Sports food and beverage formulas tend be different for exercise products, depending on whether manufacturers are targeting use before (preparation), during (performance) or after (recovery) the exercise event. “It also depends on whether the product is intended for practice or competition, and if it is for an endurance athlete in a sporting event such as football or resistance training session,” says Marie Spano, vice president, International Society of Sports Nutrition spokesperson.
“Pre-competition, the biggest goal is simply topping off muscle glycogen stores, preventing hunger and ensuring adequate hydration. Therefore, something light and easy to digest, with little to no fiber, little to no fat and high carbohydrates is key,” says Spano. For energy products, the carbohydrate requirements usually are based on acceptable taste and the sweetness levels needed to mask the added stimulants, which are characteristically bitter.
Sports products typically contain 10g to 20g of carbohydrates such as fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltodextrin. Traditional energy products are loaded with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or lower calorie artificial sweeteners. A wider array of sweetening alternatives now are offered in both sports and energy products for consumers seeking to avoid the rush of blood sugar and insulin.
Isomaltulose, a disaccharide derived from sucrose, is digested slowly and designed to release carbohydrates into the bloodstream gradually for a lower glycemic response. Research has found that oxidation of ingested isomaltulose is significantly less than that of sucrose, most likely due to its lower rate of digestion 1. Sucromalt syrup, derived by enzymatic conversion of sucrose and maltose, is composed of oligoglucose with fructose and leucrose linkages, and it is slowly digestible, designed for sustained energy release. Erythritol is a lower calorie and natural alternative, derived from fermented grains or sugar. Erythritol is emerging in new energy beverages due to its improved sensory results with other beverage ingredients and significantly higher gastrointestinal tolerance levels than other polyols.
Nutritious breakfast cereals may also soon become the new sports and energy products. Researchers announced at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) that lower blood lactate levels were found in cyclists who consumed whole-wheat cereal with milk, suggesting better glycogen storage linked to the protein and carbohydrate content. Other reports relate consuming lower glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates in breakfasts with greater satiation throughout the day2.