Are Sport Drinks Making You Blue?

Sports drinks have little effect on mood and how exercisers perceive the workout

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Water and sports drinks may have their differences, but the carb-filled drinks may not have as much of an effect on mood as previously thought.

Sports drinks don't improve mood or make exercise seem any easier for those who work out lightly, according to a recently published study.

Though sports drinks can help the body recover in certain ways, the findings help clarify what the drinks can actually do for the moderate exerciser.

"Keep hydrated while exercising."

Although the study is small, researchers aimed to see how different drinks affect the mood, sprint power and level of difficulty perceived by recreational cyclists.

The study, led by Eric O'Neal, PhD, assistant professor at the University of North Alabama, included 36 men and women who each consumed three beverages at set intervals during a 50-minute period of cycling at moderate intensity.

Each of the participants consumed a pre-determined meal two to four hours prior to exercise. Previous studies had looked at competitive athletes, as well as people who fasted before exercising.

Participants were given water, a flavored beverage with carbohydrates and electrolytes, or a calorie-free flavored beverage and, while exercising, maintained a heart rate of about 60-65 percent of their total capacity.

Researchers found that the carbohydrate beverage did not change exercisers' mood or how difficult they felt it was to do the exercise compared to the other two beverages.

Further, drinking a caloric sports beverage brought no benefit to recreational exercisers who were not fasting.

"Perhaps part of the reason the mood of our participants was not affected by the carbohydrate-electrolytes treatment is because our participants had preconceived notions regarding the efficacy of sport beverages," researchers wrote in their report.

"While regularly physically active, our participants were neither competitive nor elite endurance athletes, who have been shown to have strong convictions that carbohydrate-electrolytes can improve performance."

The researchers wrote that the differences between the attitudes of the recreational group and the competitive athletes from previous studies was probably due to a couple of reasons, including how difficult each group perceived the exercise and what they already knew about each of the beverages.

"It is also probable that most participants in the current investigation were unlikely to have had experiences in which they felt a lack of exogenous carbohydrates hindered exercise performance in comparison to the competitive endurance athletes used in other investigations," researchers wrote.

"These factors may have given our participants a different subjective bias concerning mood and perceived exertion, in contrast to those of trained endurance athletes who frequently consume carbohydrate-electrolytes."

The study was published online January 24 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

One of the authors is employed by The Coca-Cola Co., which provided the beverages and equipment used in the study. In addition, the participants were given financial compensation for taking part in the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 13, 2013
Last Updated:
February 18, 2013