned holding it together. Flavor cakes to your liking mixed with dates, honey, cinnamon, etc. 

It is important to practice competing with real food. During competition experiment with aerodynamics and the food. For some it many not be viable to transport food.

Chia seeds, Greenfield says, are highly powerful. He recommends adding 3-4 tablespoons to your water bottle or flask with some lemon juice and honey.

Biju Thomas, author of Feed Zone Portables, works frequently with long distance bike teams and offers up a great number of high impact foods. ""“>Paleo Diet for Athletes is another good source of high performance transportable real food.

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