ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SPORTS PERFORMANCE DRINKS REALLY LIVING UP TO THEIR PROMISE?
Posted on March 27 2020
There are a couple of well known energy and rehydration drinks marketed for rehydration and performance. Are they really improving your performance or are they just making you fat, tired and insulin resistant?
Is there a smarter way that works with your physiology to enhance results, maintain lean muscle, recover faster and look better?
YES THERE IS!!
Combining a blend of amino acids, herbs, vitamins and minerals which are essential for the human body to function at optimal levels, will provide a superior result over the average sugar drink consumed currently.
Carbohydrates and especially sugars are not essential. However, there are 9 amino acids you cannot make internally (endogenously) that are found in certain protein foods or supplements and are called ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (EAA's). You must provide your body with all 9 of these amino acids to perform at your best. Being short in just 1 amino acid can limit your results.
If you’ve traditionally use carbohydrate supplements to fuel your training and active lifestyle, we recommend making the switch (pun intended) to aminos.
Why? Read on to learn all about amino acids and the top four (4) reasons that the current high sugar sports performance drinks are inferior for athletic performance.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; all human tissue, enzymes and hormones are made from protein (amino acids). Our body breaks down the protein we eat into individual amino acids and short peptide chains (2-3 amino acids long). Amino acids play a multitude of roles in the body including synthesising new tissue (such as muscle), enhancing the immune system, proper hormone function, and many others1.
Given your entire bodies performance and function from day to day is reliant on amino acids, the benefits are many and varied.
Essential Amino Acids vs. Non-Essential Amino Acids
The human body uses 20 proteinogenic (protein-generating) amino acids to synthesise human proteins, hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters that you need to function properly.
Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential, meaning your body can’t create them on its own and you must obtain them through diet or supplementation. The 11 amino acids that aren’t essential are aptly considered nonessential since your body can synthesise them from other substrates.
Why a High-Protein Diet isn’t Enough
Many gym-goers and endurance athletes presume that supplementing with EAAs found in is pointless since they already eat a high-protein diet. Unfortunately, modern food processing has rendered domestic animal meats and plant sources of proteins subpar for reaching your EAA needs daily. Therefore, it is prudent to supplement with the 9 Essential Amino Acids even if your diet contains ample amounts of whole-food protein2.
With that in mind, here are four (4) science-backed reasons that EAA's are better than the popular sports performance beverages on the market for enhancing athletic performance.
4 Reasons Why EAA's are better than popular sports performance beverages
- EAA's reduces recovery time during and after intense exercise more than sports performance drinks
As touched on earlier, research demonstrates that supplementing with EAAs can significantly decrease the time it takes to recuperate after intense exercise, more so than carbohydrates alone3. EAAs are a readily utilised substrate during exercise, thus by supplementing with them you provide your body with an alternative energy source from glucose.
Moreover, increasing muscle protein synthesis via EAA supplementation has direct implications on short-term recovery, allowing you to train harder for longer and recover faster.
- EAA's are much lower in calories than sports performance beverages
Sports performance beverages on the market today are packed with simple carbohydrates (sugar), meaning they contain a large amount of “empty calories.”
EAA drinks are a much lower-calorie sports nutrition supplement that will not hinder fat loss like high-calorie, sugar-laden sports beverages can.
When you drink a carbohydrate-based sports drink you immediately increase insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps transport sugar into your cells. However, if over the years your muscles have been constantly bombarded with insulin they can become resistant (Syndrome-X, pre-diabetic or type II diabetes). If the sugar can’t get into your muscles your body fat will happily take on the calories.
Also, as soon as your body releases insulin in response to the sugar from these sports drinks you immediately stop burning fat for fuel.
- EAA's are easily absorbed and simple to use
EAA's are pure free-form, unbound essential amino acids, meaning they are rapidly absorbed, increasing plasma amino acid values within minutes after consumption4. They then enter the bloodstream as quick (if not quicker) than carbohydrates found in sports performance drinks, which translates to more efficient energy production and lean tissue support.
- EAA's spare lean muscle tissue during periods of energy deprivation
EAAs are intrinsically anti-catabolic (stop muscle loss), especially when calorie intake is limited (or when you’re fasting)5. Glucose (sugar) is also a muscle-sparing substrate in humans. However, glucose is less effective on a per gram basis in comparison to EAAs.
Simply put, EAAs prevent/reduce the use of amino acids (from skeletal muscle) for energy during periods of calorie restriction and fasting, such as when on a fat loss diet or performing high intensity or long duration activity.
SWITCH TO EAA's
One serving of most EAA's is more beneficial for athletes and gym-goers than an equal amount of a popular sports performance beverage (and other carb-based sports beverages). If you’re set on using carbohydrates from a drink like these to fuel your workouts, then at the very least combine EAA"s with those carbs. Research has shown essential amino acids have a synergistic effect when taken with carbohydrates by increasing GLUT-4 expression leading to greater carbohydrate utilisation6.
In fact, one study performed in 2010 showed a low carb higher amino acid drink resulted in over 30% greater time to exhaustion verse the traditional high carbohydrate beverage7.
Advantages of EAA's vs. popular sports performance beverages:
- Increases muscle protein synthesis/muscular hypertrophy (repair) after intense exercise
- Enhances recovery during and after endurance & resistance training
- Promotes healthier body composition
- Reduces fatigue, allowing you to train harder and longer
- Provides fewer calories and no simple sugars that spike insulin levels
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider.
- Stipanuk, M. H. (2007). Leucine and protein synthesis: mTOR and beyond. Nutrition reviews, 65(3), 122-129.
- Shimomura, Y., Murakami, T., Nakai, N., Nagasaki, M., & Harris, R. A. (2004). Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. The Journal of nutrition, 134(6), 1583S-1587S.
- Glynn, E. L., Fry, C. S., Drummond, M. J., Dreyer, H. C., Dhanani, S., Volpi, E., & Rasmussen, B. B. (2010). Muscle protein breakdown has a minor role in the protein anabolic response to essential amino acid and carbohydrate intake following resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 299(2), R533-R540.
- Yamakawa, M., Maeda, J., Sugisaki, K., Fujita, T., Oohara, T., Hara, H., & Mitani, S. (1997). Peptide digestion and absorption in humans: portal vein, hepatic vein, and peripheral venous amino acid concentrations. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 6, 88-91.
- Ferrando, A. A., Paddon-Jones, D., Hays, N. P., Kortebein, P., Ronsen, O., Williams, R. H., ... & Evans, W. (2010). EAA supplementation to increase nitrogen intake improves muscle function during bed rest in the elderly. Clinical nutrition, 29(1), 18-23.
- Zhang, S., Yang, Q., Ren, M., Qiao, S., He, P., Li, D., & Zeng, X. (2016). Effects of isoleucine on glucose uptake through the enhancement of muscular membrane concentrations of GLUT1 and GLUT4 and intestinal membrane concentrations of Na+/glucose co-transporter 1 (SGLT-1) and GLUT2. British Journal of Nutrition, 116(4), 593-602.
- Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave EL, Ding Z, Kammer LM, Wang B, Doerner PG, Liu Y, Ivy JL. (2010) The effect of a low carbohydrate beverage with added amino acids on cycling endurance performance in trained athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 24(10):2577-86